Can the Alkaline Diet Help Preserve Muscle?
Less muscle equals less functional capacity, a greater chance of injury from falling, and potentially life-limiting frailty. Less muscle also means less energy as muscles are a major site of energy production for the entire body. Even more, muscles contain most of our body’s insulin receptors, which are needed to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why anyone planning to live a long, active life would do well to pay attention to building and maintaining muscle mass over the years.
An alkaline diet preserves muscle mass
We all know that exercise builds muscle, and some of us realize that consuming adequate protein is important for muscle maintenance. Less well known, however, is the fact that an alkaline diet preserves muscle mass. Specifically, an alkaline diet sets the biochemical stage for muscle maintenance, as science has long documented. An abundance of research shows that diets high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices, moderate in protein, and low in processed and refined foods, grains, sugar, and alcohol favor the maintenance of lifelong muscle mass. (3) Indeed, population studies find higher alkaline load associated with greater skeletal muscle. (4)
As it turns out, the same low-mineral, acidic diet that drains calcium from our bones also depletes amino acids from our muscles. In a response to an acidic tilt in the body, muscle breaks down to free up its amino acids to synthesize glutamine. The kidneys use this glutamine to create ammonia in order to collect and remove protons through ammonium ions as an effort to combat acidosis. (5) All in all, muscle mass, just as bone mass, is sacrificed to maintain the all-critical system-wide pH balance. (6)
Alkalizing chemistry protects muscle
As early as 1997, noted scientist Dr. Lynda Frassetto documented that alkalizing the diet through mineral supplementation provided for the recovery of lost muscle mass and the prevention of further excessive loss in aging individuals.
The past 25 years have witnessed a growing appreciation for the muscle-preserving power of the alkaline diet. Recently, a three-year study by Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes of Tufts University found that a diet rich in high potassium foods, such as fruits and vegetables, reduced acid load and preserved muscle mass in older men and women. (5)
Dr. Dawson-Hughes has also conducted several laboratory studies documenting that supplementation with alkalizing forms of potassium, such as potassium citrate or potassium bicarbonate, preserves muscle mass. (6)
Potassium from foods is generally in the form of potassium citrate, which the body converts into bicarbonate, a strong alkalizing agent. This bicarbonate neutralizes acids and helps to preserve muscle mass. The goal, however, would not be to use high-dose potassium supplements, but rather to increase our intake of foods high in potassium. While the RDA for potassium is 4,700 mg/day, most of us consume only half of that. If we consumed the full 4,700 mg of potassium from our food, we would likely alkalize enough to preserve both muscle and bone.
The correction of acidosis may preserve muscle mass in those suffering medical conditions associated with muscle wasting such as diabetic ketosis, trauma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and kidney failure. (8)
At-home testing for acid-alkaline balance
At Alkaline for Life, we are proud to offer everyone the most comprehensive understanding of why and how to develop a life-supporting Alkaline Diet. We welcome you to watch our free webinar - The Alkaline Diet: Step by Step. We have also developed a simple at-home test that allows you to assess the degree to which you have successfully reduced your acid load using diet and alkalizing supplements.
- Keller, K., and M. Engelhardt. 2013. Strength and muscle loss with aging process: Age and strength loss. Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal 3(4):346-350.
- Volpi, E., et al. 2004. Muscle tissue changes with aging. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 7(4):405-410.
- Lauretani, F., et al. 2008. Low plasma carotenoids and skeletal muscle strength decline over 6 years. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A 63(4):376-383.
- Welch, A. A., et al. 2013. A higher alkaline dietary load is associated with greater indexes of skeletal muscle mass in women. Osteoporosis International 24:1899-1908.
- Dawson-Hughes, B., et al. 2008. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87(3):662-665.
- Dawson-Hughes, B. 2020. Acid-base balance of the diet—Implications for bone and muscle. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 74:7-13.
- Frassetto, L., et al. 1997. Potassium bicarbonate reduces urinary nitrogen excretion in postmenopausal women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 82(1):254-259.
- Garibotto, G., et al. 1996. Muscle protein turnover in chronic renal failure patients with metabolic acidosis or normal acid-base balance. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism 22(1-3):58-61.