When your muscles are especially stressed, as in a high-impact or long workout, they need fuel. And while your body prefers oxygen-based fuel, sometimes you just can't breathe hard enough to provide enough oxygen to power your muscles. That's where lactic acid comes in, as an anaerobic form of muscle fuel. And while your body needs the energy, an unfortunate side effect of lactic-acid buildup is annoying, painful cramping and fatigue. But there are steps you can take to reduce lactic acid, even as you fuel your muscles.
Perform "leg draining," which helps eliminate the excess lactic acid in your leg muscles. Try pedaling very slowly on an exercise bike to reduce buildup. You can also elevate your legs by lying on the floor and propping your legs up against a wall. The elevation will literally help "drain" the excess acid out of your muscles.
Drink plenty of water and eat water-rich foods before and after workouts. Water is not only important for rehydration, but it also helps break down lactic-acid buildup.
Eat dark, leafy greens and heart-healthy, high-protein foods such as nuts, seeds, soy and lean meats. More protein and iron-rich vegetables means more fuel for your muscles, which allows them to be more efficient at lactic-acid breakdown.
Load up on the natural sugars in fruits such as bananas, apples and citrus fruits before and during workouts. The sugars provide healthy energy which will fuel muscles and help eliminate the necessity of lactic-acid buildup.
- If your muscles continue to ache, consider incorporating lighter workouts or rest days to allow your body time to recover.
- Always consult your doctor before beginning a strenuous exercise regime or taking supplements.
Lindsey Robinson Sanchez, from Bessemer, Ala., has written for the "Troy Messenger," "The Alabama Baptist" and "The Gainesville Times," where her work was featured on the AP wire. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes style, beauty, fitness, travel and culture.