Friday, August 18, 2006

The Alkaline Diet - Is It For You?

The diet hype today is all low carbohydrate and high protein, but any serious athlete knows to stay far away from that if performance is their goal. Those types of diets are for inactive people looking for the quick and easy way to drop a pound. The diet for optimal performance and health for athletes could be the Alkaline Diet. This natural diet has numerous benefits that range from helping to fight cancer to clearing up your sinuses. On top of that, athletes on this diet have found higher levels of energy with faster workout recoveries. Maybe this diet should be called the “Perfect Diet”. An important aspect of this diet that is usually overlooked by other diets is its easy adaptability. This is due to the fact that no foods are eliminated completely, just moderated. You don’t have to buy any special shakes, bars, or pills. The alkaline diet gets you back to basics and common sense. It includes lots of whole raw foods and less man-made processed products while moderating acidic food intake.

Why alkaline?
This diet is focused on maintaining an alkaline (opposite of acidic) pH in the body. The human body in a healthy state is slightly alkaline at the cellular level except for the digestive tract (excluding the mouth) and urinary tract. Those two are slightly acidic. The base level for the rest of the body is around 7.4. When your body is in a state of stress or illness, the pH level is almost always lowered into the acidic range. With the average American diet and lifestyle (not to mention the daily stress an athlete puts on their body during training), it is imminent that your pH level will fall into an acidic state. So it would make sense to put your pH level at alkaline and keep it there. Ratio of alkaline to acidic foods
The rule of thumb for this diet ratio is 75-80% alkaline and 20-25% acidic. The large base of your diet will be raw fruits and vegetables. With a few exceptions, fruits and vegetables are alkaline to the body. They hold many vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health, but they also hold a plentiful supply of phytochemicals. All three of these elements protect your body from illness and supply your body with an endless amount of energy. Even with today’s advanced knowledge of nutrition, we still do not know all of the phytochemicals out there, so it is important to get your nutrients from raw sources and not artificial methods.

Won't acidic fruits go against this diet?
A common misconception is that fruits high in citric acid must be avoided, but the opposite is true. Once the body metabolizes the citric acid, it becomes alkaline. It is important to know that we base what foods are acidic or alkaline on the metabolized byproducts, not what they are outside of the body. Now we all pretty much eat our fruits raw, but vegetables are another story. The majority of us do not even eat them everyday, and when we do, we cook them in a way that kills all the beneficial nutrients. If you cannot eat your vegetables raw, then the next best way is steamed. This will ensure that you get all of the nutrients needed for optimal health. There are some fruits that should be moderated, like prunes, cranberries, and plums. These are known to have an acidic effect on the body.

The acidic part of the diet is as important as the alkaline, but it does have to be moderated to about 20% of your food intake. This category includes dairy, white flour, poultry, beef, coffee, and eggs. I know it’s hard to hear, but a high intake of protein will put your pH in an acidic state. Athletes these days seem to think protein should be the staple of their diet. It’s true that muscle needs protein to rebuild, but your body will not use more then 1.6 grams per kg of body weight for muscle repair. That number falls a lot shorter than what the bodybuilding magazines state. Do you think that having their advertising pages full of supplement companies has anything to do with that? Keeping up with your protein needs can easily be fit into your 20% acidic ratio. Remember that these foods are needed and should not be avoided, just limited. If your body’s alkaline level gets too high (pH close to 8) then there could be adverse effects.

Testing your pH
A great way to test your pH level is to go down to the local pharmacy and buy some pH strips so you can test yourself at home and monitor your body’s pH changes with your dietary changes. Your ideal pH level is going to be around 7.4 or 7.5. The main concept of this diet is whole, unprocessed foods with lots of raw fruits and vegetables (mostly greens). It is also very important to drink at least 8 oz of water every two waking hours to stay fully hydrated. On this diet your body will take in less man-made toxins that are found in many processed foods, and your pH level will be in an alkaline state. Put all of those together, and you will see your health and energy levels reach a new high. Many professional and amateur athletes are using this diet to extend their competitive years well into their forties. The alkaline diet can benefit any endurance athlete with less illness, faster recoveries and more energy. There are many books and studies done on this subject, so don’t let this article be your only resource.

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