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pH Chemistry

A pH primer – Every athlete needs to the chemistry of pH balance. or How to Stop the Burn!

Proper pH balance is a key component of good health and is absolutely essential to athletic performance. This article will examine the role of acid-base balance in athletic performance. pH is measured on a 14-point scale, with 7 being neutral. The lower the pH value, the higher the acidity; the higher the pH value, the more alkaline. pH values vary throughout systems in the human body. So, as you might imagine, stomach acid has a very low pH value, ranging from 1.0 to 3.0. Pancreatic excretions are very high in pH value, ranging from 8.0 to 8.3. The pH value of blood in a healthy human is balanced right around the middle of the 14-point scale at a narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45, or just slightly alkaline.

Why pH balance is important to athletes

People today are interested in exercise as a way to improve their health and physical abilities. Exercise has short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) effects. The body must be capable of handling both for the exercise to be beneficial. When we exercise, our heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped per heart beat) all increase within seconds. Blood flow to the heart, the muscles, and the skin increases. The body’s metabolism becomes more active, producing CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H+ (acid) in the muscles. We breathe faster and deeper to supply the oxygen required by the increased metabolism and to remove the waste products CO2. The end product of all metabolism is acid (H+), a waste product that must be removed from the body, through what I call the hydrogen ‘exhaust pipe’.. This is a central problem that an athlete should understand and know how to manage in order to maximize the benefits of exercise and minimize the harmful results.

So, the body has feedback circuits to prevent damage to the tissues from this excess acidic waste. The normal pathway, or exhaust pipe, to remove acid waste formed by metabolism is through the lungs (CO2), sweat (many acids and mineral carriers are in sweat), and urine (ammonia). During aerobic metabolism we inhale oxygen which is transported to the active muscles where it is combined with waste products of energy conversion, carbon © and hydrogen (H), to form carbon dioxide and water. The water (H2O) is used by the circulatory system and the CO2 is exhaled in the breath. Eventually, with strenuous exercise, our body’s metabolism exceeds the oxygen supply and begins to use alternate biochemical processes that do not require oxygen (anaerobic metabolism). These processes generate excess acid, or H+ ions, which enter the blood stream. The excess H+ ion level eventually slows the energy production mechanism in the cell if it is not removed through the blood.

When we increase the intensity of exercise beyond the limits of waste removal we feel pain and call it ‘muscle burn’. The same chemical changes occur in the muscle cells when we reach the fatigue point in long-term endurance events, sometimes described as “hitting the wall”. In practical terms our exhaust pipe is not big enough to remove the excess acidic waste. The production and removal of CO2 and H+, together with the use and transport of O2, cause chemical changes in the blood. These chemical changes, unless offset by other physiological functions, cause the pH of the blood to drop. Acidosis will result If the pH of the blood gets too low (below 7.35). This can be very serious, because many of the chemical reactions that occur in the body, especially those involving proteins, are pH-dependent. Ideally, the pH of the blood should be maintained at 7.4. If the pH drops below 6.8 or rises above 7.8, death may occur.

Fortunately, we have buffers in the blood to protect against large changes in pH. This is where lactate comes into the story. One way the cell removes excess H+ ions is through carrier molecules (a buffer) that can except and transport ions to other tissues in the body where they can be used for energy metabolism or excreted as waste. Lactate is one of many carriers of H+ ions and what makes it useful to us as athlete’s is that the level of lactate in the blood can be measured easily. So, lactate is one of the waste products in our hydrogen exhaust pipe along with other organic acids. At rest the flow of lactate from the cells into the blood is low, as the intensity of exercise increases so does the amount of lactate

“leaking” into the blood. Lactate is transported to the liver, heart and kidneys where it is used to generate energy. If we did not have lactate (and other buffers) to carry excess H+ ions the pH of the blood would change radically during strenuous exercise. So, in the scheme of things lactate is an ally to allowing the muscle cells to generate energy when oxygen is lacking, a good thing.

This is where the story gets interesting when it comes to performance potential. One way to increase performance is to increase the size of the H+ exhaust pipeline. As we discussed earlier, one immediate feedback mechanism is that we breathe deeper and thereby blow off more CO2. If we practice proper breathing techniques we can delay the point where the blood starts to get acidic. Long-term or chronic adaptations also occur through physical training as evident in lactate curves of trained vs. non-trained individuals. As we develop a long-term habit of exercise, our cardiac output and lung capacity increase, even when we are at rest, so that we can exercise longer and harder than before, and recover faster. Over time, the amount of muscle in the body increases, and fat is burned as its energy is needed to help fuel the body’s increased metabolism. This is the adaptation we call Training Effect. This is the goal of physical training and what we commonly refer to as ‘fitness’. Our bodies adapt to the increased production of acidic waste and remove it through a larger acid waste exhaust pipe.

