The importance of lactic acid for runners

The body produces a series of substances daily that are intended to benefit the functioning of the body, sometimes acting as a natural energy reserve. Precisely, this occurs with lactic acid, which is normally present in the bloodstream of people, in low quantities.

Every day, our body demands a certain amount of energy, which we acquire from the nutrients and vitamins synthesized by the body, through a healthy diet and good sleep hygiene. However, there are times when we exert ourselves too much doing some physical activity, which causes the muscular system to reach its maximum.

It is at this exact moment when the natural response of the organism arises, in the search for means to produce immediate energy. It is about the metabolism of glucose, with the purpose of accelerating the generation of lactic acid. In this way, the body compensates for the lack of oxygen in the blood experienced due to excessive exercise.

Myths and truths of lactic acid

Much is said about lactic acid, and this, over the years, has given rise to a series of myths and truths, surrounding the function of this natural substance secreted by the human body. But, really, what is lactic acid? Who is affected by lactic acid? Why the controversy of lactic acid and soreness? What are the consequences of high lactic acid?

Lactic acid or lactate is a substance with a natural chemistry, that is, it is produced by the body. This process is carried out constantly, but it increases when the person performs such an intense physical effort that they stop obtaining muscular energy through the oxygen available in the blood. 

When this occurs, the body uses the glucose reserves available in the blood, liver and muscles, to transform it into lactic acid through a metabolization process, with the sole purpose of gaining energy.

myth vs. truth

Lactic acid is only experienced by runners

A very popular myth is that lactic acid is a natural phenomenon that only runners experience, which is completely false. When any physical activity is carried out, whether by an outstanding athlete or a beginner, lactate begins to circulate slowly through the blood, thanks to the action of metabolism. This action is what is known as lactic resistance.

This means that simply by getting to the gym and getting on the treadmill for a few minutes, or doing a short but intense cardiovascular routine, the body will start a process of breaking down glycogen, to create energy. Of course, runners have a higher energy demand, so lactic acid production is usually higher.

Lactate and soreness

Another of the myths associated with lactate is that it causes sensitivity and strong post-workout muscle pain, because the waste of this substance crystallizes and accumulates in the body, causing the well-known soreness.

However, it is proven that lactic acid is eliminated from the body an hour after the exercise has finished. In fact, soreness is the consequence of overuse of the muscles, either because we perform an intense routine or because we have resumed exercise after a period of inactivity. This resentment in the muscle lasts between 24 and 72 hours, after the physical activity carried out.

Ingest added lactic acid as a source of energy

Lactic acid can be produced as an added product by certain foods, such as the famous Korean kimchi, which combines cabbage and fermented vegetables. Likewise, milk, cheese, yogurt, preserved meats, among many other natural foods, obtained as fermented by-products, are usually rich in lactate.

However, this type of added lactate acid does not generate the same effect as that caused by the breakdown of glycogen in the body, since the function of lactic acid in food is to contribute to improving the functioning of the body as a powerful probiotic.

In this sense, the myth to be dispelled is that lactic acid as an energy reserve during physical activities cannot be produced by external agents, but only by the body itself.

Lactate is not eliminated from the body

The assertion made for years, that lactate is not eliminated from the body, emerges as another great myth that has been questioned by specialists in the health area.

The volume of lactic acid is produced according to the intensity of the muscular effort, therefore, in an experienced runner, the generation of this natural fuel will be very high. However, the body has its own cleaning system, which allows it to dispose of these excesses. To do this, the body reuses this lactate, incorporating it into other biological processes. For example, this substance controls potassium levels, to reduce fatigue.

Also, if you want to prevent the excesses of this substance, there are some techniques to learn how to eliminate lactic acid, which are very simple to perform and safe for your health. In this sense, we have the intake of the juice of a lemon moments before starting sports practice or at the end of it. You can also make a baking soda solution with water and drink it under the same conditions. Thus, you will neutralize the lactate.

In addition, you can eat a series of foods that have an alkalizing effect and, therefore, reduce the accumulation of lactate acid in the muscular system. Among them, we can mention water or foods rich in this element, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fish, foods with unsaturated fatty acids, among others.

By way of conclusion, we can say that lactic acid has a beneficial effect on the health of runners and athletes in general, but, in the same way, we should not overdo it with respect to physical effort, so that its production does not reach the limit. However, today it is possible to measure lactate levels through the generation of glucose in the blood, for which we will need the help of a smart bracelet (if you click here, you will find several options to buy), whose use is usually intuitive and effective results.

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