Importance of pH: health, sports performance and nutrition
What is pH?
pH stands for “potential hydrogen”. It is the degree of concentration of hydrogen ions in a substance or solution. The pH of the body is very important because it controls the rate of biochemical reactions in our body.
The pH is measured on a scale from 1 to 14 reflecting the acidity of a substance:
- pH <7: Acid. A higher acidity, lower the pH. This causes an increase of positive ions which facilitate the transmission of electrical impulses in the body.
- pH = 7: Neutral
- pH> 7: alkaline or basic. A less acidic, more basic (or alkaline) will be the substance. The higher (more alkaline) the pH of a substance, the electric resistance (less positive ions). Therefore, electricity will travel more slowly
pH and Health
To ensure the proper functioning of metabolic processes and oxygen delivery to all organs, our body needs the blood pH is in a neutral state (between 7.34-7.45). When there is an imbalance of our pH, our body will try to restore the natural balance regardless.
Excess acid in the body creates an environment that encourages cellular decomposition, weakening all body systems, and allowing to thrive diseases (less biological defenses).
For example, if our blood acidity increases by lowering the pH to 6.5, our bodies begin to look for ways to stock up on minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium carbonate) to achieve neutrality recover.
The downside is that to do this, extract these minerals from our bones (osteoporosis) and blood vessels (associated arteriosclerosis).
-cholesterol acid pH
To counter the loss of calcium from the walls of blood vessels, the body replaces it with cholesterol (more resistant to acidity), becoming more rigid wall. The continuing problem when this situation becomes constant and the body produces more cholesterol to combat these effects. Therefore, high levels of cholesterol are a defense against an acid pH and must be combated with a rebalancing of supply (see section nutrition).
pH and Sports Performance
There is controversy over whether manipulate internal pH conditions favors or athletic performance, particularly in activities with a high component anaerobic type.
In addition to this controversy, sports medicine, there are many who consider lactate as primarily responsible for the possible increase of acidosis associated with high – intensity training. If exceeded below a certain level of acidity, inhibition of various enzymatic systems involved in the failure occurs, and therefore, an interruption of muscular work. It is what we know as “burning” muscle (metabolic fatigue) and what we continue to perform another repetition prevents more.
In this sense, a trained athlete has greater tolerance to the untrained acidification, ie, its pH needs to descend more to feel fatigued.
The process of metabolic acidosis during extended time has a number of negative consequences in the body that are going to affect the pursuit of athletic performance and increased muscle mass:
- Promotes muscle loss due to a negative nitrogen balance reflected in increased urinary nitrogen. This is mainly because the body in an attempt to absorb the internal acidification uses glutamine. As we know muscle is the primary store of glutamine, so that a muscular catabolic process occurs.
- Favors blocking anabolic processes normal occurring in the body through a decrease in the activity of the anabolic factor IGF-1, an increase in resistance to growth hormone and increased cortisol levels.
- It could favor slowing basal metabolism of the individual through a light hypothyroidism.
pH and Nutrition
It has been shown that ketogenic diets (high-fat-protein, low carbohydrate) are associated with pH values lower blood or acids that diets high in carbohydrates (about 70%), where the values are basic and therefore more beneficial for sports. Regarding whether ketogenic diets could potentially cancer because high intake of animal products, seems to be that truth is the opposite, because these diets have been shown to be effective not only in reducing tumor size but also in weight loss associated with the cancer process.
The load of carbohydrates after performing physical exercise, positively promotes blood basic level. However, the opposite effect is exerted when the exercise is followed by a diet low in carbohydrates. Even without changes in glycogen levels, when exposed to study subjects 3-4 days ketogenic diet, exercise performance results in short-term are worse despite blood lactate levels are minors.
One might think, therefore, that sports most affected would be those in which occurs more easily a situation of metabolic acidosis (high intensity, short duration). On the other hand, in aerobic type exercises, ketogenic diets may be useful in performance because they could give the athlete a greater efficiency in the utilization of fat, which is the main energy source for that activity, except for the athlete sprints could perform.
Final considerations and tips
- Abundant moisture (water is the main component of cells). At least 3 liters per day in case of sedentary and may reach 4.5L in case of very active athletes. If the water is mineral or alkaline (filtration or lemon juice) much better.
- The fruit and vegetables are helpful not only because they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, but also in enhancing the acid-base balance of the internal environment, promoting recovery from situations that increase acidity. In the ketogenic diet, vegetables can be a great ally to prevent acidosis caused by proteins and fats.
- Exercise makes you lose electrolytes, essential for nerve impulses and muscle contractions, so the ability to replenish them quickly is essential for maximum performance.
- 70/30 rule – 70% of the diet should come from alkaline groups.
- Although not mentioned, stress is one of the most important causes of the acidic conditions in the body. So find time each day to breathe deeply and relax.