T Nation

Lactic Acid Buildup

Hey everyone,

I am an avid soccer player and in very good cardiovascular shape. Being that I am a soccer player, I have the soccer player build that includes large calves and quads. If been noticing alot that when I push my body really hard but doing wind-sprints and other high-intensity running drills, my quads begin to tighten up on me and in basic terms feel horrible. I definitely think it is because of lactic acid build-up and I want to know if there is a supplement or a change I can make to my diet that will help prevent or slow down lactic acid from initially forming or if there is something that I can take to assist my body in ridding the lactic acid that builds up. I know that we have some intelligent and knowledgeable readers on the forum boards so I await so helpful response. Thanks.


Even though i think soccer is a socialist sport, ill try and help. There isnt a whole lot you can do supplement wise, but you can train your body and your mind to tolerate lactate better. Louie Simmons in his new video details a program of doing 15 sets of box squats with little rest between sets. That might give you an idea of the type of training you will need to do.

I heard bicarb of soda is a good thing to buffer lactic acid… i was thinking of trying it for my trianing but dont have a clue how

You can build your lactic acid tolerance, as Goldberg alluded to. Sodium bicarbonate loading will work too. Use about 300 mg. per kilo of bodyweight, mixed with one liter of water. BUT…for some people this can cause a pretty upset stomach (the shits), so you may want to start low and slowly increase your dosage.


in addition to lifing ('cuz that’s priority), i also play soccer about two times/week. i’ve experienced tightening of the quads & especially the hamstrings. in addition to that, i’ve felt the lactic acid build up after some serious sprinting.

in my opinion, first thing you need to do is assess your diet. the lactic acid build up can be reduced significantly by consuming more carbs. you need more carbs when you subject your body to 90 mins. of sprinting & continuous endurance running.

as for the tighteness, do some serious stretching after you play & after you train legs (i.e. squats, deads, etc.).
this has definitely helped my game within the last 2 years. good luck.


As odd as this sounds, it may not be a supplement that’s the answer. Two things to look at. First, your overall diet. If you’re subsisting on cheetos and Mountain Dew, that could be a problem. Second, look at your leg development. If your quads are giving you problems, it could be that your hamstrings are underdeveloped. TC talked about it in one of his sprinting articles. I coach HS girls, and one of the things that we hit really hard in the weight room is the posterior chain, especially the hamstrings. They think I’m nuts, but it’s worked wonders for us.

“The lactic acid build up can be reduced significantly by consuming more carbs.”

Um, I’m not sure I agree with that. Blood glucose/glycogen are the forerunners to pyruvate, which is converted to lactic acid during fast glycolysis. In other words, I highly doubt that increasing carb consumption would decrease lactic acid accumulation.

Since lactic acid production increases with greater exercise intensity, your best bet is to modify your overall conditioning so that your body perceives the stress as less strenuous. And, as Sully mentioned, throw in some bicarbonate. I should note that chronic ingestion beats acute ingestions in this regard, so you should definitely consider gradually increasing your dosage (and not expect dramatic results overnight). Here are a few studies so that you can read for yourself:

McNaughton L, Backx K, Palmer G, Strange N. Effects of chronic bicarbonate ingestion on the performance of high-intensity work. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1999 Sep;80(4):333-6.

We have evaluated whether sodium bicarbonate, taken chronically (0.5 g x kg(-1) body mass) for a period of 5 days would improve the performance of eight subjects during 60 s of high-intensity exercise on an electrically braked cycle ergometer. The first test was performed prior to chronic supplementation (pre-ingestion) while the post-ingestion test took place 6 days later. A control test took place approximately 1 month after the cessation of all testing. Acid-base and metabolite data (n = 7) were measured from arterialised blood both pre- and post-exercise, as well as daily throughout the exercise period. The work completed by the subjects in the control and pre-ingestion test [21.1 (0.9) and 21.1 (0.9) MJ, respectively] was less than (P<0.05) that completed in the post-ingestion test [24.1 (0.9) MJ; F(2,21) = 3.4, P<0.05, power = 0.57]. Peak power was higher after the 5-day supplementation period (P<0.05). Ingestion of the sodium bicarbonate for a period of 5 days resulted in an increase in pH (F(5,36) = 12.5, P<0.0001, power = 1.0) over the 5-day period. The blood bicarbonate levels also rose during the trial (P<0.05) from a resting level of 22.8 (0.4) to 28.4 (1.1) mmol x l(-1) after 24 h of ingestion. In conclusion, the addition of sodium bicarbonate to a normal diet proved to be of ergogenic benefit in the performance of short-term, high-intensity work.

