Lactate: A Key Player in Energy Production?
The following are some of the most common questions I get from readers regarding lactate production and its role in exercise. Some of these questions have been asked before, but I think it’s interesting to see if there is any new information or insight here. So let’s start with a basic overview of what lactate actually is…
What Is Lactate?
Lactate is a compound made up of two hydrogen atoms bonded together. When oxygen combines with hydrogen, it forms water (H2O). Hydrogen ions are negatively charged while positively charged protons are attached to them. Oxygen is a positive charge ion and when combined with hydrogen, it creates water. Lactate is the product of this reaction between H+ and O 2 .
When the body breaks down glucose into pyruvate, which is then broken down into acetyl CoA by mitochondria, it produces lactate. When the body breaks down fat for fuel during exercise, it produces fatty acids and ketone bodies.
Fatty acids and ketones are both products of aerobic metabolism. Aerobic metabolism uses oxygen to break down carbohydrates and fats for energy; however, when oxygen levels drop too low (hypoxia), aerobic respiration becomes inefficient. The body will then start to shift towards anaerobic respiration. Lactate is one of the byproducts of anaerobic respiration.
When the body begins to produce more lactate than it can remove, you start to develop a condition called acidosis. This causes the pH of your blood to drop and lowers the body’s ability to buffer this increasing acidity.
As a result, a lot of things start happening that aren’t good for you.
What Can Happen When Lactate Levels Are Too High?
When the body is producing more lactate than it can remove, you get into a situation called acidosis. The goal of most athletes is to avoid this condition as much as possible; however, the extent of its negative effects on the body have been grossly overstated in the past. The typical symptoms of acidosis are a drop in muscle strength and lowered blood pressure.
The pH of the blood can drop from 7.35 to as low as 6.9.
A lot of people believe that a lower pH is bad for the body; however, this isn’t necessarily true. A lower amount of acid in the blood passes through the blood brain barrier more easily.
Sources & references used in this article:
Why Everything You Know About Lactic Acid Might Be Wrong by T Kelso – breakingmuscle.com
The lactic acid myths by M Fitzgerald – Competitor, 2012 – ultrarunnertraining.com
Serum Lactic Acid Determines the Outcomes of CT Diagnosis of Pneumatosis of the Gastrointestinal Tract/DISCUSSION by MT Hawn, CL Canon, ME Lockhart… – The American …, 2004 – search.proquest.com