During workouts, your muscles use and produce energy through a series of aerobic and anaerobic processes. When oxygen flows constantly through the working muscles, waste byproducts formed as part of muscle metabolism are removed efficiently.
However, when oxygen is limited, the byproducts accumulate. Lactic acid is one such product, and it contributes to the "burn" felt during intense workouts. Lactic acid occurs as part of the overall muscle energy output, but too much creates a highly acidic environment. Safe exercise habits and diet can act as lactic acid buffers in the muscles.
Lactic Acid Buffer
Excess lactic acid buildup in the muscles was once thought to cause soreness and fatigue during the days following a strenuous workout. Research indicates, however, that lactic acid acts as a fuel source to muscle tissue, and efficient distribution to muscle cells prompts energy burn, as noted by the science-based website PhySorg. Interval training, or high-intensity exercise for short periods of time, helps the body learn to remove lactic acid more quickly.
The key to muscle recovery and reduced soreness in the days after exercise is adequate nutrition intake and avoiding activity that causes damage and collapse of the muscles. Many over-the-counter supplements claim the ability to fight lactic acid and induce muscle recovery. Before using these products, talk to your doctor.
Magnesium for Lactic Acid
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral responsible for metabolic functions, including the production of energy and oxygen use. Magnesium in the diet or through supplementation might prove beneficial in reducing lactic acid buildup during vigorous exercise, according to HealthLine.
Magnesium in the diet comes from foods such as legumes, nuts, leafy green vegetables and whole grains. Magnesium supplements are available in different forms but are generally mixed with buffering compounds to prevent excess intake of pure magnesium in the bloodstream.
Creatine and Lactic Acid
Creatine is a naturally produced amino acid that you can also consume from protein-containing foods. Creatine converts to phosphate during metabolism and is stored in your muscles. It provides energy to muscle cells, particularly during exercise.
Creatine can act as a lactic acid buffer if enough is present in your muscles before exercise, and it can aid in muscle recovery when consumed after exercise. Supplemental forms are available as powders, liquid, tablets or drinks. Before taking creatine, consult your physician because too much in the body produces a byproduct that is harmful to the kidneys and liver.
Omega-3 and Protein
Omega-3 fatty acids are dietary essentials important for heart, brain and metabolic functions. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish and nuts. These foods also contain a rich source of protein, which is important for muscle growth, repair and recovery.
These types of supplements prove helpful in muscle recovery after heavy exercise, notes a study published in 2014 by the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. However, as with most supplements, dosing varies and should be discussed with your doctor before use.
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- PhySorg: Muscles Burn Lactic Acid as Well as Carbos
- HealthLine: 6 Ways to Get Rid of Lactic Acid in the Muscles
- Mayo Clinic: Creatine
- Journal of Sports Science & Medicine: Influence of Omega-3 (N3) Index on Performance and Wellbeing in Young Adults After Heavy Eccentric Exercise