What are the alkaline water benefits for high-intensity exercise?

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alkaline water benefits

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A recent study published in PLOS ONE discussed alkaline water benefits on hydration and exercise performance for athletes trained in combat sports.

Proper hydration is an important part of maintaining health, especially during and after physical exercise. Fluids help to maintain body function by delivering nutrients to cells, controlling body temperature, removing waste, and aiding other internal processes. During physical activity, the body loses water and other fluids through perspiration and breathing. This loss can cause dehydration if fluid levels are not replenished. Exercise-induced dehydration has a number of consequences for general health, and can impact exercise performance and energy levels.

Limited evidence on alkaline water benefits

Though numerous studies have looked at the impact of hydration on physical activity, there is no consensus on the amount or type of beverage needed to optimize sports performance. Alkaline water is being marketed for various health benefits including its purported anti-aging and antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent cell damage and disease by neutralizing free radicals—reactive molecules that can sometimes damage body cells and tissues. Some studies also suggest that alkaline water can improve acid reflux by neutralizing stomach acidity. However, there is still debate and limited evidence on alkaline water benefits for physical activity and overall health. A recent Polish study published in PLOSOne examined these claims by looking at the effects of drinking alkaline water on hydration and performance in combat sports.

Hydration needed in combat sports

Combat sports are full contact and include boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, and others. The sports are highly intensive, and contestants lose large amounts of water through sweating during competitions. Many combat sports athletes also limit water intake before fights to lower their weight. Fluctuations in hydration levels and temperature while competing in sports affect muscle strength, reaction speed, and overall performance. Athletes often use tap or bottled water to hydrate during combat due to the large amounts of fluids lost.

During intense physical exercise, the human body might not have enough oxygen to continue energy production. When oxygen is limited, lactate is produced in the body to help maintain energy levels. Lactate is acidic, and high levels increase the acidity of muscle cells. Excess amounts of acid can cause metabolic acidosis, a condition that occurs when the body either produces too much acid or is unable to remove acid quickly enough.

Is alkaline water an effective alternative to sodium bicarbonate?  

Symptoms of metabolic acidosis include rapid breathing, decreased muscle function, and fatigue. Severe cases can lead to shock or even death. Patients are usually treated with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to lower blood acidity level. However, sodium bicarbonate can cause side effects such as gastrointestinal distress and swelling. According to the PLOS One study, drinking alkaline water offers an effective alternative for exercise-induced metabolic acidosis.

The study involved 16 males who had trained and competed in combat sports for at least 7.6 years. Participants were randomly divided into one of two groups, receiving either alkaline or regular water. Over a three week period, the athletes trained using their prescribed water type, and water intake averaged from 2.6–3.2 litres per day. Hydration, exercise performance, and medical status were measured before and after the three week period to determine alkaline water benefits.

Alkaline water benefits on intense exercise 

The results of the study showed that athletes drinking alkaline water had improved hydration levels over those using regular water after three weeks of treatment. Alkaline water also helped to balance acid levels in the body, reduce the onset of muscle fatigue, and improve high-intensity exercise performance. Because combat sports are physically demanding, the authors recommend that athletes consume between three and four litres of alkaline water per day during training and competition to optimize hydration and performance.

This research shows that alkaline water can benefit some types of high-intensity physical activity. However, the current study was limited to combat sports athletes only and involved a limited number of participants. Also, the improvements in performance were restricted to periods of high-intensity exercise. Further studies are needed to confirm the health benefits of alkaline water for amateur physical activity and overall well-being.

Written by Braydon Black, BSc

References:

  1. Texas Health and Human Services. Theimportance of hydration [Internet]. Austin: Texas HHS [unknown date] [cited2018 Dec 2]. Available from: https://hhs.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/services/health/texercise/importance-of-hydration.pdf
  2. Coaching Association of Canada. Fluids forathletes [Internet]. Ottawa: CAC [unknown date] [cited 2018 Dec 2]. Availablefrom: https://www.coach.ca/fluids-for-athletes-p154679
  3. Chycki J, Kurylas A, Maszczyk A, Golas A,Zajac A. Alkaline water improves exercise-induced metabolic acidosis andenhances anaerobic exercise performance in combat sport athletes. PLoS One[Internet]. 2018 Nov [cited 2018 Dec 2];13(11):e0205708. Available from:https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0205708 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0205708
  4. Better Health Channel. Antioxidants[Internet]. Melbourne: Department of Health and Human Services, StateGovernment of Victoria [updated 2012 Sep; cited 2018 Dec 2]. Available from:https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants
  5. Koufman JA, Johnston N. Potential benefits ofpH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease.Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2012 Jul;121(7):431-34.
  6. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.Combative sports [Internet]. Austin: TDLR [unknown date] [cited 2018 Dec 2].Available from: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/sports/sports.htm
  7. Katz A, Sahlin K. Regulation of lactic acidproduction during exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1988 Aug;65(2):509-18.
  8. Medline Plus. Metabolic acidosis [Internet].Maryland: United States National Library of Medicine [updated 2018 Nov 13;cited 2018 Dec 2]. Available from:https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000335.htm

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