If you do an intense leg workout at home, you will have lactic acid build-up in your legs. Fortunately, there are several ways to remove this lactic acid from your lower body. Learning these methods will help you quickly recover from an intense bout of exercise.
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Lactic Acid in Muscles
Lactic acid will build up in your legs as you intensely exercise, according to a January 2017 report in the Journal of Advanced Review on Scientific Research. This build-up decreases your pH level and the amount of enzymes you need to produce energy.
You will eventually deplete these enzymes, weaken the calcium binding of your muscles and experience feelings of fatigue. This fatigue causes pain that makes you want to stop exercising. Even if you can tolerate that pain, your legs will eventually stop generating the force you need to move forward.
Increasing your fitness gives you the best way to prevent fatigue. The authors of an August 2017 paper in Redox Biology showed how trained athletes can better tolerate the build-up of lactic acid. They measured lactic acid in millimoles per liter, mmol/L. This metric system measurement indicates the concentration level of a substance.
Sedentary people and trained athletes have the same resting level of lactic acid — 1.5 mmol/L. If both groups start running on a treadmill, the pain will cause sedentary people to stop at a level of 10 mmol/L. In contrast, trained athletes will continue until they hit 20 mmol/L. Lactic acid will naturally return to its baseline level — 1.5 mmol/L — within an hour.
Behavioral Ways to Remove Lactate
Intense exercise will trigger the build-up of lactic acid even in unusually fit athletes. Fortunately, several treatments exist to remove that lactic acid. The writers of a July 2017 article in Technology and Health Care tried a new approach — whole-body vibration — in 24 healthy adults.
In this study, all participants walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes. After the walk, half of them sat on a vibrating chair, and the other half sat on a non-vibrating chair. People in the whole-body vibration group had less lactic acid and showed better recovery.
Doing an active recovery can also help you remove the lactic acid from your legs. The authors of a March 2015 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared active and passive recovery in 14 downhill skiers. The athletes used these methods at the top of the hill before doing their next run. Compared to passive recovery, active recovery caused a greater decrease in lactic acid. Skiers doing an active recovery moved faster and completed more runs.
The small sample size tested in these two studies might prevent firm conclusions. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that changing your behavior during, or soon after, a workout can prevent the build-up of lactic acid.
Dietary Ways to Remove Lactate
There are also some lactic acid supplements you can try. The writers of an August 2019 paper in the Bali Medical Journal looked at the effect of drinking banana juice on lactic acid. After all, bananas offer you many health benefits. The researchers had 10 teenage students consume the banana drink after playing volleyball. Lactic acid decreased 2.86 mmol/L in the control group and 4.43 mmol/L in the treatment group.
Carnitine gives you another option. The authors of a February 2014 report in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research tested the effect of this amino acid derivative in 26 soccer players. The athletes took 3 or 4 grams of L-carnitine during a single testing session. Compared to a placebo, this treatment delayed the inevitable increase in lactic acid caused by an intense run. The researchers found no difference between the 3- and 4-gram doses.
The authors of these two small-scale studies tested only a few participants, but the results suggest that pre-loading certain nutrients can help you lower your lactic acid levels. This decrease should prevent the pain typically experienced when your lactic acid rises. Nonetheless, scientists will have to confirm these findings in large-scale experiments.
- Journal of Advanced Review on Scientific Research: "Fatigue Onset Through Oxidative Stress, Dehydration and Lactic Acid Accumulation and Its in vivo Study Using Experimental Animals"
- Redox Biology: "Exercise, Oxidants and Antioxidants Change the Shape of the Bell-Shaped Hormesis Curve"
- Technology and Health Care: "Effect of Whole Body Vibration on Lactate Level Recovery and Heart Rate Recovery in Rest After Intense Exercise"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Effect of On-Hill Active Recovery Performed Between Runs on Blood Lactate Concentration and Fatigue in Alpine Ski Racers"
- Bali Medical Journal: "Different Effects of Banana Juice and Sport Drink on Lactic Acid Among Volleyball Students in Surakarta"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Effects of Acute L-Carnitine Supplementation on Endurance Performance of Athletes"