Updated: Jun 3
You can’t walk down the bottled water aisle at your neighborhood grocery store today without seeing bottle after bottle with labels, like alkaline and pH-balanced. Are these companies marketing to you? Yes. Does alkaline water mean something? Yes.
Alkaline water is water that’s been treated to have a higher pH-level than the 6.5-7.5 range of typical tap water. 1
But it’s more than that. It also requires alkaline minerals and negative oxidation reduction potential (ORP.) ORP is water’s ability to behave like a pro- or anti-oxidant. So the more negative the ORP, the more anti-oxidizing the water is. Good stuff, right? 2
Let’s Get the Assumption Out of the Way.
We can all agree that being hydrated is a good thing for athletic performance, right? Not before the mid-20th century, we couldn’t. Before then, the general consensus was to NOT drink water before a sporting event to improve performance. Say what?
Thank goodness we left that theory in the dust. Today’s science says that a well-hydrated state is best for any athlete doing any sport at any level of intensity. Period.3
In fact, water makes up 60-65% of an adult human’s body mass and 75% of an infant’s body, making it uber important to our health. That being said, logic tells us that if we need proper hydration under normal circumstances, athletes who are putting themselves under duress (extreme loads and challenging environments) need to work even harder at their water consumption than the average couch potato.
That’s the big picture.
Here’s the micro:
Intra- (inside the cells) and extra- (outside the cells but inside you) cellular water performs lots of functions to keep you alive moment to moment. Here are a few of them:
Homeostasis. The balance of you that makes you alive.
Biochemical reaction facilitation.
Dilution. Reducing the concentration of different substances in the body.
Metabolite transportation. 4
If that sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, thank your body for handling it all like a rockstar without so much as you mentioning it.
On to the Question:
Will Drinking Alkaline Water Before and After Workouts Help?
Here’s the short answer: Yes.
Here’s what yes actually means:
Let’s look at anaerobic exercise first or activities that breakdown glucose for energy without using oxygen. These are short in endurance and high in intensity. You get winded, right?
So let’s say you’re sprinting down the track, training for the 440 in next week’s track and field event, fixated on crushing your best time. All the while lactic acid is building up in your muscles, getting released into your blood which lowers its pH, disrupting your blood’s acid-balance.
Not even on your radar. But it has been on scientists’ radar for quite some time. They first tried using sodium bicarbonate or baking soda to improve the situation. The idea was that sodium bicarbonate would increase both speed endurance and strength endurance during sports. But believe it or not, ingesting baking soda had its limitations. It caused gastrointestinal problems, metabolic alkalosis or too much pH, and edema. You don’t say…
The good news is alkaline water turns out to be a terrific alternative to baking soda. There are no known side effects. It can be consumed daily. And the results are awesome! Take a look:
*Alkaline water shows a significant increase in mean power (the amount of work done in a set time.)
*It decreases the lactic acid concentration in the athlete’s post performance at rest. 5
How about combat sports?
The danger in these guys starts way before the contact. Frequently competing athletes purposefully restrict their water intake prior to competitions to make weight, completely defying any health logic the post-mid- 20th century world has to offer.
Nonetheless, once again alkaline prevails as an effective alternative to sodium bicarbonate in preventing the effects of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis (too much acid at once for your body to handle.) 5
What about aerobic activities?
We’re talking hours of cycling or running, playing soccer or tennis—things that require great exertion over a long period of time. During this kind of exercise, heat is created by your muscles and organs. The body must release it or end up with hyperthermia (overheating to a damaging level) and no body wants that. How is heat removed? By sweating, ie by giving up the body’s precious water.
The consequences of dehydration are noticeable:
Reduced aerobic capacity
Increased blood pressure
Negative impact on cognitive abilities, even when people only sweated out 2% of their bodies’ water-Yowza!
Now to the results of hydrating with alkaline water post workout:
Decreased fluid-electrolyte disturbances
Acceleration of the rate of lactate utilization
Blood viscosity (thickness) decreased by nearly 3% more than by virtue of drinking plain water
This means that the athletes’ blood flowed more efficiently, optimizing oxygen delivery throughout their bodies—woohoo! 7
Slow down, you’re probably thinking. Of course drinking water increases hydration- it’s water. Ah, but here’s the difference between drinking tap water and alkaline water:
Alkaline water rehydrated cyclists faster and more thoroughly in a study than regular water. 8
8 Heil. NHI, PubMed.gov 2010 Sept 13, 2010 Journal of International Sports Nutrition “Acid-based balance and hydration status following…
Water retention after a 3-hour recovery period was 79.2% with alkaline water versus 62.5% with placebo. And if the body retains the water, the water is doing its work in the body. (Not just making you visit the bathroom way too often.)
Now so far we’ve covered the post exercise question. And we are winning with alkalinity at the finish line. But what about before we get to the starting gate?
Pre Workout Water. Survey Says:
Heil concluded that because of its superior hydrating properties, alkaline water should be consumed habitually. As in all the time. Which absolutely includes pre-workout hydration.
In conclusion: Drink up.
Drinking alkaline water before and after workouts is good choice for your health.
Studies show that it increases the pH-level not only in your urine, but also in your blood.
It reduces your urine output, leaving the water in your body to do good things.
Essentially alkaline water is good for hydration and your body’s acid-balance so go ahead and indulge.
1 Health & Well Being. The Guardian. Arwa Mahdawi. Oct. 29, 2018 “Is alkaline water a miracle cure- or BS- the science is in”
2 Healthline. Alkaline Water: benefits and risks. May 30, 2019
3 NCBI. PMC. Sept 2017. Biology of Sport. Jakub Chucki. Effect of Mineral-based Alkaline Water…
4 Symbiosis. Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Science. “The Effectiveness of AW in Hydrating Athletes” Anna Kurylas.
5 NCBI PMC PLOS ONE nov 19 2018 “Alkaline water improves exercise-induced…
6 Heil. NHI, PubMed.gov 2010 Sept 13, 2010 Journal of International Sports Nutrition “Acid-based balance and hydration status following…
7 BMC Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition “Effect of electrolyzed high-pH alkaline water on blood viscosity in healthy adults. Joseph Wiedman
8 Healthline: Alkaline water: benefits & risks, may 30, 2019