Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Lactic Acid Paradigm

Always on the search for new paradigms, Howard came across this nugget of scientific up-is-down-ism: Lactic Acid is our Friend. If you've read up on sports training physiology, you should know that if you work out beyond your "lactic threshold", your muscles will no longer have access to adequate oxygen to sustain a workout, and begin burning glucose without oxygen (thus the term "anaerobic" or "no air".) This is a chemical reaction which creates pools of lactic acid in ones muscles which cause muscle pain, shortly leading to a bonk. Well, that's been the accepted theory for about a century. Until now...
Everyone who has even thought about exercising has heard the warnings about lactic acid. It builds up in your muscles. It is what makes your muscles burn. Its buildup is what makes your muscles tire and give out.

Coaches and personal trainers tell athletes and exercisers that they have to learn to work out at just below their "lactic threshold," that point of diminishing returns when lactic acid starts to accumulate. Some athletes even have blood tests to find their personal lactic thresholds.

But that, it turns out, is all wrong. Lactic acid is actually a fuel, not a caustic waste product. Muscles make it deliberately, producing it from glucose, and they burn it to obtain energy. The reason trained athletes can perform so hard and so long is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb lactic acid.

The notion that lactic acid was bad took hold more than a century ago, said George A. Brooks, a professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. It stuck because it seemed to make so much sense.

"It's one of the classic mistakes in the history of science," Dr. Brooks said.
Oh my. You can read the rest here.


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