Lactic acid is a product of anaerobic energy production. When you work out, you stress the fibers in your muscles, causing them to break down. As these muscle fibers break down, your body responds by processing the by-products of intense muscular exertion (a complex chemical and mitochondrial process), which is also referred to as muscular acidosis, or lactic acid build up in the muscle tissue. This process is accompanied by an aching soreness, varying from mild discomfort to serious pain.
You will most likely feel the most soreness (related to your body processing the lactic acid buildup in your recovering muscle fibers) the second and third day after an intense workout.
Five Ways to Relieve Symptoms of Lactic Acid Build Up
Lactic acid build up can be so uncomfortable that it may prevent you from working out again for several days. However, you can take steps to reduce the painful soreness associated with lactic acid buildup. This will allow you to continue working out at an intense level without dealing with a debilitating amount of soreness.
Increase Your Intake of Vitamin C and Potassium
While concrete scientific proof is still pending, Vitamin C and potassium are both believed to help muscles release greater quantities of lactic acid by many physical trainers. Both nutrients are also believed to speed the recovery and repair the stressed muscle fibers. Vitamin C can be found in citrus juice and supplements. Potassium is found in bananas and kiwi.
Drink Plenty of Water
By drinking plenty of water, you can flush your body of excess lactic acid. Some nutritionists advise drinking sports drinks which restore electrolytes, claiming the restoration of electrolytes will decrease the pain experienced from lactic acid build up.
Stretch After Exercising
When you take the time to stretch after exercising, you allow the muscles to release some of the lactic acid building up in the muscles. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and be sure to stretch the muscles you worked the hardest for the most time. It's best to stretch these muscles again right before bed and again the morning after a difficult workout session.
Alternate Muscle Groups When Weight Training
If you change up the muscle groups you work, you'll give the broken down muscle fibers a chance to repair before breaking them down again. This will reduce the amount of lactic acid build up in those muscle groups.
Keep Working Out
After several workouts, you'll find your muscles suffer less and less from pain related to lactic acid build up. This is because the muscles adapt to the strain placed upon them.
With the advances in weight-lifting technology, the choice between free weights and weight machines comes down to a matter of comfort, preference and safety.