Michael GündillHow Acid in Your Body Affects Muscle Growth part1
To grow as fast as possible, bodybuilders should optimize their physiological environment. Obviously you have to maximize the release of anabolic hormones while minimizing the secretion of catabolic ones. You should also fuel your muscles with as many amino acids and as much energy as possible. Unfortunately, one physiological component often neglected in bodybuilding is your acid-base homeostasis.
Your acid-base balance is of the utmost importance for muscle growth, strength, fat loss and health. In all too many bodybuilders it’s far from optimized. Yet you can get impressive new size and strength gains by reducing the amount of acid in your blood.
Understanding Blood pH
Like any liquid, your blood possesses a potential of hydrogen, a.k.a. pH, which measures the concentration of hydrogen ions—acid—in your blood:
• If you have an excess of acid (pH below 7), your blood is said to be in an acidic state.
• When pH is 7, you’re in a neutral state.
• When pH is above 7, you’re in an alkaline state.
In healthy human beings blood pH is around 7.41, which means the blood is naturally slightly alkaline. On the other hand, medical research has demonstrated that the pH of modern Homo sapiens is more acidic than it used to be.
Blood pH in Bodybuilders
Although the average blood pH value is around 7.41, that’s rarely the case for bodybuilders. Basically, everything you do generates acid:
• When you train, your body manufactures lactic acid—the “acid” part being hydrogen ions. The higher their concentration, the lower your blood pH will be.
• When you eat protein, you decrease blood pH; proteins are made of amino acids, and the extra “acid” lowers blood pH.
• When you go on a low-calorie diet, your fat tissue releases free fatty acids—resulting in lower blood pH. Ketone bodies also acidify your blood.
Impact of Protein on Acid Production
The impact of dietary protein on acid release has been extensively investigated in Germany.1 One study compared acid release in two groups:
1) sedentary subjects eating 88 grams of protein a day.
2) bodybuilders eating 128 grams of protein a day.
In order to avoid frequent blood tests, researchers measured urinary pH. Average urinary pH is around 7—lower than blood pH, as one of the main functions of the kidneys is to get rid of the blood’s acid. Changes in urine, however, closely reflect changes in blood chemistry.
In the German study, urinary pH averaged 6.12 in sedentary subjects, the greater-than-average acidity being attributed to increased protein intake. In bodybuilders, pH is even lower—5.83. Acid excretion is 50 percent higher in bodybuilders than in sedentary persons, which should be no surprise, as both exercise and higher protein intake generate more acid.
On top of that, 128 grams is a modest intake for a bodybuilder, which means you’d expect a much greater generation of acid in “serious” bodybuilders. Furthermore, the bigger your muscles are, the more acid you’re likely to produce.
Protein and Kidney Stones
Protein is accused of increasing the incidence of kidney stones and generally hampering kidney health. True enough, as you grow older, the ability of your kidneys to get rid of the blood’s acid diminishes, and as a consequence the blood remains more acidic. A study of the impact of a daily intake of 170 grams of proteins in bodybuilders, however, demonstrated that although increased protein intake strains the kidneys, healthy kidneys are perfectly able to handle it.
The main problem for your kidneys isn’t that you eat acidic foods. If we have kidney problems, it’s because we don’t eat enough alkaline foods to counterbalance acid-rich foods, such as citrus. One dietary difference between prehistoric and modern hominids is that our ancestors ate many more alkaline foods.
Just to be clear: An abundance of protein doesn’t damage healthy kidneys, but insufficient intake of alkaline foods does. Bottom line: You need to more closely match alkaline with acidic food intake.