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Eating for Energy

The Importance of Dietary Alkalinity for Runners

Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Ok, you might be wondering… “What on earth is alkalinity and what does it have to do with my running performance?”

Well, very simply it refers to a pH reading that is opposite of acidic. The pH scale operates from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic reading and 14 the most alkaline. 7 represents a neutral level. When you consume and digest foods they are broken down and become acid-forming or alkaline-forming in your body. The difference between the two is crucial to understand.

Naturally, your body wants to be slightly alkaline. However, there are specific areas in your body which need to be slightly more acidic, such as the stomach and urinary tract, in order to properly perform their functions. Our most important tissue – the blood – needs to be slightly alkaline. Specifically, it needs to be between 7.35-7.45.

I’d like you to consider all the arteries (blood vessels) in your body. The blood vessels are your body’s highways for transporting your blood, or your “river of life”. Your blood is what transports oxygen and nutrients to all of your body’s cells while helping remove waste products produced in the cells. The blood is probably the most important tissue in your entire body – without it functioning properly, you die!

Within this “river of life” reside your red blood cells (RBC) which are responsible for carrying oxygen to the cells. Each RBC holds 4 molecules of oxygen; each one bound to hemoglobin (an iron-based protein carrier). It is these oxygen molecules that eventually go to the cells of the body to provide the necessary input for metabolism.

From an electromagnetic perspective each RBC has a negative charge on its outer surface while being positively charged on the inside. This ensures that no two (or more) RBC stick together – since two negative charges repel each other. This is absolutely critical to understand. Think about it for a moment - what would happen if all the RBC starting clumping together? Your blood would become viscous, sluggish, and not move as freely (almost like thick sewage). Oxygen transport would be impaired and thus your energy would dramatically be reduced.

Well, what if I told you that that exact scenario is most likely taking place inside of you right this moment, and you don’t even know it!? That’s exactly what’s happening inside more than 80% of the population! Pretty crazy, I know! This is what takes place inside an acidic body.

Too much acid in the blood strips away the negative charge around the RBC and as a result these oxygen carrying cells lose their ability to repel one another. So, they coagulate (or stick together) and your blood becomes thick, lethargic, and slow moving. Your body then becomes a reflection of this situation. You feel tired, lethargic, and sluggish. If oxygen and nutrients are not being properly delivered to your cells how can you be expected to run or operate at your best?

As these compromised RBC continue circulating in this acidic blood stream, they begin to lose their membrane integrity and leak their contents into the bloodstream – spilling toxins, bacteria, and debris. So, this “spillage” caused by the hemolysis (RBC destruction) further adds toxins and acidity to the blood; which in turn exacerbates the whole problem.

For further detail on this subject please get a copy of Eating for Energy.

As a runner, it is imperative to be able to deliver oxygen to your muscles for optimal performance. However, if your body is acidic and blood viscous and sluggish, it will be very difficult to run as fast or as far as you’d like.

When the muscles can no longer derive their energy from oxygen, they will turn to a different energy pathway known as glycolysis. Glycolysis yields much energy (ATP) in a short amount of time but it also produces the “muscle-burning” waste product known as lactic acid. As lactic acid builds up, the onset of fatigue occurs much more rapidly.

Therefore, to better your running performance you need to take steps to alkalizing your body. So, how do you reduce the acidity in your body and alkalize it for maximal energy and performance?

It’s quite simple – eat and drink anything that is natural and green. Greens are the best source of alkalinity. Foods such as swiss chard, kale, collards, and spinach are just a few examples. Have a green juice after your run and watch your energy soar and recovery time plummet.

All fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming in the body. So, on a day-to-day basis, the most important thing is to consume more fruits and vegetables while reducing your consumption of acid-forming foods such as meat, dairy, refined sugars, and processed/packaged foods. Not only will this greatly enhance your running performance but it will also tremendously improve your health!


Learn more about what to eat before, during, and after your runs in Eating for Energy.


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