What does it mean to say that a food is alkaline-forming?
When foods are digested they are broken down, absorbed, pass through various metabolic processes and then enter the blood – either in a more acidic or more alkaline form, depending on the food. The measured acidity of the food before it is digested is not necessarily an indication of how it will affect your blood pH. For example, lemon and apple cider vinegar are very acidic, but when they are digested they are alkaline-forming in the body.
What is the theory?
Our body strives to maintain a pH of about 7.35 and it is very efficient in doing so, no matter what we eat. However, if the body is constantly struggling to reduce an acidic environment it becomes prone to illness for the following reasons:
Acidity is a stressor to the body. Long-term, low level stress leads to fatigue, weight gain and reduced immunity.
Constant need to buffer an acidic environment causes the body to draw minerals from the body e.g. calcium, magnesium, potassium etc. This might lead to reduced bone mass and risk of kidney stones.
An acidic environment leads to increased free-radical formation at the cellular level.
Why do we need to eat more alkaline-forming foods?
It is almost impossible to avoid eating some acid-forming foods, but you can help your body by balancing your intake of acid-forming foods with some alkaline-forming foods, so that you are not resorting to other ways of correcting the imbalance. There is no extensive research detailing the exact quantities of these foods we should eat, but there are guides to help us choose more alkaline-forming foods. In general, basic common sense and good nutrition advice leads to consumption of moderate amounts of acid-forming foods (e.g. meat) with an abundance of alkaline-forming foods (e.g. vegetables). Try to make 75% of your diet more alkaline-forming.
Why do athletes specifically need alkaline-forming foods?
In very simple terms, lots of physical exertion is a stressor to your body, which is often the reason why your immune system can struggle when your training increases. Stress is acid-forming. If you are an athlete, and you are constantly putting your body under stress, you need a lot of good nutrition to restore balance and to enable optimum recovery and regeneration, as well as sustained good health.