How Athletes can manage pH Balance

Triathletes, competitive and serious “recreational” cyclists, runners and swimmers, plus many other strength and endurance athletes must learn how to manage the metabolic stress of strenuous exercise. Elite athletes compete and train literally, if not virtually, as a full-time job. Most athletes must balance the physical stresses of a job, training, competition, family, etc. All seek to increase the volume and quality of training, while improving personal best results. The outcome of such sustained effort can lead to short-term issues such as muscle ‘burn’ at high intensity; long-term, classic overtraining symptoms such as fatigue, increased recovery time needed, reduced training quality and quantity, poorer results, increased susceptibility to infection and sickness, and finally, in severe cases, adrenal fatigue, immune system depression, Epstein-Barr virus infection, and conditions described as ‘chronic fatigue disorder’ can also occur.

Many of us spend off-training time researching and looking for solutions to the above issue which meet two specific requirements:

1. Help improve training and event performance. 2. Contain no drugs or other substances banned by USADA or other sports governing bodies.

So, how can athletes protect themselves from pH imbalance?

First: a healthy diet is the best place to start. Cutting back on acid-producing foods and beverages such as animal protein, coffee and wine, can help. But remember: just because a food is chemically acidic doesn’t automatically mean it’s an acid producing food (For example, citrus fruits actually have an alkalizing effect on the body, as do most fruits and vegetables.) To maintain a healthy pH balance, many natural medicine practitioners recommend a diet comprised of anywhere from a 60/40 to as much as an 80/20 ratio in favor of alkalizing foods over acid-producing foods. However, that’s not always easy to achieve – especially for people who don’t want to pay obsessive attention to their diet. And, even with the best diet, we naturally become more acidic as we age and our metabolic functions slow.

Second: Another dietary intervention is to consume natural sources of buffers, mainly in the form of the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium. New supplements are beginning to emerge which can help maintain a neutral pH balance. Traditional alkaline products such as calcium, magnesium and potassium carbonates and hydroxides can help combat low-grade acidosis, but simple carbonate forms of minerals are not alkaline enough to be effective on most organic acids. is an all-natural mineral-based compound that assists the body in sustaining a healthy balanced pH by neutralizing acidic wastes – hydrogen ions. Taken as a daily supplement Extreme Endurance® promotes overall body alkalizing and healthy living.

The formula for Extreme endurance is complex. There were close to 200 attempts at finding the right balance of ingredients for an effectively effective natural alkalizer.

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A pH primer – what every athlete needs to know about pH balance.
-————————————————————————————————

Proper pH balance is a key component of good health and is absolutely essential to athletic performance. This article will examine the role of acid-base balance in athletic performance. pH is measured on a 14-point scale, with 7 being neutral. The lower the pH value, the higher the acidity; the higher the pH value, the more alkaline. pH values vary throughout systems in the human body. So, as you might imagine, stomach acid has a very low pH value, ranging from 1.0 to 3.0. Pancreatic excretions are very high in pH value, ranging from 8.0 to 8.3. The pH value of blood in a healthy human is balanced right around the middle of the 14-point scale at a narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45, or just slightly alkaline.

pH Scale:

<= Acid ==> Neutral <= Alkaline ===> 1----2----3----4----5----6----7----8----9----10---11---12---13---14

Why pH balance is important to athletes:

People today are interested in exercise as a way to improve their health and physical abilities. Exercise has short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) effects. The body must be capable of handling both for the exercise to be beneficial. When we exercise, our heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped per heart beat) all increase within seconds. Blood flow to the heart, the muscles, and the skin increases. The body’s metabolism becomes more active, producing CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H+ (acid) in the muscles. We breathe faster and deeper to supply the oxygen required by the increased metabolism and to remove the waste products CO2. The end product of all metabolism is acid (H+), a waste product that must be removed from the body, through what I call the hydrogen ‘exhaust pipe’.. This is a central problem that an athlete should understand and know how to manage in order to maximize the benefits of exercise and minimize the harmful results.

So, the body has feedback circuits to prevent damage to the tissues from this excess acidic waste. The normal pathway, or exhaust pipe, to remove acid waste formed by metabolism is through the lungs (CO2), sweat (many acids and mineral carriers are in sweat), and urine (ammonia). During aerobic metabolism we inhale oxygen which is transported to the active muscles where it is combined with waste products of energy conversion, carbon © and hydrogen (H), to form carbon dioxide and water. The water (H2O) is used by the circulatory system and the CO2 is exhaled in the breath. Eventually, with strenuous exercise, our body’s metabolism exceeds the oxygen supply and begins to use alternate biochemical processes that do not require oxygen (anaerobic metabolism). These processes generate excess acid, or H+ ions, which enter the blood stream. The excess H+ ion level eventually slows the energy production mechanism in the cell if it is not removed through the blood.

