The importance of alkalising when excercising (as an ergogenic aid)

Diets high in protein and using supplements such as protein powder and creatine create an acidic environment in the body. Supplements are acid forming in the body and all forms of protein too, so the importance of balancing these highly acidic products becomes a high priority in both exercise and life.

Regulation of pH in the body is absolutely vital for life. Our body cannot function properly if it is acidic. In fact our blood needs to be maintained at a slightly alkaline pH. This is essential for oxygen transport to our tissues and for enzymes to remain active. An enzyme is a type of protein that is needed to speed up every reaction in our body, so that our body can carry out essential functions such as, absorbing nutrients, tissue repair, immune function and waste elimination.

The body can remove acids however when acid is excessive the body struggles to eliminate excess acids via the lungs, kidneys and skin. Some acids can be converted into carbon dioxide, which is breathed out causing increased respiration. The kidneys also eliminate other types of acids, however the acids first need to be neutralised by amino acids or minerals, such as calcium. Finally, the skin also eliminates acids, although this is to a much smaller extent then the lungs and kidneys.

To neutralise acids so they can be eliminated, our body uses alkaline minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. There is not a huge store of these minerals in the blood, so if they are not adequately supplied by the diet, this causes resorption from our bones, muscles and organs.

Hydrogen ions and lactic acid

Exercise lowers blood pH and produces lactic acid leading to acidity[1] which is believed to effect fatigue and performance.

High rates of anaerobic glycolysis in the muscle can produce hydrogen ions in excess of intracellular (inside the cell) buffering capacity; however, increasing the extracellular (outside the cell) pH can enhance the efflux (flows out) of the accumulating hydrogen ion (H+) in the muscle into the extracellular space for disposal. This tactic has been used as an ergogenic strategy for sporting events which are dependent on the generation of energy via anaerobic glycolysis (glucose utilisation without oxygen).

Anaerobic glycolysis provides the primary fuel source for exercise of near-maximal intensity lasting longer than about 30 seconds. High-intensity exercises (anaerobic) involve the utilisation of carbohydrates (muscle glycogen).

As glycogen stores are depleted, there is a subsequent increase in hydrogen ion (H+) concentrations and lactic acid in blood and muscle. The increase in H+ inhibits calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum and an inhibition of the interaction between actin and myosin[2] (this vital for the muscle to work).

A simplistic view of events involving high rates of energy generation from anaerobic glycolysis is that they are limited by the body’s capacity to manage the progressive increase in the acidity of the intracellular environment. Although the direct role of hydrogen ion (H+) accumulation in muscle fatigue is unclear, the dietary strategies that decrease blood pH (acidify) impair capacity high-intensity exercise, while strategies that increase alkalosis improve such performance.

To offset this acidity you can use alkalising supplements:

Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in most green plants that is made by plants via photosynthesis therefore green plants contain at least one type of chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll contains carotenoids, alkalising minerals (especially high in magnesium)[3]. Stores of alkaline minerals in the blood are limited, when not adequately supplied; the body steals them from bone stores, muscles and cells. Alkalising may help maintain bone mass by preventing bone resorption of calcium used to buffer the pH[4],[5].

The analogy between chlorophyll and haemoglobin is evident in the structure of their porphy-rin heads. With the key variance being the central metal atom, chlorophyll has magnesium and haemoglobin, iron. This is relevant to alkalising as oxygenation of the cells aids the removal of toxins, increases cellular health and frees up more haemoglobin for buffering acidity in the system[6].

Chlorophyll derivatives may increase the rate of healing, eliminate pain and to improve the appearance of the affected tissues[7]. Chlorophyll and its degradation products inhibit tumour necrosis factor-alpha gene expression which contributes to its anti-inflammatory action[8].

Chlorophyll can be found in products such as spirulina, barley grass, wheat grass, chlorella, kelp and green vegetables.


[1] Del Coso J, Hamouti N, et al (2010) Restoration of blood pH between repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise: effects of various active-recovery protocols. European J of Applied Physiol; 108(3): 523-532.

[2] Shelton J, Kumar G.V.P (2010) Sodium Bicarbonate—A Potent Ergogenic Aid? Food and Nutr Sci; 1: 1-4.

[3] Ferruzzi M, Blakeslee J (2007) Digestion, absorption, and cancer preventative activity of dietary chlorophyll derivatives. Nutr; 27(1): 1-12.

[4] Buclin T, Cosma M, et al (2001) Diet Acids and Alkalis Influence Calcium Retention in Bone. Osteoporos Int; 12:493–499.

[5] Craig W.J (2009) Health effects of vegan diets. Am J Clin Nutr; 89:1627–33.

[6] Padalia S, Drabu S, et al (2010) Multitude potential of wheatgrass juice (Green Blood): An overview. Chron Young Sci; 1(2):23-8.

[7] Hosikian A, Lim S, et al 2010 Chlorophyll Extraction fromMicroalgae: A Review on the Process Engineering Aspects. Intl J of Chem Engineer; 1-11.

[8] Subramoniam A , Asha V.V, et al (2011) Chlorophyll Revisited: Anti-inflammatory Activities of Chlorophyll a and Inhibition of Expression of TNF-α Gene by the Same. Inflammation; Epub ahead of print: 1-8.

3 Comments

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