Lactic acid, also known as lactate, is produced when the body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy when oxygen levels are low. This is a type of anaerobic energy production.
When you perform a high-intensity workout e.g. strength training or sprinting, your body requires greater levels of energy. Energy is supplied through ‘glycolysis’ a process which breaks down carbohydrates and glycogen to produce a high energy compound called ‘ATP’. ATP is then broken down, resulting in the release of energy and hydrogen molecules throughout your muscles.
Hydrogen ions build up in your muscles, causing a drop in your body’s pH. This increases acidity levels and disrupts the muscles ability to contract, resulting in a mid – post workout burn. This burn often eases within minutes to hours after exercise.
Some athletes may experience delayed onset muscle soreness; DOMS. This is characterised by muscle tenderness, loss of strength and range of movement which occur 24-72 hours post exercise. It can also be due to micro-tears in the muscle and an inflammatory repair response, causing swelling and soreness. Research shows that DOMS does not correlate with levels of lactate or hydrogen ions.