A Fine Balance - Page 3
As acidosis erodes your mental and physical energy, you're more tempted to eat energy-boosting drinks, snacks, bars and gels spiked with sugar and caffeine. Such ergogenic aids stimulate the adrenals and cause the release of cortisol, giving you an immediate, though temporary boost.
"Caffeine can help you in the short term [such as a race], but the problem is becoming dependent on it in everyday life," says Brazier, author of Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. "It's like borrowing energy from the future; you're exhausted later because you used up more energy earlier in the day." Cutting out acid-forming sugars and caffeine avoids adrenal burnout and evens out your energy level, letting you sleep deeper at night, awake refreshed and eliminate mid-afternoon grogginess.
Stay alkaline on the trail by mixing your own sports drinks using low-glycemic sweeteners like agave nectar, or drinking calorie-free electrolyte water (www.nuun.com) or coconut water (www.zico.com), which is loaded with naturally occurring electrolytes, and by eating homemade whole-food energy bars containing dates, nuts and seeds (find these recipes in Brazier's book, Thrive).
Another type of acid familiar to athletes is lactic acid. When running at your lactate threshold, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, eventually causing cramping and weakness, forcing you to slow down. This type of acid does not cause acidosis, nor has an alkalizing diet been proven to directly influence lactate threshold. However, reducing acidosis lets you recover faster, sleep better and train harder, which would improve your lactate threshold.
The Alkaline Lifestyle
The key to a pH-balanced diet is offsetting the bad with enough of the good, since eating alkaline-forming food exclusively would be nutritionally incomplete. Dr. Young recommends a ratio of 80-percent alkaline-forming food to 20-percent acid-forming food at each meal (see sidebar, "pH Food Guide"). This means that nutrient-rich veggies would be a meal's centerpiece instead of a steak, and is a good excuse to be adventurous in the kitchen, creating protein-rich nut burgers and baking with gluten-free flours like chickpea and spelt.
The overriding principle to becoming pH balanced is to choose unprocessed, wholesome foods over processed ones. For example, a steamed potato is alkaline, but French fries are highly acid forming. "The closer the food is to the way it grows in nature, the easier it is for your body to derive energy from it," says Golumbia. So pile your plate with heaps of raw or steamed vegetables, antioxidant-rich fresh fruit, and grains and legumes that have been sprouted instead of cooked. Eating food raw or heated only at low temperatures preserves the vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
But don't confuse acid forming with acidic. Lemons, limes and grapefruit are chemically acidic, but when metabolized, are actually alkaline-forming due to their low sugar content.
Replace fatty foods with essential fatty acids (EFAs)—including Omega 6 and Omega 3—that support cellular function and regeneration, which reduces high blood pressure, heart disease, lubricates joints, boosts immunity and soothes skin conditions and arthritis. In studies, injured athletes taking daily EFAs healed up to 25 percent faster than those who didn't.