Lactic Acid. Friend or Enemy?

Popular belief allows us to think that lactic acid builds up in our muscles throughout exercise and creates a painful sensation in our muscles known as delayed onset muscle soreness. It is believed that the lactic acid cannot be removed from our muscles quick enough and creates excess lactate known as acidosis in the muscle which can cause pain.  An abundance of lactic acid in the body it makes the PH of the muscle decline, a normal PH of a muscle is usually a 7. This process is natural and part of the myth of a correlation between muscle soreness and lactic acid levels.

We exercise for short bouts of time when we are working for strength, power, or sustained power, and longer periods of time when we are working for endurance. During exercise our body uses energy systems to create movement.  Through energy systems our body creates compounds that allow our body to work at different levels, one of these compounds being ATP (adenosine triphosphate). In order to sustain over longer periods of time ATP must be restored very regularly so our body needs to find ways to recreate it quickly.

Lactic acid is another compound and our body creates it at a greater rate when exercise intensity increases. It is created in the blood stream and then converted into glucose in the liver. Glucose can be converted to ATP as a usable energy source for the body.  Sometimes the body’s ability to create lactic acid is greater than the ability to use it as an energy source; this is where the common myth about lactic acid derived from.

We can train our body to use lactic acid as an energy source when it gets created to keep balance in the muscle. Participating in high intensity training our body creates lactic acid quickly and then can convert it usable energy. Any time you incorporate speed into your workout you are participating in high intensity training and teaching your body to use and create lactic acid in a balance fashion. So next time you hear someone say that they need to get rid of the lactic acid in their muscles to feel less sore, educate them on how to properly train their body to use lactic acid for energy.


Power, Scott K. and Edward T. Howley. Exercise Physiology Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. Dubuque:Brown and Benchmark Publishers, 1997.

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