Your high-protein diet is great for building muscle and burning fat, but it's not so great for your body's acid balance. The body functions optimally when it is in equilibrium. Cells operate best when they are within a specific pH (potential of hydrogen) range, which varies depending on the cell type. The pH of the body is a measure of its acid:alkaline ratio which is measured on a scale of 0-14. A rating of seven is neutral, while any more means you are in a state of alkalinity and any less means you are acidic, becomes too acidic normal body functions are compromised. The problem is, many of the foods that compromise even healthy people's diets are acidic! For example, chicken and oatmeal, two common bodybuilding foods, are acidic. When the body becomes too acidic due to dietary influences it's called metabolic acidosis. Consequences of Metabolic Acidosis In order to stabilize an acidic pH level the body must neutralize the excess dietary acid load. The two main ways the body does this is by taking calcium and other minerals from bones and glutamine from skeletal muscle. Both of these corrective mechanisms have negative consequences for your health and physique.
- Hypercalciuria: This is a fifty-cent word that refers to having high calcium levels in your urine. Bone contains the body's greatest calcium stores and calcium is a strong base meaning it is able to neutralize acids. During metabolic acidosis calcium is released from bone in an attempt to neutralize the excess acids and stabilize the body's pH level. The calcium and acids are then excreted in the urine. This calcium loss leads to weak, brittle bones.
- Muscle Protein Loss: Skeletal muscle contains the body's greatest glutamine stores. Glutamine binds to hydrogen ions (H+) to create ammonium, which is excreted from the body. In the face of metabolic acidosis and elevated H+ levels, breakdown of skeletal muscle and glutamine release is increased and can lead to muscle protein loss.
- Hormone Secretion Disruption: During metabolic acidosis normal hormone secretion is disrupted. Changes include increased cortisol secretion, decreased thyroid production, and growth hormone resistance, all of which will have negative effects on your body composition.
- Add green vegetables and fresh fruits: Vegetables and fruits are low-glycemic high-fiber carbohydrates that are awesome natural sources of minerals and are very alkaline. Sadly, most people's diets are severely lacking in green vegetables and fresh fruits. Try to get at least six servings per day, including supplemental sources like a greens product or Scivation's Solution 5.
- Add good fats: Healthy fats like those found in avocados and almonds are alkaline and will decrease the acid load of a meal. Do not listen to the mainstream media about these foods. Do not use sparingly.
- Add supplemental glutamine: Glutamine has been shown to neutralize acids. Interestingly, during metabolic acidosis intestinal glutamine uptake is increased, which shows the body is trying to increase its glutamine content in order to correct its acid imbalance.
- Add a mineral supplement: Calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are taken from bones and organs to neutralize acids. The addition of a dietary mineral supplement will assist in sparing bone and organ mineral depletion.
- Add salt (sodium): Simply adding salt to your food will decrease the acidity of that meal due to sodium's acid buffering effect. This isn't an excuse to go overboard, so use in moderation.