Many of us have felt the notorious “dead-leg” feeling at the end of a workout. Ever been under the bar on a set of squats and felt that flush of “jello-ness” creep into your quads? Or finish a long running workout and feel your butt and hamstrings go numb? Odds are you’ve had someone say, “There’s the lactic acid settling in!” Well, I regret to inform you that it is not, and it is actually working with your muscles as an ally during exercise.
What is lactic acid?
Lactic acid is the byproduct of the anaerobic lactic system, which breaks down glucose supplied by the glycogen stores. In many circumstances when we exercise, we require energy production faster than our bodies can adequately deliver oxygen. Therefore the working muscles generate energy anaerobically. This energy comes from glycolysis, in which glucose is metabolized into a substance called pyruvate. When the body has a vast supply of oxygen, pyruvate is broken down for more energy. However, when oxygen is limited, the body coverts pyruvate into lactate which allows glucose to continue to break down (produce energy).
Now that’s a lot of science to digest at once. Pretty much what you need to know is that when your muscles are working at a high intensity and a lack of oxygen is supplied to them, lactate builds in your muscles to provide them with energy. So when you feel like you have wet noodles for legs or you can’t lift your arms after a long set of pushups it is not the lactate that is triggering that muscle soreness.
What are the DOMS?
Delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS, is characterized by severe muscle tenderness as well as loss of strength and range of motion, following an extreme exercise event. The causes of DOMS are not precisely known but they are largely attributed to an inflammatory-repair response, triggered by intense muscle contractions. Swelling and soreness are the results of this response and last anywhere from 24-72 hours following exercise.
It is important to supply your body with various anti-inflammatory foods(as seen in my pervious post) as well as taking the time to roll, stretch, and ice those muscles after a hard day’s work. DOMS will happen when you train hard, just make sure it isn’t stopping you from making gains!