There is absolutely no doubt that we have all experienced this. You’re well into your workout and suddenly there is pain building up in your muscles, a pain that you can’t shake. It makes you stop and ask, why? The worst part is that this ruins the pump and adrenaline rush of the workout!
The reason that you’re feeling this way is because of the Lactic Acid buildup in your system.
What Is Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is produced in your muscles and builds up during intense exercise. It can lead to painful, sore muscles. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism, which is the process that relies on oxygen to turn food into fuel for the body. Lactic acid is not responsible for sore muscles after an intense workout. However, it is responsible for that burning sensation you experience caused by Lactic Acid Cramps while exercising.
What Causes Lactic Acid Buildup?
People often experience high levels of the effects of lactic acid in muscles during or following strenuous exercise. This is called exercise-induced or exercise-related hyperlactatemia. "When someone is doing a lot of high-intensity exercises (Sprinting, Powerlifting, Agility training), it leads to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle, which is then moved into the bloodstream," says Jessica Garay, PhD, RDN, FAND, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at Syracuse University.
Is Lactic Acid Harmful?
Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid although prevalent in the body, is rather harmless and tends to mind its own business so to speak. Even though the levels of lactic acid might increase during a particularly intense workout, it always returns to its normal measure once we decide to rest it out. Although innocent, lactic acid is often blamed for the end result of muscle soreness post workout when in actuality, this is more likely to be caused by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness otherwise known as DOMS. "Lactic acid buildup is not the cause of DOMS, though it may simultaneously occur within the same workout that ultimately produces DOMS," says Garay.
To read more about DOMS, check out our guide to DOMS: Definition, Causes, Recovery & Prevention.
Effects of Lactic Acid Buildup In Muscles?
The Symptoms of Lactic Acid buildup may include any of the following (2):
Muscle soreness or cramping
Burning sensation in the muscles
Rapid or shallow breathing
Shortness of breath
Yellowing of the skin or eyes
How To Get Rid of A Lactic Acid Buildup During Exercise?
Active recovery is a definite plus for your body as it helps reduce any soreness or stiffness in the body not to mention any possible inflammation or swelling caused by an intense workout. Active recovery also promotes an increase of blood flow around the body and can aid in the fast clearing up of any lactic acid that builds during a workout.
While there are a lot of active recovery and muscle recovery tools, these are now available for everyone and not just professional athlete. Read more.
A massage in between workouts will aid in pushing the lactic acid out of your muscles and help ease any uncomfortable symptoms.
Heating Pads & Ice Packs
Heating pads increase blood flow because it opens up blood vessels. Going from icing to heating reduces the lactic acid in the legs and the overall muscle pain after exercising. Applying ice for 20 minutes followed by heat for 20 minutes may be an effective regimen to help address muscle soreness following activity," says Christopher Hogrefe, MD, FACEP, sports medicine and emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (3).
SPRYNG™ is an affordable, untethered, pneumatic compression wrap that through a patent pending wavetec™ compression pattern, functions as an active muscle recovery tool to aid in the reduction and recovery of the lactic acid buildup in the body after an intense or heavy workout.
How Do You Prevent Lactic Acid Buildup?
Lactic acid is water-soluble, so the more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to feel a burn while you work out and cause lactic acid build up. Drink 8 to 16 oz. (236.6 ml to 473 ml) of water before you work out, then drink 8 oz. (236.6 ml) of water for every 20 minutes you work out. It is important to be constantly hydrated during a workout because hydration helps:
Replenish any fluids that you lose when working out
Rid your body of lactic acid
Allow nutrients to create energy
Relieve sore muscles
Prevent muscle cramps
Keep your body performing at optimal levels
A Stretch A Day Keeps The Lactic Acid At Bay
Stretching or warming up before a workout helps the muscles relax and improves the circulation of blood to the muscles which relieves tension allowing for more flexibility when working out. This process reduces the amount of lactic acid that is produced overall and can also help get rid of any remaining lactic acid in the muscles from a prior workout or activity.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
A good practice of breathing techniques such as breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth at an even and set pace will help in the delivery of added oxygen to the muscles. The extra oxygen slows down the process of lactic acid production significantly and releases any prior buildup of said lactic acid.
Increasing the intake of magnesium
Food rich in magnesium include nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. Taking a magnesium flake or Epsom salt bath is another way to absorb magnesium. It can also help to promote relaxation, boost energy levels, and relieve soreness
Foods with B vitamins
Leafy green vegetables, cereals, peas and beans, along with protein-rich foods such as fish, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products
Food rich in fatty acids
Food that is rich in fatty acids such as fresh water salmon, walnuts, and corn oil help to reduce any inflammation in the body which actively lessens muscle soreness that is felt after a heavy workout. Fatty Acids also aid in quick recovery which means that you can get back into a workout faster and stronger. We have learnt that the buildup of lactic acid in muscles is not the most pleasant in terms of feeling especially when it occurs in the midst of a workout or run. However, even though there are no adverse side effects to the buildup it is unpleasant should it happen at all. It is important to take the steps and the precautions mentioned above to prevent or slow down the buildup of lactic acid so that you can carry on with your workout for longer and feel better.