Demonstrating the False Association of Lactic Acid and Impeded Athletic Performance
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Does lactic acid cause muscle fatigue?
Demonstrating the false association of lactic acid and impeded athletic performance
Almost everyone who has pursued a sport with any seriousness has experienced muscle fatigue and the most commonly-cited culprit is lactic acid. However, viewing lactic acid as the metabolic 'bad guy' of athletics is fundamentally in error. In fact, "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 understanding now is that muscle cells convert glucose or glycogen to lactic acid. The lactic acid is taken up and used as a fuel by mitochondria, the energy factories in muscle cells" (Kolata 2006). What was long assumed to be harmful to athletic performance is in fact vitally necessary for sustained effort by the athlete. The reason that trained athletes may have less lactic acid and lower rates of fatigue than untrained athletes is that their bodies have learned to absorb the acid and use it as fuel more productively, not that their bodies produce less lactic acid.
The presence of lactic acid is thus was mistakenly associated with fatigue because its existence was associated with exercise. Yet it is part of recovery, not an inhibitory mechanism. "Evidence suggesting