What your body does produce naturally is lactate and it is considered a main energy source for hard working athletes. Lactate production in the muscles accumulates rapidly when the energy demands of your body outstrip the supply of available oxygen; this means that muscle carbohydrate breaks down without oxygen but this does not cause the body pain.
There are quite a few misunderstandings regarding lactate and it's role in the body, so let's clear a few things up:
- Lactic acid is not responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), instead this is the result of small tears in the muscle that occur while exercising
- Once lactate is formed, it can serve as a source of energy to the muscles, also known as the 'lactate shuttle system'
- It does not cause fatigue, it actually happens to be a useful and efficient fuel source
- Lactate is the most important contributor to the making of glucose in the liver (Gluconeogenesis)
- Lactate is actually metabolized within a couple hours of exercise
- It is not an athletes enemy
References from the SIRC Collection:
1. A Closer Look at Blood Lactate Threshold. Running & Fitnews. March 2011;29(2):15-17.
2. Beneke R, Leithäuser R, Ochentel O. Blood Lactate Diagnostics in Exercise Testing and Training. International Journal Of Sports Physiology & Performance. March 2011;6(1):8-24.
3. Brooks G. The lactate shuttle during exercise and recovery. / Le va et vient du lactate lors de l'exercice et de la recuperation. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. June 1986;18(3):360-368.
4. MacIntosh B, Esau S, Svedahl K. The lactate minimum test for cycling: estimation of the maximal lactate steady state. / Test du minimum de lactate en cyclisme: estimation de l'etat d'equilibre maximal du lactate. Canadian Journal Of Applied Physiology. June 2002;27(3):232-249.
5. Saunders P. Energy systems & lactate thresholds. Run For Your Life: R4YL. August 2007;(13):14-15.
6. Wagner P, Lundby C. The Lactate Paradox: Does Acclimatization to High Altitude Affect Blood Lactate during Exercise?. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise. May 2007;39(5):749-755.