Have you heard of Lactic Acid before?
Have you been wondering whether it’s an enemy or a friend?
It has a bad reputation as something that causes painful muscle weakness. Is this really the case?
In this post, we discuss what lactic acid is, how it works and what you can do about it.
What is lactic acid?
Well, there is no simpler way to put it. Lactic acid is the by-product of anaerobic respiration.
Let’s try to explain this. Every time you work out, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose and produce energy. When you work out intensely, the oxygen might not be enough to complete this process, so the body produces lactate which can be converted to energy without oxygen. Lactate or lactic acid is sometimes created in the bloodstream faster than the body can burn it and so it builds up.
Truth be told, if you are well trained, lactic acid can enhance your performance, as your body gets to be efficient at burning it with oxygen for extra energy. Apparently, the increase in lactic acid is higher when you are not fit.
How does lactic acid affect the body?
There is a myth going around that lactic acid is responsible for the pain you feel in your muscles the day after training. In reality, you feel sore because your muscles are recovering from post-training inflammation. Lactic acid only affects the body during the time it’s produced, not after.
What happens when lactic acid builds up?
Every time lactic acid builds up, it can make your muscles feel sore, but there are other symptoms as well, such as nausea, weakness, shortness of breath, cramps, numbness or even yellowing of the skin or eyes. If the symptoms become too severe, it’s best to consult a doctor.
How can we manage the build-up of lactic acid?
While lactic acid alone isn’t responsible for muscle fatigue, you can follow these tips to manage it properly:
1. Manage your workout program
The goal of the workouts is not to prevent lactic acid production, but to train the body to use it constructively and manage your tolerance to it.
Four factors have proven to be of great importance:
- type of exercise
To boost your muscle capacity and take advantage of lactic acid energy, you should train at a level close to the lactate limit, just the point where discomfort begins to occur. This can be achieved with high-intensity intermittent training aimed at increasing oxygen supply to muscles and tissues.
As an example, you could do sprints, high-intensity intermittent workouts, and weight training with sets that last less than 60 seconds. At eXtreme Fitness Camps, friendly trainers can explain all about this process and provide the appropriate program for your level of fitness.
2. Eat something before you exercise
A healthy meal before you exercise will boost your energy levels and help you avoid muscle soreness. Eating carbohydrates such as vegetables, or grains a few hours before your workout can help. Alternatively, you can have a fresh fruit about thirty minutes before your workout.
High-intensity workout depletes glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Carbohydrates provide a direct source of glucose, which is used to restore glycogen in the muscles after exercise.
Healthy eating habits help your body perform at its peak. Make sure your diet includes fruit, vegetables, meat, and whole grains, and contains potassium and fatty acids. A healthy snack like an egg or an avocado after your workout helps, too.
3. Warm-up and recovery
Warming up properly and allowing your body to recover afterward can make a real difference. These processes help the body to have a progressive build-up and discharge and remove the lactate from the blood faster. Here is a very useful article about the importance of resting between workouts. You can also learn about HIIT and Tabata which demonstrate the value of resting during and after the workout.
Do you want to know more about HIIT and resting in between exercises? Check this article out.
Lactic acid can be a friend when you are committed to your training and learn to manage it properly!
It is an important source of energy for the body, and it indicates an overload response. Through proper training, recovery, and nutrition, it is an essential ally in your daily practice. The goal isn’t to prevent lactic acid production. The goal is to learn to tolerate lactic acid, increase energy levels, prevent muscle fatigue and have it removed quickly. If you need some help finding the right balance in your regime, you can kick-start your new routine at eXtreme Fitness Camps. In the exotic environment of the Caribbean, professional trainers will explain all about it and recommend the most suitable program.
A great opportunity to regroup and recharge!
BBC, What is lactic acid?, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zvrrd2p/articles/ztdmrwx
WebMD, Lactic Acidosis and Exercise: What You Need to Know, https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/exercise-and-lactic-acidosis#1
Healthline, 6 Ways to Get Rid of Lactic Acid in the Muscles, https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-lactic-acid#identifying-lactic-acid-buildup
Sci-MX, What is lactic acid and how can you neutralise it in your muscles?, https://www.sci-mx.co.uk/articles/lactic-acid-can-neutralise-muscles/