How to Minimize Lactic Acid Buildup in Muscles

Friend or Foe?

Lactic acid has gained a bad reputation; often blamed for muscle soreness, cramps, and fatigue after exercise. Let’s take a few minutes to understand the role of Lactic acid in our workout.

Lactic acid is naturally produced in the body. It is released when the oxygen demand of the cells is greater than what the blood can supply; without oxygen involvement, lactic acid is then produced to serve as temporary energy source. So during intense workout, lactic acid is produced to supply us the energy that we need in order to sustain the activity. Sounds like a friend, what do you think?

Lactic acid is actually a by-product of carbohydrates when it is used by the body to create energy. The lactic acid then breaks down into lactate and hydrogen ions. These hydrogen ions cause the burning sensation that you feel during an intense workout. It’s like a signal telling you to stop. So, it might be a foe then?

Well then, according to a research study performed at the University of California, Berkeley, endurance training teaches the body to efficiently use lactic acid for energy. With proper training, lactic acid is definitely a friend, not a foe.

How to deal with the burning pain? Work harder!

If you’re efficiently training your body to use lactic acid as energy source, there will be no reason for build-up. This means doing something to make the mitochondria in the cells grow. Why the mitochondria? It’s because this is where lactate is burned for energy.

Athletes usually do interval training; during these repeated short intense exercises, loads of lactic acid is released. The body then finds a way to adapt; this is when the body builds up the mitochondria to get rid of the lactic acid quickly. Training helps the body to use lactic acid before it builds up to the point of discomfort and fatigue. Another adaptation that happens during interval training is the improvement in cardiovascular fitness; increased oxygen delivery to the cells minimizes the body’s need to breakdown carbohydrates into lactic acid.

What else can be done?

A slight modification in your diet will be a good addition. Increasing intake of foods rich in fatty acids and Vitamin B actually helps in glucose breakdown and transport to fuel the body during workout. This will reduce the body’s need for lactic acid production. Foods to include in your diet would be cold water fishes, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds for the fatty acids. Green leafy vegetables, beans, poultry, beef and dairy products are good sources of Vitamin B.

What about an immediate response to the muscle burn?

  • Hydrate. Since it is water-soluble, staying hydrated will help flush lactic acid out of the tissues. Lactic acid is normally flushed out of the system 30-60mins after workout.
  • Breathe Deeply. If you trace the cause, the muscle burn can be a result of inadequate oxygen in the cells. Deep breathing will help deliver oxygenated blood to the muscle tissues.
  • Stretch. Stretching will speed up release of lactic acid out of the body.

Work harder and use lactic acid to your advantage; train harder and you’ll have a friend you can rely on.