We all know that feeling after a hard workout or if we haven’t done any exercise for a while where the muscles become tight and really sore. There’s an endless supply of information that would tell you that this feeling is caused by the build up of lactic acid in the muscles, hence most people believe that lactic acid (or Lactate) – is a harmful waste product that the body produces during exercise. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Lactic acid (science bit! lactate plus one proton) is not actually produced by the body, but lactate is.
During exercise the muscles in the body produce lactate as a by-product. The lactate is then taken to the liver and converted back into glucose to be used as a useful energy source for glycolysis once again. Lactate also delays fatigue and prevents injury. So, in reality, lactic acid gets a bad press when it actually has a beneficial action.
It’s believed that it’s other waste products that may cause muscle fatigue during exercise, such as hydrogen ions, which are created at the same time as the lactate; affecting the acidity of the muscle.
Many other factors need to be taken into account when experiencing muscle soreness and tightness following exercise such as:
- The workout intensity
- Nutrition and hydration
- Genetic factors
So the next time some one tells you you’re stiff and sore post-workout because of lactic acid, it isn’t necessarily so!
Elite Therapy BSc Student