T Nation

Lactic Acid is Your Friend


As a scientist (geologist) I find it fascinating how some theories can propagate for so long without support, or just because they seem logical. Of course those of us who read T-Nation already know this about traditional ideas on nutrition and exercise.

Don't know if this is old news, but lactic acid is the lastest dogma to be exploded:


Interesting... It leads you to question some Eastern sport strategies such as ingesting baking soda in order to nuetralize lactic acid. In fact, this leads you to question a lot. I'd be interested in hearing more.


I think it's important to remember that you burn lactate, but H+ accumulation still leads to phsyiological changes that limit performance, specifically blocking the ability of calcium to bind to troponin. This is one of the reasons why the buffer capacity is important, ideally you can have large concentrations of lactate, with minimal changes in hydrogen ion concetration, because you will buffer out the changes in H+.

Acid is still "bad" it's just they're acknowledging the endurance preserving effect of lactate.

If my understanding is correct...


It is correct - good synopsis.

I just read this mainstream treatment (NY Times article) of the topic and while it's good to get the message out, I think the message wasn't as well presented as it could have been.

BTW, the exercise science community has known about this for years although it hasn't reached mainstream consciousness -- probably because people like to see things as black and white.

And in this case we've got lactate (dissociated form) being good, lactic acid (acid form) being bad.

And we've got this rogue something or other called H plus (H+) or, worse yet, hydrogen ions.

Whenever you introduce an element from the periodic table people crap their pants.


So let's just stick with lactic acid making you burn and making you slow. It's less confusing that way.


No, it really doesn't.

Loading with buffers (sodium, potassium bicarb or sodium citrate), has been shown repeatedly to increase the blood's buffering capacity (providing a huge alkaline load), thereby decreasing MUSCLE acidity (this, in the form of H+, being the thing that impairs contractility) and improve performance.

This article, while supposedly "exploding" the lactic acid theory of fatigue, is interesting as:

1) Ex phys people have know this for quite some time -- so have many top level coaches -- the article pretty much explodes it for recreational exercisers and those who haven't kept up with ex phys research for the last decade or more. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just interesting to see how long it takes before something is pretty much taken for granted in the science world vs. when it reaches the mainstream.

2) It doesn't actually affect how anyone would train. In the end, all it does is change how we talk about how we train.


True, but you wouldn't like to stick with excess protein gives you kidney failure would you?

Good point, physiologists are still going to use lactate threshold tests until they find something better.

I don't think the explanation needs to be too technical, but lactate can still be left out of the picture, poor fellow. How about simply 'exercising hard' makes you burn and makes you slow? Train hard and you won't burn as much at the same intensity. And forget about all the biochemistry behind it :slight_smile:


I don't like to brag, but I did get a B+ in exercise physiology. :wink:

Thanks for chiming in on this thread JB. I knew when I saw it that it had the possibility of some solid intelectual discourse.


It seems these guys disagree on where that rogue ion comes from:


Any comments? I don't really know enough about biochem to say what's right.



When I was attending Cal a while back, I took an exercise phys seminar with George Brooks (i think it was in '99) anyways, he talked about the whole lactic acid thing then.... I immediately thought this guy was a fucking kook.

Here's the kicker... a student in the class asked the following question,

"how much protein should I ingest in order to maintain muscle mass?"

Dr. Brooks replied, "As long as you're taking in your daily caloric intake in carbohydrates, you don't need any protein."

I would occassionally see him in the gym facilities. Of course, I watched how he trained. Despite the fact that he was training like a retard, he was actually in pretty good shape.

There are interesting points in his research and like JB said, it won't change the way we train, just the way we talk about it.

edit: forgot to mention, in case some were not aware, that Brooks was the guy who came up with the whole lactic acid theory.