Lactic Acid Build Up and How to Control It
Ever have that heavy leg syndrome, where you surf or run for hours and your legs feel so heavy? And the next day your increasingly sore. Or for many of us, not sore for 2 days after called “Delay Onset Muscle Soreness” or “DOMS.”
This article will explain why this occurs and exactly what Lactic Acid Buildup is and ways to counter it.
Lactic acid is an important metabilic by product of exercise. Sufficient oxygen is available to muscles during light-to-moderate exercise. Lactic acid does not accumulate during low exercise because the removal rate is greater or equal to the rate of production. However, if higher work intensifies, aerobic metabolism is not sufficient to keep up with the formation of lactic acid and levels in the blood and acids begin to rise.
As our bodies perform higher work effort, oxygen levels increase as we breathe faster therefore more oxygen is needed in the muscles. Heavy lifting or long distance cardio training requires energy production faster than our bodies can adequately deliver oxygen. In those cases, the working muscles generate energy anaerobically. This energy comes from glucose which is broken down or metabolized into a substance called pyruvate through a series of steps. When the body has plenty of oxygen, pyruvate is shuttled to an aerobic pathway to be further broken down for more energy.
But when oxygen is limited to the muscles, the body temporarily converts pyruvate into a substance called lactate, which allows glucose breakdown and allows exercise and energy production to continue. The working muscle cells can continue this type of anaerobic energy production at high rates for one to three minutes, during which time lactate can accumulate to high levels.
So what does this mean to me your asking? Well first off, training at high levels for long periods of times, ie months, can counter the onset of lactic acid and the body will distribute it faster therefore less heavy leg syndrome and fatigue. This is most important in preparation during events where multiple Heats take place in one day.
Another way to counter lactic acid buildup is leg draining. Leg draining is a way to “flush” the body of the acids and allow it to circulate throughout the rest of the body as energy. Exercises for this would be a slow cycle on a stationary bike, either forward or backwards. When I mean slow, I’m talking turtle speed. Leg elevation is another key way to flush lactic acids from the legs after strenuous exercise. This can be done by lying on your back and placing both legs 45 degs above the body on a wall or a chair to drain the legs. 8-10 minutes is ideal for this exercise. Any burning sensation is areas of the body losing blood flow and therefore the exercise has gone longer than initially recommended.
Exercises like slow cycling and elevated leg drains are ideal for short term recovery after a Heat or after an intense lifting or surfing session. Also, monitoring your foods has been shown to speed up recovery as well.
Drink plenty of water with everything you eat. Water replenishes hydration, which in turn helps your body break up and process lactic acid. Seek foods with a high water content, such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
Incorporate foods high in protein, such as nuts, seeds, flax, lean meat and soy protein to help your muscles recover and provide them with energy to allow them to develop and become more adept to lactic acid buildup.
Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables immediately following your training. Vegetaables such as tomatoes, spinach, avocado, broccoli, and kale are alkaline, not acidic, to help sustain healthy muscle growth and reduce lactic acid buildup.
Eat fruits directly before and directly following your workout loaded with natural sugar. Fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges provide a burst of energy to help your muscles cope with a difficult workout and recover afterward.
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