Despite research dating back over 30 years, several misconceptions surrounding lactic acid (lactate) still exist amongst fitness practitioners and the general public (1). Common misconceptions include that it was considered a primary cause of fatigue during exercise as well as the cause of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sometimes experienced 12-to-72 hours following exercise. Furthermore, it was also incorrectly regarded as a waste product of metabolism that would impair athletic performance if it was allowed to accumulate within the muscle cell.

On the contrary, we have come to learn that lactic acid (lactate) is more friend-than-foe and actually serves as a viable energy reserve for both our aerobic and anaerobic pathways (2, 3). It is true that the accumulation of this product during intense exercise can alter muscle pH and impede muscle contraction while simultaneously activating pain receptors (aka acute muscle pain), but this issue normally resolves itself within 30 to 60 minutes following the cessation of an exercise bout (3). The DOMS experienced over subsequent hours to days has nothing to do with this metabolic by-product, but is believed to be more aligned with microtrauma occurring within the muscle fibers due to excessive loads or volumes of eccentric muscle action.

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