The truth about Lactic Acid


Wondering how lactic acid production in your body affects your athletic performance? Here is all you need to know to improve your performance.

Lactic acid is a trending topic when you start gathering information about performance and recovery. It’s commonly considered an enemy for athletes because people believe lactate production slows down the body due to fatigue. But, recent studies reveal results that contradict the widespread beliefs about lactic acid. If you’re new to muscle building, you need to know what lactic acid is and how it affects your body to get the most out of your athletic training. 

We have made it simple for you as you’ll find everything you should know in this post. So, keep reading! 

How Is Lactic Acid Produced In the Body? 

There are two ways your body gets the required amount of oxygen and these are:  

  • Aerobic system 
  • Anaerobic system

In normal conditions, your body uses the aerobic system to get oxygen to fulfil its energy requirements. But, under stress or heavy workouts, your body depends upon the anaerobic system, which works without oxygen, to produce the energy your body needs during and after the workout. In the case of anaerobic respiration, your body produces lactic acid or lactate, which allows the glucose to break and produce energy. 

Benefits of Lactic Acid 

Lactic acid production is a natural phenomenon that is often perceived negatively as it hinders the body’s capacity to perform better. If you’re someone who considers lactic acid is bad for your body, then you’ll be surprised to know that there are many benefits that lactate provides to your body. Some of these are given below: 

  • It maintains the pH level of muscles in the normal range by reducing the acidity and this is essential for the normal contraction of muscles. 
  • It acts as a direct energy source for the brain, muscles and heart. Hence, other fuel preserves of the body are saved for use in emergencies or needs. 
  • It’s a continuous source of energy because your body can reuse lactate. 
  • It acts as a signalling molecule to promote adaptation. 

Why Lactic Acid Has A Bad Reputation? 

After reading about the benefits of lactic acid, you must be wondering why this molecule has a bad reputation. The reason for this is the false association of lactic acid with muscle pain and fatigue during exercise. It’s also linked with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

For long, it’s been considered a “harmful waste product” that can slow down your body during exercise. When your body can’t function at its maximum capacity, you can’t expect the best results out of your workout. (1) 

Is Lactic Acid Really Bad for Athletes?

No, lactic acid isn’t bad for athletes. The myths associated with has been proved incorrect according to recent studies. Research shows that the fatigue and muscle pain you feel after the exercise isn’t due to excessive lactic acid production but due to high acidity in the blood. The reason for high acidity is the increased amount of hydrogen ions in your body, which are not produced by lactic acid. (2)

Further research says that DOMS occurs due to physical trauma and microscopic tears due to physical exertion, not lactate accumulation. In the past, lactic acid had a bad reputation and was seen as a side product of glucose metabolism. 

It was considered a waste product that can make the muscles sore and lead to a burning sensation. But the latest studies show that lactic acid accumulation during an intense workout can save you from muscle tears and other muscle damage. 

Studies reveal that lactic acid accumulation serves as a threshold and tells your body about its maximum capacity and if you work beyond that, you’ll harm yourself. In that regard, lactic acid isn’t an enemy of your body but instead a blessing. 

Which Exercises Produce More Lactic Acid? 

Exercises involving the movement of upper limbs produce more lactic acid than leg exercises. In the upper limbs, the number of fast twitch fibres is more which plays a crucial role in glycolytic energy production. 

That doesn’t mean you should only choose exercises that involve the upper body. Rather, you should choose and focus on the exercises involving large muscle groups. These will help you improve your lactate production (3), but make sure that your work-to-rest ratio is monitored carefully and altered whenever required.  

Bottom Line

Lactic acid production is a natural process for energy production when your body uses the anaerobic system to fulfil its energy requirements. The assumptions of the past that lactic acid can lower athletic performance aren’t correct and it’s now proven by recent studies. The cause of muscle fatigue, pain and DOMS is the high acidity of the blood, not the lactic acid after an intense workout. Lactic acid helps you avoid overworking your muscle by setting a maximum limit your muscles can work without tearing. 

A few ingredients can benefit the use of lactic acid for athletic performance, Beta Alanine and Vinitrox for example are two of the best ones, check them out here: How to reduce and use lactic acid