How lactate can also help you during training

How lactate can also help you during training

For decades, the salt of lactic acid was considered one of the most critical indicators of athletic performance. After all, if the muscles were getting tired, it was usually the lactate in the blood that was to blame. But according to the latest findings, this is not true at all. The opposite is exact. Here is everything you need to know about lactate.

Lactate is not evil but helpful

For decades, scientists have been tapping blood from many athletes to measure lactate. From the respective values, they then determined a supposedly optimal training plan. The salt of lactic acid was considered to be mainly responsible for sore muscles, tired legs and arms as well as harmful to the whole body. However, studies in recent years have shown: That’s not true. Instead of tiring the muscles, lactate can even support the muscles in their work. How could whole generations of experts be so wrong?

Lactate and the scientific facts

  • In 1922, the physiologist Archibald Hill (1886 – 1977) and the biochemist Otto Meyerhof (1884 – 1951) were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their studies on carbohydrate metabolism in working muscles.
  • The two scientists had found out that a lot of lactic acids is produced at the exact moment when muscles begin to weaken.
  • Because of this, the two concluded: that lactic acid is the cause of muscle fatigue.
  • Unfortunately, they misinterpreted the whole thing. However, both did not have the new medical possibilities available today.

The body constantly produces lactate

Only now are researchers beginning to understand the salt of lactic acid properly. Until now, it has always been assumed that lactate is only produced during anaerobic stress. In other words, an activity in which there is no longer sufficient oxygen available. But new studies show something else: whether at rest or during physical exercise, the body constantly produces lactate. Only tiny amounts at rest, more and more during exertion. That is related to carbohydrate metabolism. For example, when bench pressing with a relatively heavyweight, the body starts burning carbohydrates after about seven seconds. Lactic acid is formed, which breaks down into two components: firstly, into the “good” lactate and secondly into “bad” hydrogen ions.

There is good lactate and bad lactate
The body produces lactate not only during hard training (©adpic)

Good lactate and bad hydrogen ions

  • Today, researchers speak of useful lactate because it is an important energy source.
  • If the load is correspondingly high, the heart even uses lactate to produce energy.
  • Lactate is, therefore, not a performance-limiting factor, but the opposite. The lactic acid replenishes the exhausted muscles.

ATP is an important energy source

Today, modern sports science is confident that the “evil” hydrogen ions are to blame for overtired and burning muscles. That is because they lower the pH value within the tissue and inhibit the absorption of calcium. The muscles need the mineral to release fresh energy from adenosine triphosphate (ATP). And ATP is one of the body’s most important sources of energy. What does this new knowledge mean for practical training? Let us take a closer look at our muscle physiology:

A look at our muscle physiology

  • Every person has two different types of muscle fiber.
  • On the one hand, there is the slowly contracting type I fibers, which are predominant in good endurance athletes.
  • On the other hand, the fast contracting type II fibers are present in large numbers in strength athletes and sprinters.
  • By the way, most people have a balanced ratio of the two muscle fiber types.

The body adapts itself

Slow muscle fibers are fatigue-resistant and can break down lactate very well. The fast muscle fibers, on the other hand, produce a lot of lactate under appropriate strain. If you want to improve your performance in strength training, you now have two options: Strength training and hypertrophy training. In strength training, however, it is not the number of repetitions that matters, but the duration of the exercise. That is between 30 and 60 seconds per exercise and set. The main aim is to move the weight as long as possible when performed correctly. The advantage of this form of exercise is that a lot of lactate is produced, and with regular training, the body adapts. So there is a constant increase in performance.

High weights generate a growth stimulus

Hypertrophy training involves training with higher weights but shorter load duration. It is between 10 and 20 seconds. Since this form of exercise causes a lot of muscle fibers to contract, the muscle produces a lot of lactate. Besides, it comes to a large growth stimulus. Incomplete breaks make the workout even more intensive. Bodybuilders especially naturally favor hypertrophy training. However, at some point, they reach their limits, and suddenly no further performance increases are possible. Therefore, it is advisable to do phases with strength training from time to time.

Strength endurance training and the lactate

Strength endurance training is so to speak the infrastructure for hypertrophy training. Like fresh green on a bush, new vessels sprout and improve the capillarization of the muscles. In this way, they are better supplied with oxygen and nutrients. The body also learns to process lactate better and more effectively. So you can set more significant training stimuli.

Lots of variety in training

As already mentioned several times in this blog, regeneration also plays a unique role. After intensive strength training, it can take up to 48 hours to restore full performance. For very well trained athletes, this time can be shortened. It is also advisable to train as varied as possible. If you always do the same exercises, you have to expect that your performance will stagnate. By the way: before beginners do high-intensity “lactate training,” they should first train a base. Above all, the correct technique is crucial.

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