By establishing a normal pH of the blood by way of an alkaline diet you can overcome nagging fatigue, muscle soreness and bring more energy to all your workouts and outside the gym
Did you know that your blood has an optimum pH level that can be significantly affected by an acidic or alkaline diet? As I’m sure you probably know, pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline any solution or substance is. The pH scale spans from 1 to 14… with 1.0 being “extremely acidic”, 7.0 regarded as perfectly neutral and 14.0 being highly caustic (alkaline). Any chemical near the extreme ends of this scale beyond plus or minus 5.0 in either direction of neutral 7 is so reactive that people can hardly stand to be in the same room with it without wearing a gas mask. And while blood pH might be relatively mild by industrial standards, it is still highly significant in terms of how you FEEL in terms of your general health and well being…
The body attempts to adjust your blood’s pH to a level generally between 7.35 to 7.45, which is only slightly alkaline, but like I said quite biologically significant. Your body’s tissues require pH to remain in this narrow range in order to function properly for several reasons. Our immunologic, enzymatic and especially our cellular repair mechanisms (i.e., the rebuilding of muscle tissue) all function at peak efficiency in this pH environment. If your body becomes even slightly over-acidic however (see the blood pH chart below) you can begin to experience a whole host of steadily worsening ‘blah’ symptoms that will keep you miserable and unmotivated… problems such as low energy, nasal congestion, lingering muscle pain, frequent colds, or persistent headaches.
This is no way to operate a body! And a change to an alkaline diet can be the first step in turning things around for yourself, both health-wise and training-wise.
What is pH?
Chemically, the term pH means “potential hydrogen”, which is a measure of the amount of positive hydrogen nuclei (essentially free protons) flying around within a solution. These “freelance” protons zip around looking to pull an electron out of anything they can come into contact with in a quest to turn themselves into electrically neutral hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen of course is the simplest element in the universe, made up of a single electron swirling around one proton.
This electron-stealing property is how an acid corrodes and disintegrates and eats away at anything that it comes in contact with, from metals to granite to human flesh: the positive (+) protons suck electrons out of all the surrounding matter (except for some materials that have absolutely no free electrons whatsoever to surrender, like certain plastics) — and this action changes the atomic properties of materials in ways that make the larger structures which they support (cellular proteins, for instance) simply fall to pieces. They’ve just had too many atomic holes shot through them!
So how does a maladjusted, too-acidic pH of the blood adversely effect your health?
It effects it because acid modifies a crucial electrical property of the most important particle transported by blood plasma, your red oxygen-bearing blood cells. It turns out these blood cells carry an independent negative charge which keeps them separated from each other as they travel through the arteries, capillaries and veins. When this negative charge becomes neutralized in an acidic environment however, blood cells will tend to cluster together — which creates a thickening of the blood and a tendency for it to clot up. Now the bloodstream is no longer flowing smoothly, oxygen delivery to the cells suffers, and all this inefficiency causes your metabolism to eventually slow down. Your energy will soon be sapped away, making you feel tired and sluggish much of the time.
Chronic fatigue is sometimes the general term given to this vague but persistent sort of “blah” feeling that never seems to go away.
An alkaline diet can be the secret to restoring lost energy and general good health.
So how do you avoid all this molecular mayhem chewing away at your body from the inside out? The answer is quite simple and it all begins with what you put in your stomach, and you’ll see why an alkaline diet is the way to go. When the stomach works on digesting food, it leaves behind natural acidic waste which permeates throughout the body. Your body eliminates some of this waste via urine and sweat, but there comes a point when the build up is simply too great to eliminate through these channels.
What does your body actually DO with this acidic waste that it can’t get rid off? The answer is actually quite shocking…
It STORES it inside your body’s cells… yikes!
You can guess what happens next… this acid refuse begins to attack and erode away at those cells by chewing away at the molecules that make up your tissues on an atomic level. As you might imagine, a lot of internal energy has to be re-directed to keep this acidic crud from doing major damage to your body, and this battle is costly in terms of stealing away your overall energy levels. As you can see from the blood pH chart, it doesn’t take a very big move in your acid-alkalinity balance to cause big health problems. A move out of the 7.35-7.45 normal range to a level of only 7.2 presages a condition known as acidosis, and a drop in alkalinity to a neutral 7 likely means death! Not to get too dramatic but an alkaline diet could perhaps save your life.
You can imagine how serious this could potentially be: typical symptoms of very low pH blood can include headaches, sleeplessness, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, racing heart, diarrhea, vomiting… lots of nasty stuff. So the pH value of your blood is no minor issue but a major factor in how you feel on a day-to-day basis and needs to be taken care of. By choosing to eat a greater percentage of foods have an alkalizing effect on the body, you can readjust blood acidity back to an optimum level and stop this decline if you’ve started to get too far out of whack.
Adding more vegetables and fruits to the dinner table is the easiest way to establish a more alkaline diet.
Vegetables that can adjust the pH of your blood to make it more alkaline include: alfalfa, barley grass, beets, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chard greens, collard greens, cucumber, dandelions, eggplant, garlic, green beans, green peas, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, nightshade veggies, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, pumpkin, radishes, rutabaga, sea veggies, spinach, sprouts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watercress, wheat grass, and wild greens.
Fruits are important too! Some excellent fruits that should be part of any alkaline diet are: apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, blackberries, cantaloupe, cherries, coconut, currants, dates, figs, grapes, grapefruit, honeydew, lemons, limes, muskmelons, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, raisins, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes, tropical fruits, and watermelon. Many of these like bananas can be chopped up into bite sized bits and kept frozen in a baggie. They last longer this way and make a healthy (and cheap!) snack.
But how do I get adequate protein into an alkaline diet?
Protein can be a bit of a problem when seeking to adopt a more alkaline diet. All the protein that is typically derived from meat tends to be acidic, mainly because it takes a lot of stomach acid to break down and digest animal tissue. It is still possible to add adequate protein to your diet in a way that will adjust the pH of the blood in an alkaline direction however. Non-animal proteins that should be an essential part of your alkaline diet would be: almonds, chestnuts, millet, tofu, and especially the bodybuilder’s favorite: whey protein powder.
You can also add alkalizing spices and condiments to your diet to help bring blood pH back into balance, such as: cinnamon, curry, ginger, mustard, chili pepper, sea salt, stevia, miso, tamari, and most all herbs.
And finally, these incidental items can support an alkaline diet as well: apple cider vinegar, bee pollen, lecithin, molasses, probiotic cultures, soured dairy products, green juices, veggie juices, fresh fruit juice, and mineral water.
Remember that creating an alkaline diet for yourself doesn’t mean that you have to completely deprive yourself of all the foods you love, even those nasty ‘ol ones that may be too acidic! You simply need to pay attention to the balance-ratio so that it is geared more towards the above mentioned items. Try to establish an approximate 70-30 ratio of alkaline-to-acidic foods in your overall diet. For many people suffering from the deleterious effects of a too-acidic bloodstream, this simple change in diet can produce a near-wondrous reversal of chronic fatigue symptoms, pain and stiffness, and just the general sort of malaise that I talked about earlier. And these beneficial effects can appear very soon after making these dietary changes.
So strive to eat a more alkaline diet and you’ll soon find yourself bouncing into the gym full of pep and energy rather than dreading the entire ordeal!
As long as you’re learning about nutrition, don’t miss this post by Certified personal trainer Mike Geary outlining the best 55 lean foods to stock your fridge, freezer and cupboards with…
Here’s another small but informative site about maintaining an alkaline diet that you may wish to check out as well.