A Fine Balance - Page 2
Acid-to-alkaline ratio is a reflection of pH, a 14-point scale that measures the accumulation of hydrogen ions (called free radicals) in your body and the food you eat. Blood is slightly alkaline, ranking between pH 7.35 and 7.45, and pure distilled water is a neutral 7. Food on the negative end of the scale (below 7) is acid-forming, and food on the positive end (above 7) is alkaline forming.
The typical North American's diet lacks enough alkaline-forming foods such as leafy green vegetables, almonds and "ancient" grains like millet, and we eat far too many acid-forming foods such as beef and other meats, coffee, alcohol, sugar and processed foods. This imbalance causes acid to accumulate in the body's cells, a condition called chronic metabolic acidosis.
To reduce acidosis and maintain a healthy pH, the body pulls calcium and other minerals from the bones, which is then excreted in the urine, a leaching process that causes osteoporosis, kidney stones and other kidney diseases. And another acid neutralizer, glutamine, is pulled from the muscles to bind with hydrogen ions, causing the gradual loss of lean muscle.
As we age, the body becomes less efficient at neutralizing and eliminating acid waste, which explains why older athletes notice an increase in body fat and loss of lean muscle, even if their training is unchanged. "Essentially, we are peeing off our muscle as we pass the half-century mark in life," says multisport coach Joe Friel in his best-selling book, The Cyclist's Training Bible.
The most effective method of slowing this degenerative process in athletes of any age is to increase cellular alkalinity by eating a pH-balanced diet comprised mostly of alkaline-forming foods.
Acidosis and the Athlete
Conventional wisdom dictates that the best way to fuel up the night before an endurance event is to chow down on pasta and chicken. However, digesting those calories in the form of complex carbohydrates and protein sucks up a lot of metabolic energy and produces a lot of acid. The acid build-up causes inflammation, which stiffens muscles and joints, forcing you to work harder to move over the miles.
"The toxins produced in an acidic body reduce the absorption of protein, minerals and other nutrients, which in turn weakens the body's ability to produce chemical components necessary for cell energy and organ activity," say Dr. Robert O. Young and Shelley R. Young in The pH Miracle.
"If I didn't ensure I was alkaline all the time, I would constantly be dealing with lactic-acid stress, sore muscles, poor digestion and the resulting lack of energy," says Amy Golumbia, Canadian national mountain-running champion and a holistic nutritionist at Jump Start Nutrition Clinics in Alberta, Canada.