Recognizing Lactic Acid Build Up -- by Judy Dugdale, RN (Read the WikiHow article here)
Notice the burning sensation in your muscles caused by lactic acid. When you work out, your body normally relies on stored glucose and the oxygen you breathe to fuel your body. However, a hard workout can push your body too far too fast, making it hard for your oxygen and glucose stores to keep up. Your body then releases lactic acid to fuel your body, which is called going into an anaerobic state.
Lactic acid is also called lactate.
Your body can only continue in this anaerobic state for so long. You'll naturally feel fatigued as you reach your limit.
Recognize that lactic acid is useful for your body in most cases. Lactic acid naturally results when your body converts glucose to energy during exercise. It actually allows your body to absorb and use this energy. However, it can become a problem if you push yourself too hard for too long. In most cases, the affects will go away on their own.
It's possible for too much lactic acid to cause lactic acidosis, but this is not a common condition.
Watch for symptoms of harmful lactic acid buildup. While it's not usually a concern if the lactic acid builds up as a result of working out, lactic acidosis can happen. If you recognize symptoms of this condition, talk to your medical provider. Do not attempt to diagnose yourself. These are the symptoms of lactic acidosis:
Yellowing of the skin
Yellowing of your eyes
Breathing issues, such as shallow or rapid breathing
Rapid heart rate
Pain or cramping in your muscles
Abdominal pain and discomfort
Diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting
Avoid associating lactic acid with muscle soreness post-workout. Lactic acid is often wrongly accused of being responsible for the post-workout muscle soreness experienced 1 to 3 days after a hard workout. However, new research shows that lactic acid (which operates as a temporary fuel source during intense physical activity) leaves your system within an hour of the end of a workout, so it cannot be responsible for the pain felt days later.
The latest theory suggests that this muscle pain -- also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS -- is the result of damage to the muscle cells during intense exercise. This causes inflammation, swelling and tenderness as the muscles repair themselves.
In order to reduce muscle soreness after a workout, it is necessary to do a proper warm up before exercising, as well as cool down exercises after your workout. This wakes up the muscles and prepares them for physical activity. It is also important to avoid pushing yourself past your physical limit and to build up your workouts gradually instead.
Reducing Lactic Acid During a Workout
Stay hydrated. Lactic acid is water-soluble, so the more hydrated you are, the less likely you are to feel a burn while you workout and cause lactic acid build up.
Drink plenty of fluids while you work out, as well as before and after your workout. Keep in mind that by the time you notice you are thirsty during a workout, you may already be dehydrated.
Drink 8 to 16 oz. of water before you workout, then drink 8 oz. of water for every 20 minutes you workout.
Breathe deeply. The cause of the burning sensation you feel in your muscles while exercising is twofold: it is partly due to the buildup of lactic acid, but it is also due to a lack of oxygen.
You can ameliorate this by paying close attention to your breathing while you exercise. Be sure to breathe deeply in and out, at an even pace. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
This will help to deliver oxygen to your muscles and stop the production of lactic acid.
Check that your heart rate is in the appropriate range. Pushing yourself too hard is what causes lactic acid buildup. Your heart rate should be in a fat burning or cardio range, depending on your goals. Although short bursts of exercise above this threshold can improve your aerobic health, make sure you do not go beyond your cardio range for longer than 1-2 minutes at a time.
Most of your workout should be below your anaerobic threshold, which you can calculate using your age.
Work out frequently. The more physically fit you are, the less glucose your body will need to burn and there will be less acid build up. This is because your body gets more efficient at burning calories and expending energy. You need to expend less effort to do the same activity.
You should try to work out several times a week, but make sure to take at least one or two rest days to allow your muscles to recover.
Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually. Develop a workout plan to add minutes or repetitions slowly to your routine - this will gradually raise the level at which your body starts to produce lactic acid.
Be cautious when lifting weights. Weightlifting is an activity that tends to promote lactic acid build up because it requires more oxygen than our bodies can deliver.
Although we have been told to "feel the burn," a buildup of lactic acid may also lead to micro-tears that can cause trauma in the muscles and leave you sore for days.
Be sure to increase the weight and repetitions gradually to keep healthy levels of lactic acid in the body.
Decrease the intensity of your workout if you start to feel a burn. The burning sensation you feel during intense exercise is the body's defense mechanism trying to prevent overexertion. You should not experience pain during a workout.
