Our Friend Lactic Acid

11 11 2008

j120px-lactic-acid-3d-ballsLactic acid has gotten a bad rap.  We’re always cursing it when we put in too big of an effort and then blame all our pain and suffering on it.  You know what?  It is actually our friend. Lactic acid is a fuel, not a caustic waste product.  It’s responsible for helping create more ATP (ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism) and is more efficient at traveling between muscle tissue than glucose (the sugar ATP is made from.)

Every time you move lactic acid is produced.  It  is constantly produced in and reabsorbed into our muscles all day long. However, when we engage in very intense exercise, also known as anaerobic activity, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and the concentration begins to rise.

During the process of our bodies breaking down glucose as fuel for our muscles, the glucose gets broken down to lactate and hydrogen ions are released. You know what though?   It’s actually the hydrogen that causes problems! The hydrogen ions causes pH to fall and creates a state of acidosis, which then leads to the pain and discomfort you always blame on the “lactic acid”.  BUT, the lactic acid then tirelessly works in our favor again by helping to carry the hydrogen ions away where it gets removed in the liver which then converts the lactic acid back to glucose. A thankless job…

I’ve missed quite a few important details in the whole process in the intrest of keeping it short and sweet. You can find those details here

The best thing you can do to raise your tolerence is train yourself to increase your lactate threshold. By performing regularly at levels with the increased amount of lactic acid, your body will adapt and be able to handle the load. This is best done through interval training, and maintaining sub-threshold intensities for extended periods of time (8-20 minutes) and typically 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. As an example, maintaining 80-85% of your max. HR for 8 minutes helps to gently and efficiently ‘push’ your lactate threshold up to higher levels.

I’ll write about an easy method to test your lactate threshold HR or power output in a future post.

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