If you’ve ever pushed yourself physically, you’re familiar with sore muscles. Love it or hate it, that soreness is the natural byproduct of any rigorous workout.
For a long time, people believed that lactic acid was responsible for the burning sensation that accompanies exertion, and for this post-workout soreness. However, new research suggests this isn’t the case. In fact, lactic acid is a vital fuel source for muscles. Read on to learn what lactic acid is, what it does, and how to reduce — and prevent –– lactic acid buildup.
What is Lactic Acid in Muscles?
When your body requires more energy than usual, it metabolizes glucose to create energy. Metabolized glucose becomes lactate, which becomes acidic inside the muscles and blood.
What Causes Lactic Acid to Build Up in Muscle Cells?
Lactic acid is a constant presence within our bodies, but increases in concentration during strenuous exercise.
Lactic acid builds up in muscles because it is the chemical byproduct of ‘anaerobic respiration’. Anaerobic respiration occurs when a person is exercising so vigorously their body cannot deliver enough oxygen to their muscles.
In the moment, the individual may feel out of breath, but what is really triggered here is anaerobic respiration. By definition, anaerobic respiration is the process by which cells create energy in the absence of oxygen.
Similarly, ‘pyruvate’ is the byproduct of glycolysis. Glycolysis is the process by which your body breaks down stored glucose to create new energy.
Normally, when oxygen is available, your body converts pyruvate into adenosine triphosphate (i.e. the fuel for your muscles). When oxygen is in short supply, glycolysis becomes anaerobic, and pyruvate accumulates in the muscle cell. There it is quickly converted into lactate and releases a free hydrogen ion in the process. The lactate and the hydrogen ions pair to form lactic acid.
What does Lactic Acid Do to the Body?
That burning sensation in your muscles? Once blamed on the mere presence of lactic acid, we now know that the burning sensation is actually a byproduct of excessive hydrogen ions and inorganic phosphate build-up.
In fact, lactic acid actually reduces acidity in your muscles caused by stray hydrogen ions. This is because ‘lactate’ pairs with these hydrogen ions to form lactic acid.
Lactic acid is also responsible for providing your muscles –– including your heart –– with efficient energy when oxygen is low. That said, there can be too much of a good thing. If your body isn’t able to flush or process lactic acid, you’re at risk of contracting lactic acidosis, a harmful condition with some serious symptoms.
How to Prevent Lactic Acid Buildup
Lactic acidosis comes with a variety of unpleasant symptoms, some more serious than others. Acute cases can result in rapid heartbeat, appetite problems, weakness, disorientation, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Luckily, there are things you can do to stay beneath the lactate threshold — not just that, but you can also increase your lactate threshold to mitigate harmful levels of build-up.
By training and exercising at or near your lactate threshold, you can actually increase this threshold over time. Staggering the intensity of your workouts allows some oxygen to return to your muscles. This then helps to restore your lactic acid to baseline levels.
When it comes to preventing lactic acid build up, it’s also crucial to take breaks. At rest, lactic acid concentration lessens and oxygen returns to your muscles.
How to Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup
Many people who are seeking tips on reducing lactic acid buildup are actually hoping to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, or ‘DOMS’. Lactic acid is not responsible for post-workout soreness. Regardless, there are steps you can take to reduce fatigue and pain in the wake of rigorous workouts, and minimize your risk of lactic acidosis.
Hydrate: Properly & Often
The first step to mitigate soreness and reduce the risk of lactic acidosis, is to stay hydrated.
Lactic acid is soluble in water, so water helps your body flush out the excess acid. According to the American Council on Exercise, athletes should drink 16 ounces of water two to three hours before your workout, and seven additional ounces every half hour or so for optimal hydration.
Maintain a Consistent Stretching Routine
The next best way to reduce lactic acid in muscles to keep soreness at bay is to stretch regularly before and after exercise. Stretching before a workout reduces the chance of serious injury and muscle torsion, while stretching post-workout helps release lactic acid build-up. You can complement consistent stretching with a foam roller to loosen tight muscles and encourage lymphatic drainage.
In order to combat post-workout soreness, don’t be afraid to take an over-the-counter painkiller. It’s quick, easy, and it works! If you’re looking for a fast-acting escape from soreness, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can certainly do the trick.
Of course, painkillers should not be used for ongoing or daily relief. However, if you find yourself unable to focus or relax after a strenuous workout, over-the-counter painkillers can help you expedite recovery.
Never Skimp on Sleep
Getting a full night’s rest is a vital component of any sustainable exercise regimen – but especially for reducing lactic acid build up.. Much of the body’s self-healing properties activate during sleep. For this reason, always aim for at least eight hours of restful sleep, and try to maintain a relaxing sleep routine.
Harness Exogenous Ketones
Exogenous ketones — taken alongside protein and carbs — are an excellent addition to your workout regimen. They can help reduce recovery time and soreness.
So what are exogenous ketones? Exogenous means “of external origin”, and ketones are a source of energy naturally produced by your liver in lieu of burning glucose. Your body produces endogenous (“of internal origin”) ketones naturally. Production of endogenous ketones can be induced through intermittent fasting and rigorous adherence to a ketogenic diet.
Both endo- and exogenous ketones are a clean source of intense energy that have a variety of remarkable properties.
Ketone drinks like Kenetik are an easy way to incorporate ketones into your daily routine, without pushing your body into ketosis. In fact, your neurons and muscles actually prefer to use ketones as fuel.
Kenetik’s plant-based ketones are easy to incorporate into your exercise regimen, and will provide your body with a delicious, drinkable source of energy. Ketones are also shown to reduce inflammation and facilitate muscle fiber regrowth, mitigating soreness, helping to reduce lactic acid build up and cutting down your overall recovery time. In fact, by using ketones, your body can do nearly 30% more work with the same amount of oxygen than it can with carbohydrates. So power your next workout with Kenetik to feel the difference today!