When we increase the intensity of exercise beyond the limits of waste removal we feel pain and call it ‘muscle burn’. In practical terms our exhaust pipe is not big enough to remove the excess acidic waste. The production and removal of CO2 and H+, together with the use and transport of O2, cause chemical changes in the blood. These chemical changes, unless offset by other physiological functions, cause the pH of the blood to drop. Acidosis will result If the pH of the blood gets too low (below 7.35). This can be very serious, because many of the chemical reactions that occur in the body, especially those involving proteins, are pH-dependent. Ideally, the pH of the blood should be maintained at 7.4. If the pH drops below 6.8 or rises above 7.8, death may occur.

Fortunately, we have buffers in the blood to protect against large changes in pH. This is where lactate comes into the story. One way the cell removes excess H+ ions is through carrier molecules (a buffer) that can except and transport ions to other tissues in the body where they can be used for energy metabolism or excreted as waste. Lactate is one of many carriers of H+ ions and what makes it useful to us as athlete’s is that the level of lactate in the blood can be measured easily. Therefore, lactate is one of the waste products in our hydrogen exhaust pipe. At rest the flow of lactate from the cells into the blood is low, as the intensity of exercise increases so does the amount of lactate “leaking” into the blood. Lactate is transported to the liver, heart and kidneys where it is used to generate energy. If we did not have lactate (and other buffers) to carry excess H+ ions the pH of the blood would change radically during strenuous exercise. Therefore, in the scheme of things lactate is an ally to allowing the muscle cells to generate energy when oxygen is lacking, a good thing.

This is where the story gets interesting when it comes to performance potential. One way to increase performance is to increase the size of the H+ exhaust pipeline. As we discussed earlier, one immediate feedback mechanism is that we breathe deeper and thereby blow off more CO2. If we practice proper breathing techniques, we can delay the point where the blood starts to get acidic. Long-term or chronic adaptations also occur through physical training as evident in lactate curves of trained vs. non-trained individuals. As we develop a long-term habit of exercise, our cardiac output and lung capacity increase, even when we are at rest, so that we can exercise longer and harder than before, and recover faster. Over time, the amount of muscle in the body increases, and fat is burned, as its energy is needed to help fuel the body’s increased metabolism. This is the adaptation we call Training Effect. This is the goal of physical training and what we commonly refer to as ‘fitness’. Our bodies adapt to the increased production of acidic waste and remove it through a larger exhaust pipe.

How Athletes can manage pH Balance:

Triathletes, competitive and serious “recreational” cyclists, runners and swimmers, plus many other strength and endurance athletes must learn how to manage the metabolic stress of strenuous exercise. Elite athletes compete and train literally, if not virtually, as a full-time job. Most athletes must balance the physical stresses of a job, training, competition, family, etc. All seek to increase the volume and quality of training, while improving personal best results. The outcome of such sustained effort can lead to short-term issues such as muscle ‘burn’ at high intensity; long-term, classic overtraining symptoms such as fatigue, increased recovery time needed, reduced training quality and quantity, poorer results, increased susceptibility to infection and sickness, and finally, in severe cases, adrenal fatigue, immune system depression, Epstein-Barr virus infection, and conditions described as ‘chronic fatigue disorder’ can also occur.

Many of us spend off-training time researching and looking for solutions to the above issue which meet specific requirements:
Help improve training and event performance.
Contaminate free, drug free and or other substances banned by WADA or other sports governing bodies.
Well designed effective bioavailable product are critical to performance.

So, how can athletes protect themselves from pH imbalance?

First: a healthy diet is the best place to start. Cutting back on acid-producing foods and beverages such as animal protein, coffee and wine, can help. Nevertheless, remember: just because a food is chemically acidic does not automatically mean it’s an acid producing food. (For example, citrus fruits actually have an alkalizing effect on the body, as do most fruits and vegetables.) To maintain a healthy pH balance, many natural medicine practitioners recommend a diet comprised of anywhere from a 60/40 to as much as an 80/20 ratio in favor of alkalizing foods over acid-producing foods. However, that is not always easy to achieve – especially for people who do not want to pay obsessive attention to their diet. In addition, even with the best diet, we naturally become more acidic as we age and our metabolic functions slow.

Second: Another dietary intervention is to consume natural sources of buffers, mainly in the form of the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium. (Tums, sodium bicarbonate). New supplements are beginning to emerge which can help maintain a neutral pH balance. Traditional alkaline products such as calcium, magnesium and potassium carbonates and hydroxides can help combat low-grade acidosis, but simple carbonate forms of minerals are not alkaline enough to be effective on most organic acids.

Disclaimer
Every effort has been made to make this web site as accurate as possible. The purpose of this site is to educate and inform. No individual should at any time use the information found on this web site for self-diagnosis, treatment, or justification in accepting or declining any medical therapy for any health problems or diseases. Any application of the advice herein is at the reader’s own discretion and risk. Therefore, any individual who has a specific health problem or is taking medications must first seek advice from his or her personal physician or healthcare provider before starting a nutritional supplement program. Murray Wilmerding/pHitpills.com shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this web site. We assume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. Any slights of people, places, or organizations are unintentional.