Many exercise experts contribute muscle aches, also called delayed onset muscle soreness, to the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles after a strenuous workout. However, decades of research conducted by George Brooks, a professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California, proves that lactic acid isn't responsible, but instead fuels the muscles, causing the burning sensation you might feel while working them. Treating lactic acid build up is different than treating muscle aches that occur days after exercise.
Being physically fit helps control the amount of lactic acid that seeps into your muscles during exercise. Regular workouts are a good way to prevent muscle aches due to lactic acid build up. Stick to a consistent routine for the most benefit. Interval workouts, where you alternate high-intensity bursts of exercise with periods of recovery, give your body several chances to remove lactic acid from your muscles during a session. Each time you slow down, your body works to get rid of the excess, which helps control the burn as you exercise.
Slow down, but don't stop exercising abruptly. High-intensity exercise followed by light exercise helps your muscles remove lactic acid. For example, if you are running and begin to feel your leg muscles burn, slow down to a light jog or walk until the burn goes away and your heart rate returns to normal.
Stretch your muscles immediately after a workout. Sometimes lactic acid build up produces muscle cramps in addition to a burning sensation. Light stretches help alleviate this feeling and help your muscles get rid of excess lactic acid. Gentle massage with your fingertips provides the same benefits.
Inhale and exhale slowly and regularly. The burning you feel in your muscles while exercising is due to the combination of lactic acid build up and lack of oxygen. Catching your breath helps relieve this oxygen debt and pulls the lactic acid from your muscles.
Increase your fluid intake during and after your workout. Liquids help remove the lactic acid in your muscles, relieving the ache and burning. Eat foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes or lettuce as part of your post-workout meal.
- Body Project Australia: How to Prevent Lactic Acid
- Iowa State University Extension: Fluids
- Active.com: Every Cyclist's Enemy: Exploring Lactic Acid
- The New York Times: Lactic Acid Is Not Muscles' Foe, It's Fuel
- Scientific American: Why Does Lactic Acid Build Up in Muscles? And Why Does It Cause Soreness?
- Biology; Richard Fosbery
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.