by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Lactic acid training is a protocol that improves your ability to perform at a high level for longer periods of time. It helps build up your muscles so they are able to withstand the natural buildup of lactic acid that occurs when we run hard or lift weights. When we train hard, our bodies produce more lactic acid than usual, which causes fatigue and soreness. This is because lactic acid builds up in our muscles and works against them by slowing down their ability to contract and relax.
As the name goes, lactic acid training is a method that involves training in a way that makes your body produce a lot of lactate. This byproduct is released as your muscles produce energy during high-intensity exercises.
In this article, we will take a deeper dive into exactly what lactic acid is, what it does, and how you can utilize a lactic acid training protocol to improve your performance and overall results.
What is Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is a byproduct of aerobic metabolism. This means it is produced when your body uses oxygen to break down glucose, or sugar, to produce energy. Lactic acid is also produced during anaerobic exercise (for example, during weight training), but this type of exercise doesn’t last as long as aerobic exercise (such as walking or riding a bicycle).
Lactic acid can build up in your blood if you don’t have enough oxygen available to break down glucose to produce energy. This causes your muscles to fatigue, ache, and creates a somewhat “burning” sensation. The more lactic acid that builds up in your blood, the more intense the burning sensation in your muscles that you’ll experience.
Lactic Acid as the Fuel of Muscles
It’s not lactic acid but the expanded acidity in your blood that is responsible for the burning sensation you feel during intense training sessions. The acidity is caused due to the release and buildup of hydrogen ions, not lactic acid itself.
In addition to that, according to research, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is from trauma and microscopic tears resulting from physical exertion and not the buildup of lactic acid.
Lactic acid has always been seen as a waste product that causes a burning sensation in the muscles. Recent research shows that lactate (or lactic acid) accumulation may assist in relieving the burn or muscle cramp created during high-intensity physical activity.
Lactic Acid and Exercise
Lactic acid training is a method of training that can help you build muscle, lose body fat, and even increase strength.
Lactic acid is a byproduct of glucose metabolism in the body. When your body doesn’t have enough oxygen to use all the available glucose, it converts some of it into lactic acid. This causes an increase in muscle acidity, which makes them burn. The more acidic your muscles are, the more intense they burn and the deeper the sensation during exercise.
This process is called lactate production or lactate accumulation. Lactate is produced when you exercise at high-intensity levels for extended periods of time.
Lactate training has been used by athletes for decades because it increases the amount of lactate produced in their bodies during exercise, which helps improve endurance capacity and delay fatigue. It also improves recovery times between exercises because it speeds up how quickly your body clears lactic acid from its muscles. And because there’s less lactic acid in your body after workouts, your muscles recover quicker and grow faster as well!
Lactate Threshold Training and Peak Performance
When you train at a high intensity, your body creates additional proteins that help it absorb and convert lactic acid into energy. At rest and during low-intensity exercise, lactic acid production and blood lactate removal occur at fairly equal rates.
If you exercise more vigorously, the imbalance between oxygen supply and demand causes a buildup of blood lactate — this buildup is called your lactate threshold. When the lactate threshold is reached, there is less blood flow, but fast-twitch motor ability increases. This peak level of performance is known as lactate threshold training.
Aerobic and Anaerobic Training
Your lactate threshold is the point at which your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic training. If you want to improve your endurance and efficiency, you should train in the anaerobic zone beyond the lactate threshold.
Dennis Barker, head coach of Team USA’s runners, explains that aerobic training doesn’t improve performance because, in that state, your body is receiving enough oxygen to meet the demands of the exercise. However, your body is not getting enough oxygen when you exercise anaerobically.
Training at or just below the lactate threshold can help you become more efficient. Therefore, it is essential to engage in anaerobic training to improve your athletic performance.