Mc Naughton L, Thompson D. Acute versus chronic sodium bicarbonate ingestion and anaerobic work and power output. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2001 Dec;41(4):456-62.

BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to compare and contrast the effects of acute versus chronic sodium bicarbonate ingestion. METHODS: PARTICIPANTS: Eight male, (mean+/-SE): age, 20.8+/-0.4 yrs; height, 179.6+/-0.6 cm; body mass, 79.4+/-0.85 kg, Sigma7skf, 48.6+/-4.8 mm, VO2max=55.9+/-0.8 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1)) volunteer subjects, ingested NaHCO3 in either a dose of 0.5 g x kg(-1) body mass acutely or the same dose daily over a period of six days in order to determine whether there were any differences in performance of 90 sec maximal cycling ergometry. INTERVENTION: After subjects undertook an initial control © test session, all were then randomly assigned to one of two groups, acute or chronic NaHCO3 ingestion. Subjects in the acute ingestion (AI) group completed their supplemented test on day one, and then on the following day. Chronic ingestion (CI) subjects completed the test after one day of chronic ingestion as well as following six days of bicarbonate ingestion. Following ten days rest, subjects repeated the protocol in the opposite group. MEASURES: Blood samples were taken pre- and postingestion, daily, and pre- and postexercise and were analysed for, pH, Base excess (BE), HCO3-, PO2, PCO2, Na+, K+, Cl-, and lactate. RESULTS: Both the chronic (CI) and acute ingestion (AI) groups were significantly different to the control © value (p<0.001 and p<0.05, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: We would suggest using chronic ingestion as a means to improve high intensity work rather than the acute ingestion of sodium bicarbonate. The ingestion of sodium bicarbonate, over a period of six days, significantly improved work output two days after bicarbonate ingestion ceased.

McNaughton LR. Sodium bicarbonate ingestion and its effects on anaerobic exercise of various durations. J Sports Sci. 1992 Oct;10(5):425-35.

Four groups of male subjects participated in anaerobic testing on a Repco EX10 cycle ergometer to determine the effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate (0.3 g kg-1 body mass) as an ergogenic aid during exercise of 10, 30, 120 and 240 s duration. Blood was collected 90 min prior to ingestion of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), after ingestion of NaHCO3 and immediately post-exercise from a heated (43-46 degrees C) fingertip and analysed immediately post-collection for pH, base excess, bicarbonate and lactate. The total work undertaken (kJ) and peak power achieved during the tests were also obtained via a Repco Work Monitor Unit. Blood bicarbonate levels were again increased above the control and placebo conditions (P < 0.001) and blood lactate levels were also increased following the bicarbonate trials. The pH levels fell significantly (P < 0.05) below the control and placebo conditions in all trials. The results indicate that NaHCO3 at this dosage has no ergogenic benefit for work of either 10 or 30 s duration, even though blood bicarbonate levels were significantly increased (P < 0.05) following ingestion of NaHCO3. For work periods of 120 and 240 s, performance was significantly increased (P < 0.05) above the control and placebo conditions following NaHCO3 ingestion.

