Lactic Acid- The Facts about “THE BURN”

We have all heard people say “go for the burn” or “if it isn’t burning it’s not working”. “Feeling the burn” is definately something to strive for, but understanding how it helps our fitness level might make it easier to get us through that uncomfortable feeling during our next workout.

Perhaps this knowledge might have helped this poor exhausted woman below. We can all relate to how she feels after a hard workout.

exhausted biker (1)

So what is lactic acid exactly? It is a milk protein made by muscle and red blood cells. When oxygen levels are low in the body due to intense exercise (heavy weight lifting, sprinting etc..) carbohydrates are used for energy and make lactic acid. When oxygen levels are normal (moderately paced exercise), carbs are broken into water and carbon dioxide.

It is during these anaerobic (short but intense) exercises that the body produces lactic acid for energy since the body is not producing oxygen fast enough. Under moderate exercise conditions with adequate oxygen, glucose in our bodies is turned into pyruvate which is then turned into energy. During anaerobic exercise the pyruvate is turned into lactate which lets the body break it down into glucose for fast energy. This can go on for up to 3 minutes.

It is a common myth that build up of lactic acid causes muscle soreness. Lactic acid build up in the muscles is gone within an hour of exercise typically. It is actually the  breakdown of muscle cells and inflammation that leads to soreness. DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness usually lasts 1-3 days .

Too often people will begin to feel that uncomfortable burn and stop the exercise. Pushing yourself just a few more reps (as long as your form is good) while feeling that burn is what brings people better results and takes them to the next fitness level. In fact, the fitter you are the better your body gets at using this lactic acid as an energy source.  Elite athletes can use up to 85% of lactic acid for energy, and recreational athletes up to 75%.  The reason behind this is that pushing muscle power to its limits builds more mass of the muscles mitochondria (where energy is stored) and makes your performance better. As we see in many areas of fitness, when given challenges our bodies adapt and continue to get better and stronger. This is another great reason to get in those sprints and intervals into your fitness regimen!

Don’t just go for the burn – ENDURE THE BURN and take your fitness to the next level!

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