While you perform any physical activity, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose and converts it into energy. As we perform physically demanding activities, we breathe at a higher rate to get more oxygen to our working muscles. However, while running or lifting heavy weights, our muscles require energy faster than our bodies sufficiently provide oxygen. Therefore, during strenuous activities, our bodies resort to generating energy anaerobically, so a substance called lactic acid is made.
What is Lactic Acid?
Our bodies convert lactic acid or lactate into energy without oxygen. Lactic acid build-up or lactic acidosis happens when too much lactic acid is built up in the bloodstream. Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid does not cause muscle soreness post-workout; instead, it is responsible for the burning sensation during exercise. When lactic acid builds up too much, you may feel intense muscle weakness, fatigue, cramps, and nausea.
Reducing Lactic Acid Build-up
The production of lactic acid alone is not unhealthy. However, it can cause discomfort and pain during physical activity. One effective way to help reduce lactic acid buildup is drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated during exercise provides your muscles with more oxygen, reducing lactate build-up. It is also crucial that you begin any exercise regimen gradually. For example, do not go from not working out at all directly to high-intensity workouts. Instead, gradually increasing intensity and duration is best so your body can build tolerance. Another great way to clear out lactic acid is by using compression before and after working out. Compression squeezes out metabolic waste from the blood vessels. Then, once compression is released, the vessels expand, allowing a new oxygen-rich blood supply to flow. Furthermore, using heat before a workout and ice after, as well as eating foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, can also be a very effective routine.
The burning and fatigue caused by lactic acid build-up is essentially your body telling you to take a break. Nevertheless, too much build-up can slow down or halt activity when undesired. Consequently, it can be very relieving to rid the bloodstream of lactate buildup.