Ease lactic acid build-up during strenuous exercise naturally, advises fitness expert Mukul Nagpaul.

I could tell that my trainee was feeling a burning sensation in her muscles. The high intensity workout had taken it’s toll, and she had built up a reserve of lactic acid. Pain was inevitable.

Without my intervention, it was obvious that she would stop her workout.  So I stepped in, and suggested she gradually decrease the intensity of her workout, and move into a slow, easy cool-down.

In the end, she walked really slowly on the treadmill for 10 minutes, triggering the rapid delivery of oxygen to her muscles. The slow pace hastened the excretion of excessive lactic acid, from her muscles.

Strenuous exercise triggers the release of lactic acid

Like my client, your body also produces small amounts of lactic acid regularly, to help with various biological functions. Sometimes this accumulates, leading to a burning sensation during exertion. Usually this happens only when you produce more lactic acid than you eliminate.

Your body needs fuel to workout, mostly obtained by oxygen.  The problem arises when the intensity of the workout increases, and your body needs more fuel than usual. This leads to a drop in oxygen levels.

Lactic acid accumulates, since this is a by-product of glucose that now serves as a substitute fuel for the body. The result is a burning, often painful, sensation in your muscles. So you have to stop exercising, obviously. The burn signals that your body needs a recovery period, to clear the lactate and other metabolites.

Eliminate the excess acid slowly

Your body will generally eliminates lactic acid in an hour. You can speed up the process, by decreasing the intensity of exercise, or by stopping exercise completely. The muscle discomfort associated with the acidosis also dissipates. Soon, your body will return to normal.

Some think that hot baths and massage can reduce the lactic acid build-up in the body, but studies don’t prove this. Though these remedies are effective in promoting relaxation, they don’t remove the acid.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is different

Another misconception about lactic acid build up, is that this causes muscle soreness for days following strenuous exercise.

This is not true. In fact, the  delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS as it is called by exercise physiologists, has other symptoms: severe muscle tenderness, as well as loss of strength and range of motion, usually reaching a peak 24 to 72 hours after the extreme exercise event.

Endurance training raises lactate threshold 

On a positive note, let me offer you some ways of improving your exercise metabolism. Start by raising your lactate threshold – the point at which the burning sensation in your muscles occurs, also known as anaerobic threshold.

Do this by raising your fitness level, e.g., by doing endurance training with long runs that develop aerobic capacity, and prompts the body to develop more small blood vessels. Inevitably, this promotes efficient oxygen transport to muscles, improving the uptake of oxygen by your body.