How To Get Rid Of Lactic Acid After Exercise

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Whether you are running sprints, strength training, or biking up mountains, you have probably experienced that intense burn in your muscles. Any sort of physical activity involves a chemical reaction that takes place in your muscles. Oxygen converts to carbon dioxide, and glycogen is burned as an energy source. The more rapidly this reaction takes place, the more likely you are to have lactic acid build up in your muscles. So, just how do you get rid of lactic acid after exercise?

Understanding the process
Strength training is often an anaerobic training method, meaning your do not recruit much oxygen during your training session.  Lack of oxygen intake allows carbon dioxide to build up because there is nothing coming in to push it out. Your muscles become overwhelmed with carbon dioxide, and produce lactic acid as a side effect.

Lactic acid build up isn’t limited to strength training. It can occur in any method of exercise that takes exhaustive measures and requires complete exertion.  Oxygen depravity causes lactic acid to build up quicker than your body can remove it.

Aerobic activity produces short bursts of energy, lasting no more than a few minutes, before the lactate threshold is reached and it begins to build up in the blood stream. This threshold is reached between 50 and 80% of your VO2 max.

Decoding lactic acid myths
The burn caused from lactic acid build up is often associated with muscle fatigue and failure. Muscles fail because they have depleted glycogen stores.  Lactic acid has been proven to actually help muscles sustain movement when muscles reach points of fatigue.

The pain felt for days after a workout has nothing to do with lactic acid. It is actually dispersed rapidly and rendered incapable of causing lasting pain and discomfort. Delayed onset muscle soreness, of DOMS, is closely related to the tiny tears caused in your muscles when stress is put on them.

The best way to decrease DOMS is through continued light movement, static stretching, and proper post-workout nutrition.

Working through your lactate threshold
Lactate threshold training will improve your performance times in endurance sports. The program is designed to increase the intensity at which your lactate threshold occurs.  Though the lactic acid does not directly relate to fatigue, a build up in the blood stream is a good indicator that you are reaching the point of exhaustion.

The best method for lactate threshold training is through interval training or tempo training. Perform this type of training 2 times per week for 10-minute intervals. You should perform at or above your lactate threshold, which is typically 85% to 95% of your maximum heart rate.

Perform 3 to 5 intervals for 10 mints, while resting 2 to 3 minutes between each interval. You can also perform continuous lactate threshold training by training for a single 20 to 30 minute session at 95% intensity.


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