Not usually part of your typical training conversations is the discussion of alkalinity in sports performance. This is a big mistake because, unfortunately, you are not only losing gains with your lifts, but you are also losing your health. We are going to discuss this in much further detail. However, before we do, we have to make sure that you have a basic understanding of what alkalinity is and how you can benefit from it.
The pH Scale
Now I know that is has been awhile since high school science class, but let’s bring everybody up to speed. The pH stands for “potential of hydrogen.” So it is essentially a scale that measures how many hydrogen ions are in a solution, such as water. The scale runs from 0-14, 0 being too acidic, 14 being too alkaline and 7 being neutral.
When you have too many hydrogen ions, the solution becomes acidic. This results in a lowering of the pH. The antagonist to acidity is alkalinity. Whenever a solution is more alkaline, it means that there are less hydrogen ions and more hydroxide ions. The pH will rise.
These two variables must always be in kept in check and balanced for optimal performance and health. Too much acidity or alkalinity and the body will start to become more stressed out and body systems will not function optimally. Alkalinity is not as much of a concern as acidity. Most of the typical athletic diet and American diet contains very acidic foods.
Too much acidity is not good for the athlete wanting to maximize his/her athletic performance. Remember the two have to stay in balance.
Blood and Muscle pH
The pH of the blood should be around 7.3-7.4. Therefore, the bloodstream should be kept slightly alkaline. The muscles, however, have a pH of 6.9. The body likes to keep the blood and muscle pH at these levels all the time.
When we eat too much acidic foods, we are interfering with this process and therefore causing undue stress on our bodies. The body has buffers to prevent this from getting out of control. However, this will interfere with other metabolic processes that are going on and, as a result, slow them down. Several of these processes occur during exercise.
When we exercise, we are burning up energy (glucose) and leaving metabolic waste (lactic acid). Lactic acid, the primary metabolic waste product from intense exercise, builds up with more intense exercise.
The body tries to remove it and stop it with blood buffers, respiration and by breaking it down in the liver and kidneys. If the rate of lactic acid accumulation outpaces the bodies buffering system, then the body will start to break down and performance drops substantially.
This is all a natural part of intense exercise, but when we eat a highly acidic diet, we will hinder the bodies process to remove lactate.
As a result most athletes end up with the following:
- Longer recovery process
- Decreased exercise capacity
- Decreased endurance
- Less energy throughout the day and at workouts
- Weight gain
This is why we must balance our diet with alkaline foods and water.
Alkalinity In Sports Performance
Since alkalinity is the antagonist to acidity, it only makes sense for us to prioritize alkalinity in sports performance. Research even supports this. Increasing blood pH levels in elite swimmers significantly improved performance times, according to a 2008 study by the International Journal of Sports Medicine (2008). The ergogenic aide used in this case was sodium bicarbonate (Alkaline Salts).
Drinking alkaline water might also help not only elite athletes but the average joe as well. Consuming alkaline water help improve pH balance and hydration status according to a study published by Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2010).
After hearing about this research and realizing the potential to use alkaline as an ergogenic aide, the question then becomes; which sports will benefit from this the most?
Athletes Who Will Benefit From Alkalinity
The athletes who will benefit the most from this are athletes whose sports produce high levels of lactate.
These sports include:
- Distance Runners
- Marathon Runners
- Cross Country Skiing
- Olympic Weightlifters
If you participate in any of these sports and are looking to take you training and performance to the next level, then you should supplement with alkaline aids.
Probably one of the easiest ways to add alkalinity in sports performance. Just take a tablet and off you go. Just make sure that you purchase tablets, or powder, that is aluminum free and doesn’t contain any unnecessary or harmful additives. I recommend Rugby Sodium Bicarbonate if this is your preferred method of supplementation.
This is the most expensive of all of the methods listed, however, I believe that this is the best method of all for attaining alkalinity in sports performance and in daily life. First of all, the initial cost of an water ionizer is expensive. However, it is a one time payment and it will last you a long time. Plus, after a year or so, the ionizer will actually save you money, as the cost of supplementation will add up as you run out and buy more. I recommend the IONtech-IT 757 as my personal choice for ionizers.
Green Powder Supplementation
Green powder supplements are not a typical favorite of most people because they do not taste the greatest. However, despite the taste, these supplements are not only efficient at boosting your alkalinity, but also for its high nutrient content. Therefore, this supplement is best taken first thing in the morning in a smoothie of the readers choice. My personal favorite green powder supplement is Greens + Organics Superfood. I don’t recommend this product for the taste, but for its nutrient content.
Calcium & Magnesium
Both calcium and magnesium don’t nearly contribute to alkalinity as the other choices mentioned above. However, I have listed them because when the body is in an acidic state for too long, the body resorts to other buffers in order to restore pH balance. These buffers are calcium and magnesium. Unfortunately, the body can’t just pull these out of thin air, so instead it strips them from bones and connective tissue. This is why people with highly acidic diets are more prone to injuries. Any calcium and magnesium supplement will work fine.
M. Lindh , M. C. Peyrebrune , S. A. Ingham , D. M. Bailey , J. P. Folland. Sodium Bicarbonate Improves Swimming Performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2008; 29(6): 519-523. Retrieved from: https://www.thieme-connect.com/DOI/DOI?10.1055/s-2007-989228.
Heil: Acid-base balance and hydration status following consumption of mineral-based alkaline bottled water. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010 7:29. Retrieved from: http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/749/art%253A10.1186%252F1550-2783-7-29.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fjissn.biomedcentral.com%2Farticle%2F10.1186%2F1550-2783-7-29&token2=exp=1453301469~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F749%2Fart%25253A10.1186%25252F1550-2783-7-29.pdf*~hmac=31c81e9f00631a44e400d8364500d88eb4c48f1bce1c1f87d381b11f864ede97