If you are doing aerobic activities, like running, walking fast, biking or using an elliptical or stair stepper, slow your speed. If you are doing weights, lower the number of repetitions or reduce the size of the weight.
As you catch your breath, more oxygen will be delivered to your muscles and release the lactic acid.
Stretch after your workout. Since lactic acid disperses 30 minutes to an hour after your workout, stretching helps to release lactic acid, alleviating any burning sensations or muscle cramps you might be experiencing.
Stretch your muscles lightly follow any intense exercise, and also use your fingertips to massage the area gently.
This will also decrease any micro-trauma that may be responsible for soreness in the days following a workout.
Stay active. Rest after your workout, but lead an active life. Muscles need activity as well as oxygen and water to stay healthy. If you feel a burn in your muscles occasionally, there is no cause for alarm; lactic acid in small amounts is not damaging to your body and may even have some beneficial effects on your metabolism.
In small amounts, lactic acid helps your body more easily absorb energy. It also burns more calories! Additionally, spending short periods of your workout in an anaerobic state allows you to improve your cardio endurance over time.
Reducing Lactic Acid Through Your Diet
Increase your magnesium intake. The mineral magnesium is essential for proper energy production within the body. Healthy magnesium levels will help the body to deliver energy to the muscles while exercising, thus limiting the buildup of lactic acid. Therefore, you should make an effort to increase your daily magnesium intake, preferably through your diet.
Vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and green beans, legumes like navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans and seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of magnesium. Tofu - especially nigari tofu - is particularly rich in magnesium.
It is also possible to increase magnesium intake through supplements, however, with a healthy diet rich in the food sources described above, this should not be necessary.
Eat foods rich in fatty acids. A healthy intake of foods rich in fatty acids helps the body to break down glucose, a process which is essential for normal energy production. This can help to limit the body's need for lactic acid during a tough workout and keep you going for longer.
Get essential fatty acids from cold water fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, from nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseed and from plant oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil.
Fatty acids also work to reduce inflammation, which helps to lessen muscle soreness in the days following a tough workout.
Eat foods containing B vitamins. B vitamins are useful in transporting glucose around the body, which helps to fuel the muscles during a workout, thus reducing the need for lactic acid.
Foods that contain high quantities of B vitamins include leafy green vegetables, cereals, peas and beans, along with protein-rich foods such as fish, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
Foods high in B vitamins also help to replenish the body with other nutrients that are lost during intense exercise.
Let's Talk About Lactic Acid
The ability to produce large quantities of lactic acid quickly is an important component of fast swimming. As lactic acid builds up in the muscle, it increases the acidity of the cell and surrounding fluids. The chemical reactions necessary to break down glycogen and use it as energy do not like acidic environments, so the production of energy slows down. This affects the muscles' ability to keep contracting. Lactic acid buildup is why muscles "burn" and the athlete becomes fatigued.
Swimmers can plateau at a given lactic acid level and this will be a real hurdle in achieving higher performance levels. Lactate tolerance is about time, not effort -- most swimmers produce large quantities of lactic acid, but the ability to continue to swim at maximum effort, under control, requires the ability to tolerate lactic acid. Clearing lactate acid is also key, and studies show that proper training can improve removal rates as well.
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Thunder 1 requires a Sectionals cut and/or the minimum T30 performance criteria:
Placement of swimmers not meeting these basic criteria is at the discretion of the team owner.
The T-30 is a timed, 30 minute swim test. The goal is for the swimmer to complete as many laps of the pool as possible in 30 minutes, swimming at maximum effort but with an even pace. The results show the anabolic threshold speed and lactate level for the swimmer. Because the test is done monthly, the swimmer can track progress over time.
For the T-30 to be a valid measure of your aerobic fitness, it’s supposed to an honest best effort, which means you have to work at your maximum sustainable speed. It’s also a test of your pace judgement and pacing skills.
Protocol for the T-30 Performance Test
The T-30 Performance Test is done once a month during our regular pool time of 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM. For each swimmer, the T-30 will take 60 minutes in total -- a 30 minute warm-up followed by a 30 minute swim. Swimmers are grouped according to how many laps they can finish in 30 minutes:
4:00 PM – Swimmers with 100+ laps
4:30 PM – Swimmers with 90+ laps
5:00 PM – Swimmers with 80+ laps
5:30 PM – Swimmers with 70+ laps
6:00 PM -- Open
Swimmers must provide their own counters. Parents may count. If another swimmer will be counting, there can be no overlap with their own T-30.