Lactic acid is produced when there is a high demand for energy, that is, when you perform a workout with enough intensity. Lactate accumulates when the body produces more than muscle tissues are able to eliminate.
Traditionally, the stiffness we suffer in the days after a great weight training has been attributed to the crystallization of lactic acid. However, numerous studies have shown that it is not this compound that generates the muscle pain that we call stiffness.
The accumulation of lactic acid in muscle tissues during a workout has two main consequences.
On the one hand, calcium stops binding to muscle fibers and this makes it impossible to contract the muscle. On the other hand, glucose molecules stop breaking down and cannot be absorbed by muscles.
Therefore the muscle ceases to have energy. The result of these two processes is the appearance of fatigue that makes us finish a workout.
Stiffness or muscle pain of delayed origin is currently related to an inflammatory reaction of muscle fibers in reaction to microruptures caused by training.
When we train in hypertrophy ranges, what we are looking for is to maximize the muscle damage caused during training so that the muscles grow when they are repaired by the body during rest.
Therefore, the more effective our training has been, the more muscle microruptures we will generate and the more likely we will be to suffer stiffness in the following days.
Other myths related to stiffness
The main myths related to stiffness are about the best ways to “cure” them or make the pain go away. A popularly widespread belief is that drinking sugar water cures stiffness.
This remedy is based on the belief that the laces were lactic acid crystals, but the truth is that these crystals do not exist since the body eliminates lactic acid in a matter of minutes. Therefore, drinking water with sugar or water with lemon and sugar has no effect, neither positive nor negative for stiffness.
Another widespread myth is that stiffness is cured by training the painful area. Like the previous myth, this one also appeared in relation to lactic acid crystals. However, the effects of training the sore area are positive.
The only problem with this myth is the explanation of why it is beneficial. It is not true that by training an area with stiffness we break the lactic acid crystals and that in this way they are better absorbed, since these crystals do not even form.
However, by exercising the muscle at low intensity or simply with a stretching session, we achieve greater blood flow in the region that will manage to eliminate the waste around the microbreaks and slightly reduce their inflammation. Other effective remedies for stiffness are anti-inflammatories and cold.
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