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To understand what lactic acid actually is, we recommend using a runner as an example. You wake up, put on your running shoes and hit the road. What happens after that?
How lactic acid is produced
Let’s say you are healthy and have an average fitness level. Your muscles would’ve stored up a sufficient amount of carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) from your dinner the previous night. As soon as you start your running session, your muscles will start breaking down the glycogen into smaller energy units called glucose. According to medical experts, glucose is defined as:
“It’s a type of sugar you get from foods you eat, and your body uses it for energy. As it travels through your bloodstream to your cells, it’s called blood glucose or blood sugar.”
Your cells will break down the glucose down further and convert it into pyruvate and lactate. When you exercise at a moderate level, you will breathe in enough oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. In this way the pyruvate will enter the compartments of the muscle cells. These cells are called the mitochondria, which is where ATP – energy – is formed.
Your cells will continuously seek equilibrium
This is why there will always be some lactate being produced. When you start exercising, there is more pyruvate than lactate. So as you increase your exercise intensity, your muscles demand more energy. Ten minutes into your run the energy compartments in your muscles will begin to reach maximum capacity in terms of the amount of pyruvate they can take up and turn over into ATP. Here is where the lactate comes in. When the mitochondria can no longer take up pyruvate, they will start to produce more lactate to compensate. Lactate levels increase as performance drops off.
Lactate doesn’t only appear when you’re training hard
Muscles use lactate for energy during moderate and intensive exercise. As your fitness improves, your muscles wiil start to create more mitochondria. When this happens you’ll be able to take up up even more lactate and use it for energy. After a few months of a cardio routine, your blood lactate levels will actually decrease for a given exercise intensity, which means that you’ll be taking up lactate more efficiently.
The cardio machine that you have to try
When you’re a newbie at the gym, everything can look a bit intimidating. The best place to start is with the cardio machines as these have super duper fat-burning properties. The stairmaster is great as it targets the glutes and thighs – and is guaranteed to make you work hard! Personal trainers recommend that you do between 20 and 30 minutes here, three times per week.
We love the elliptical trainer as well. Among others, it gives a great total body workout and incinerates fat: you can burn between 270 and 400 calories in a 30-minute session. It’s also incredibly low-impact as you feet never leave the pedals. This means that it’s gentle on your joints.
Other must-try cardio workouts
Expert personal trainers also recommend plyometrics. These exercises are extremely adaptable for beginners and don’t need any fancy equipment. A good starter is the Jumping Jack. Do as many as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, and then do as many as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds. Increase your time to 40 seconds for the last set.
Skipping is an amazing fat-burning workout. Either choose to skip for a certain amount of time or do a prescribed number of reps. For example, skip for 30 – 60 seconds or do 50 – 100 jumps. What ever you choose to you, you’ll get your heart pumping – big time!
Are you interested in learning more about how the human body responds to exercise? Do you want to discover the science behind exercise? Then Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Comprehensive Exercise Science Certification is for you.