Lactic Acid: It’s Time for the Truth

Fact or Fiction?

“Lactic acid makes your muscles sore for a few days after a vigorous work-out.”

Fiction. What?! Yep, that’s not what causes muscle soreness. Tiny tears on the muscle and inflammation is believed to be the cause of after work-out pain.  Are you ready for more? Massage does NOT “flush” lactic acid out of your muscles. There, I said it out loud.

This could be a shock to many of you, dear clients, since many massage therapists, coaches, teachers, trainers and even sports announcers  still speak this as the truth. When I attended massage school I heard this phrase many times a day, “You need to flush the lactic acid out of the muscles.” I didn’t question this much, after all I’d heard all my life  the aforementioned myths. My instructors weren’t intentionally giving my false information, they absolutely believed what they were saying. They were teaching what they had been taught. (I feel no ill will toward them, I just really should have questioned things more.)

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Research has given us a better idea of this “lactic acid” stuff. Thought for many years to be a waste product, we are learning that lactate or “lactic acid” is actually a fuel used by the body in a vigorous work-out. This article from Runner’s World gives a great explanation about how the body uses glucose and lactate for energy. And, hot dang, the body might actually prefer lactate!

So the the next time you “feel the burn” don’t curse the lactic acid you’re surely building up because your muscles are using it as fuel. And about that whole “Massage flushes lactic acid out of sore muscles” thing, research findings suggest that the lactate is actually gone from the muscle within an hour or so. Hmm. That means the massage you get the next day isn’t doing anything with lactate.  Talk about interesting! This article from the New York Times talks a bit about lactic acid, too.

Two days after your Cross Fit torture work-out when you are limping along with tight hammies you’ll know that it’s little tiny muscle tears that are hurting, not the evil lactic acid. Two days after the work-out while you’re receiving the most wonderful recovery massage you can feel confident that your massage therapist (ahem, me) isn’t trying to wring some weird substance from your muscle fibers. She’s rubbing your tired, sore muscles, soothing them into relaxation and helping them to prepare for the next go-round.

Did I blow your mind? Do you have questions? Ask away! What have you heard about work-outs and sore muscles?

PS If you are trying the Cross Fit, Cross Train, 5K/Half/Whole Marathon thing in the Paris, Arkansas area: woo hoo! Congrats and more power to ya! Give me a call so we can discuss if you want massage therapy as part of your training.

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