Muscular fatigue is often considered the bodies way of preventing undue stress and damage to the working muscle and surrounding structures. Throughout a century’s worth of research, there is no one single cause of fatigue. Rather the cause of fatigue is dependent on the task and situation and can often be due to a number of different physiological reactions. One of the longest running theories on the cause of muscular fatigue is the build up of lactic acid. This week’s Q & A will address this issue and attempt to answer the question ‘What are the best supplements to help reduce lactic acid?’
1. What are the best supplements to help reduce lactic acid build up?
Before we dive into this question, we should address some key points:
- Research on muscular fatigue has progressed substantially in the past 20-40 years and lactic acid build up and resulting acidosis is not the only cause of fatigue and not the most important and crippling.
- Lactic acid is not really the culprit. Rather it is the dissociation of lactic acid into lactate and hydrogen ions that causes the muscle environment to become more acidic. Lactic acid accumulation does contribute, but only indirectly.
- Interestingly, lactic acid, once it does convert to lactate can actually be shuttled into various places to be used as energy or even reconverted to glycogen and stored.
Lactic acidosis is inevitable if you participate in intense exercise and as it is still considered a contributing factor for fatigue, we can try to negate its effects via three main ways:
1. Reducing the rate of lactic acid production.
2. Increasing the rate of lactic acid removal.
3. Improving the buffering capacity and environment of the body.
Training over the years has aimed to reduce the production and accumulation of lactic acid. As such, many protocols have aimed to improve increase in VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption), cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart) and mitochondrial density (the key power generators in our cells). In addition, certain supplements have been used to try and improve blood flow and also act as buffering agents against a decreased intramuscular pH. Two of the more well known and well researched ingredients have been beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate (simple baking soda).
Beta-Alanine supplementation works by increasing levels of carnosine, which is a molecule in the body that is released in reaction to a more acidic environment and act as a buffer. Standard doses of beta-alanine are along the lines of 2000-5000mg, but higher doses can cause a normal and harmless tingling sensation known as parasthesia.
Sodium Bicarbonate supplementation on the other hand helps to provide bicarbonate, which also acts as a buffer against acid. Sodium bicarbonate supplementation can cause stomach upsets and should not be taken by those trying to avoid increasing their sodium intake, but it can help with exercises that cause the ‘burn’ feeling. Typical doses are around 200-300mg/kg of body weight taken 60-90 minutes before exercise. To avoid any gastro issues, you can supplement sodium bicarb at smaller doses throughout the day.
Take Away Point – Beta-Alanine & Sodium Bicarbonate
The idea that lactic acid is the main cause of muscular fatigue is outdated. However it is still considered a contributing factor to the development of fatigue. Training techniques are some of these best ways to combat the increase in lactic acid production and accumulation, however certain supplements can also be beneficial. Two of the more potent buffers of acidity in the body are bicarbonate and beta-alanine so if you want to increase your edge in the training arena even more, try to find these two ingredients in the pre workouts that you’re taking. One of the best supplements around that includes both these ingredients is the Max's Shok Shot.
1. Ernest W. Maglischo,. 2012. Does Lactic Acid Cause Muscular Fatigue?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rowperfect.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Does-lactic-acid-cause-fatigue.pdf. [Accessed 24 June 15].