Written by Alexander Perkins (follow the author here @alexanderperkins)
Alkalising; there’s no doubt most of you have heard the term being thrown up in health blogs, on social media, or by your mates new girlfriend who’s just adopted a raw-organic-paleo-vegan diet. But what does it mean? And can it be applicable to you?
What is alkalising?
Your health, and thus life, depends on your body maintaining an optimal pH balance. These optimal levels vary from one area of your body to another. For example, your body is autonomously regulating your blood serum pH levels between 7.35 and 7.45. It’s also ensuring your gut pH is around 1.35 to 3.5 to aid in digestion and protect against pathogens.
It is naïve to think that we are in complete control of pH levels through our food and supplement intake. Autonomous regulatory systems – including the renal system - are responsible for maintaining these ideal pH levels. Even if we eat a strict alkaline diet our serum pH will still be between 7.35 and 7.45. However, a heavy load on these systems through an acidic diet, can have negative consequences on health, wellbeing, performance and even aesthetics.
How can alkalising affect health and muscle mass?
The modern diet – high in sodium, chloride, and sugar, whilst low in magnesium, potassium and other minerals – is mismatched with our genetically determined nutritional requirements. Over time this takes a massive toll on our regulatory systems and coincides with a slow shift towards metabolic acidosis. Whilst the jury is still out on renal-acid load and bone mass, some research has shown that excess dietary protein may decrease bone density if not buffered by alkali rich food or supplements. This may be crucial, given that a low intake of protein also has a negative effect on bone mass as well as being unable to support optimal muscle growth.
Perhaps just as key to muscle builders, several studies have also shown a link between alkaline diets high in fruits and vegetables and preservation of muscle mass. This also coincides with other research that has been exploring the link between high acid-renal load and a drop in growth hormone levels.
What this means is that a diet high in “modern” foods may have an acid inducing effect on the body, and increase the load placed on its regulatory systems. In turn, this can then affect muscle mass preservation, growth and performance. Given such, it would seem more than prudent to adopt a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables grown in rich soil that have a base-inducing (alkaline) effect on the body. It also adds more weight to the argument for ingesting greens powders – including ingredients such as spirulina – that are high in potassium and magnesium, amongst other important minerals. These powders have an alkalising effect, which may reduce the load on the renal system and put the body in the best position to grow and maintain muscle mass.