Why pH Balance Is Important For Runners:
To succeed as a runner, there are so many areas we need to focus on. For example, proper nutrition, strength, endurance, and recovery. But, there’s one important area that is rarely mentioned. Have you ever heard how important our bloods pH balance is as a runner? Don’t worry, most runners haven’t. The pH balance is one of the most important systems in the human body and it affects the bodies entire metabolic process. You can place a runners pH balance right up there with breathing and a heart beat. That’s how important it is. So, what exactly does having a pH balance mean?
To explain it simply, pH stands for “potential for hydrogen” and it describes the amount of hydrogen ions in a particular solution/liquid. The more ions present, the more acidic the solution/liquid. With little ions present, then the solution/liquid contains a higher concentration of alkaline. The pH level of a runner is a measure of acidity or alkalinity, which can be measured on a scale of 0 to 14. The highest level of acidity would be a level of 0. The highest level of alkaline would be a level of 14. This would mean 7 is the right in the middle and where we want to be as a runner.
Now, how does this all relate to runners?
The reason pH balance is important is because anytime our blood is not in the middle at 7, the body will do whatever it takes to get back to a 7, even at the cost of our overall health. For example, if our bodies are in an acidic state, which is usually the most common problems with runners, it will then take minerals such as calcium and magnesium to get itself back to a level 7. Where does our body get these minerals? From our skeleton. When these minerals are continually taken from our bones, overtime the bones begin to weaken. Another thing to consider is our running performance. If your blood always has high levels of acidic, then your performance in training and racing will take a major hit. If you can’t get rid of these higher levels then it’s potentially going to cause the muscles to shut down. So, in a way, addressing these drops in pH levels can potentially improve your fitness, and even prevent overtraining.
What causes an increase in acidic?
There are many things that can cause a runners body to increase acidic, mainly being diet, stress level, and exercise. This includes running. When we first start a run, our bodies are in an aerobic state. We inhale oxygen, our body uses all the oxygen it needs for the muscles, and then we exhale what’s leftover. Pretty much our muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy it needs. But, if the run becomes fast or long enough, our muscles won’t be able to keep up with the demand of oxygen and we will go into an anaerobic state. This is when our bodies produce lactic acid and the build up of this affects the balance of our pH levels.
How do we know if our pH level is acidic?
The balance of pH is something we don’t initially notice, but there are some signs that should be taken into consideration. The main thing being muscle soreness and fatigue. We’ve all experienced this as runners. Other common signs could be mouth ulcers, inflammation of the stomach (gastritis), sensitive teeth, and dry skin. Having long term high acidic levels has even been the cause of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
How do we fix having a high level of acidic?
Besides not killing yourself in training, the main way to keep a balanced pH level is having a proper diet. Because high levels of acidic are usually most common in runners, we want to focus on higher alkaline foods that enhance the bodies buffering ability. Runners who eat a low carb / high protein diet during training may actually be effecting their endurance and performance. In a way, your food selection can affect how your body responds to high levels of acidic that is caused by high levels of training. This is called the buffering effect. Now, let’s talk about food and it’s effects on pH levels. The potential effect that foods have on acidic levels is called “Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL). A negative PRAL food will cause a decrease in renal acid load and lead to a higher buffering ability. The opposite happens with high PRAL foods. Fruits, vegetables, and beans have a negative PRAL effect, meaning they are favorable to maintaining or reaching a more neutral pH. Foods like meats, eggs, and cheese have a high PRAL. And there are plenty of foods that fall into both categories. I suggest researching the types of foods you eat if this is something you choose to focus on.
Overall, all people, not just runners, need to have a balance in their diet. We don’t want to cut out foods based on high or low PRAL. Everything in moderation!