LACTIC ACID’S BAD RAP

For the better part of a century, athletes and physiologists alike have considered lactic acid a primary cause of fatigue during high-intensity exercise and referred to it as “waste product” of muscle metabolism.

But now this way of thinking has changed, as scientists have learned that this substance we produce in large quantities during exercise, especially highly intense exercise, is not a cause of fatigue and actually helps to prevent it.

 

The former misrepresentation started with British physiologist and Nobel laureate Archibald V. Hill, who in 1929 flexed frog muscles to fatigue in his lab and noted that lactic acid accumulated when muscular failure occurred. He concluded that the lactic acid caused the fatigue associated with repeated muscle contraction. What he didn’t know is that when the muscle is examined as part of a complete biological system instead of in isolation from the rest of the body, we can see that lactic acid is processed and converted to fuel to help keep the muscles going. It does not cause fatigue.

 

Nor does lactic acid cause muscle soreness the day after hard exercise. This myth has been around for decades and refuses to go away, despite evidence to the contrary over the past 30 years. Soreness is more likely the result of damaged muscle cells resulting from excessive usage. So if lactic acid is not the villain we’ve made it out to be, what does cause fatigue and the burning sensation in the muscles during short, intense exercise bouts, such as CrosssFit workouts? To get the answer, it’s necessary to understand the pH scale, which tells us how acidic or alkaline (base) the body’s fluids are in range of 1 to 14, as hydrogen ions increase or decrease.

On this scale, hydrogen readings dropping below 7 indicate increasing acidity, while those rising above 7 indicate escalating alkalinity. Examples of acidic fluids are hydrochloric acid (pH = 1) and vinegar (pH = 3), while milk of magnesia (pH = 10.5) and ammonia (pH = 11.7) are alkaline. At rest, the pH of your blood is around 7.4 – slightly alkaline. In terms of your blood, small absolute changes in acid-base balance have major consequences. For example, during a 2- to 3-minute all-out effort, your blood’s pH may drop as low as 6.8 or 7.0. In biochemical terms, this is a huge acidic swing, producing a burning sensation in the working muscles and an inability for them to continue contracting.

 

Fatigue has set in.

 

If lactic acid didn’t cause the drop in pH, what did? The answer has to do with our sources of fuel during such short exercise bouts – glycogen and glucose. Both are carbohydrates, but they have slightly different chemical compositions. Glycogen is stored inside the muscle, where it can be quickly broken down to produce energy. Glucose, a form of this carbohydrate-based fuel that is stored in the liver and floats around in the bloodstream, is called on to produce energy for exercise when muscle glycogen stores can no longer keep up with the demand or are running low. As glycogen is broken down to produce energy, it releases one unit of hydrogen. But if glucose must be used for fuel, such as when the intensity of the exercise exceeds glycogen’s ability to keep up, two units of hydrogen are released. This rapid doubling of hydrogen ions in the system lowers the blood’s pH, causing the burning and fatigue associated with acidosis. The same amount of lactic acid is released no matter which fuel is used.

Far from being an evildoer, lactic acid is an ally during intense exercise. It does a great deal to keep the body going when the going gets hard. Besides being converted back into a fuel source, when hydrogen begins to accumulate, lactate transports it out of the working muscle cells and helps to buffer or offset its negative consequences.

 

After 80 years, lactic acid’s bad boy reputation has been lifted.

 

Reference:
Biochemistry of exercise induced metabolic acidosis. America journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 2004. 

6 Week Beginner Gymnastics Program

This program is designed to develop the basics. Pull Ups, Push Ups, Air Squats.

Stretching and midline stability drills are incorporated throughout the 6 weeks.

Download the program here:

Beginner Program – 6 Weeks

ROUTINE IS THE ENEMY, CONSISTENCY YOUR BEST ALLY

When striving for your fitness goals “showing up” regularly offers undeniable benefits.

A person in motion stays in motion and never has to restart.

A lack of consistency can bring on a lack of interest, but constant progress keeps morale high and keeps you interested in chasing your success.

Here’s how:

 

BE IN IT FOR THE LONG RUN AND SET GOALS

Overnight success is a myth – no one wakes up and is suddenly successful without years of preparation. Success is derived from hard work, commitment, a positive mindset and clear sense of direction.

People like Rich Froning or Katrin Davidsdottir have been showing up to the gym every day for years. They’re consistent output goes all the way back to a time when no one was watching, no one was listening, and no one was paying any attention at all.

If you look at any well known or successful CrossFit athlete, all you have to do is start scrolling to see the evidence of consistency and how long they’ve been showing up. They’ve been committed to their output for years.

In order to stay consistent you need to set goals, but the key is to set the right goals. We need realistic, achievable and challenging goals.

If we only set goals that are unrealistic and will take forever to achieve we will most certainly lose interest in our journey towards those goals. We need both short term and long term goals. Short term goals are small goals that are easily within our grasp and which can be achieved weekly or monthly. Long term goals are our big goals, 1st prize, the reason why you started training in the first place. These goals will take focus, determination and a lot of time and work to achieve.

Our short term goals are what keep us on track and interested in achieving our long term goals. The process is more important than the goal—what you do everyday matters more than what you plan to accomplish.

 

OBSERVE, MEASURE, REPEAT

Until you have tried something new for a period of time and have been consistent with it, you won’t know if it works or not. How do you measure effectiveness if what you are measuring isn’t performed consistently?

CrossFit is observable, measurable and repeatable.

What do we need for this to happen? Cold, hard, data.

One thing everyone should be doing no matter your skill level is keeping a training log. This is a place where you write down all of your lifting PB’s (personal bests)/times/rounds etc. You could even take it a step further and write down how you were feeling that day or maybe a technique issue you were having. This will provide more insight when you refer back to it in the future.

These numbers are valuable information for future workouts and making sure you are on the right track to achieve your goals.

For a coach it is extremely helpful to have a member know their “numbers”. It allows the coach to make more informed recommendations regarding scaling options and progressions for movements and weights based on the information you have, thus giving you a greater workout. For example if the WOD (Workout Of the Day) calls for 75% of your deadlift max and you can’t remember what your current max is….then they have to play a guessing game and go by feel. This may work sometimes but it’s not optimal. Or, if you do the same workout today that you did 6 weeks ago, but you didn’t record your score the first time, you won’t be able to compare your score with your latest result, which means you won’t be able to tell whether you are getting any fitter or not. Having numbers will help you get the best results possible!

If you don’t keep a training log, START NOW!

 

HAVE FUN WITH IT

All too often we lose sight that fitness can be and should be fun. Once you stop having fun with the process it becomes a chore and we all hate doing chores.

One way to consistently have fun is to not be too hard on yourself. We often focus too much on the things we want to do or can’t do that we forget that every single day we step into the box is one step closer to why we do it and one more reason to celebrate progress and be proud of ourselves for having the will to work for what we want no matter what our goals are.

Have fun on the good days as well as on the bad days.

Whether you achieved something on the day or not, at least you showed up and that counts.

 

“The goal is to get fit,

make it the best hour of your day,

stay safe, turn up the music,

high five some people and blow off some steam.

So remember that.

Relax. HAVE FUN. Workout.”

– Pat Sherwood