You probably should also be doing some anaerobic threshold training to help your body get accustomed to the lactate. There are hundreds of variations available. Try doing multiple repeats of 20 second sprints with 10 seconds rest. For buffering rather then using baking soda (which likely will cause more trouble then it’s worth) consider a change in diet first of all to a more alkalinizing variety. If you’re eating a standard bodybuilding diet you likely tend to run a bit acidic due to all the consumption of meats. Although the blood ph is closely regulated what the body does to regulate the PH when lots of acidic foods are consumed is detrimental. Eat lots more veggies and potatoes and other high potassium foods and consider supplementing your diet with a buffering stack consisting of the following. 20 grams together of potassium, magnesium and calcium citrate. 50% potassium citrate, 25% magnesium citrate, 25% calcium citrate. This “feels” a lot better then baking soda!

Thanks guys. I will try the potassium, etc stack before I try the baking soda (bicarbonate) approach; since I dont want an upset stomach. My diet is good…not perfect but very good. Any ideas as far as structuring my weight lifting program so that I can adapt my body better to the lactic acid buildup (how to structure my reps/sets). Anyone have some good stretches for calves and quads…I know the basic ones we do for soccer, but perhaps you guys know some better ones to length my muscles.

How long have you been doing the sprints (this year, not ever)? I’m familier with the tightness to which you refer, but in my experience it tended only to pop up early season when I transitioned too quickly into anaerobic work or with improper warmup (back in my days as a bike racer). I agree largely with Paul and Kelly on their points although I wouldn’t suggest longterm sodium bicarbonate usage as the definitive answer. Your legs should feel empty and a bit sore after anaerobic training, but not painfully tight to the degree you describe.

yes i used the baking soda before and it works :slight_smile: so $$$

Baking soda, at the levels needed to actually feel a difference, will give you gastric distress. And that’s a severe understatement.


You need to keep your body as alkaline as possible. Find a book, or do a google search for acid/alkaline balance of foods and keep foods in diet strictly those that are not acid producing. Calcium is good for this, supposedly as that is one of the selling points of the Coral Calcium craze that is presently happening.

I’ve read from several sources that creatine buffers lactic acid build-up. Supposedly creatine bonds with a Hydrogen ion. Not sure how much scientific research has been done on this but I’ve noticed myself less fatigue and burning while using creatine.

Just to throw in my 2 cents
You could also address the lactic clearance aspect of training. The better your non working muscle are at clearing LA the faster you will recover and the higher your lactic threshold will be. What to do for this? Hard upper body sessions that build up lacte like a bastard, such as giant sets or circuit training.
Also continue doing the sprint and increasing the intensity/volume, so you have a better loaclise LA clearance/tolerance
Just a thought

I was also an avid soccer player for a great deal of my life. I never had any sort of reaction like you are talking about especially in those particular muscle groups. This intrigues me. You should be well enough conditioned for any position on the field to never have a build up of LA. Are you sure it is in fact lactic acid build up and not something else? Possibly some sort of neromuscular disorder related to overtraining?


i applaud you on the work you’ve done in providing such research; much appreciated.

however, what me, & apparently rs, are alluding to is that it could simply be soccergod’s diet & conditioning that are in question. it’s obvious to me that one can’t perform as well at endurance sports while low-carbing or hypo-kcal for that matter. same reasons why it’s more difficult to do meltdown while low-carbing as opposed to a 5x5 routine. that is why i made a recommendation to increase carbs. i wasn’t necessarily referring to lactic acid as the culprit but rather, energy in (& the quality of that energy) vs. energy expended. since soccergod hadn’t supplied us with his current diet, we can only make assumptions.

before soccergod experiments with supplements, he could improve his game by simply modifying his diet accordingly & better conditioning himself. This might be possible by increasing his tolerance to sprinting & dedicating some more quality time to stretching. based on my own experiences (hopefully this counts for something), it has definitely worked for me.


Invest in a good mineral formula, creatine may also help. Eat your fruits and veggies as well.

More importantly POSTWORKOUT SHAKE, this has little to do with lactic acid but, This will greatly enhance your recovery.

ART may help break up adhessions in your thighs and relieve some pain.
Other then that the rest of the guys gave great advice.

Try Non weighted GPP work Davies style 2 times per week. Ultra high rep work with bodyweight exercises like hindu squats may help make you unbreakable.