Are lactic acid crystals a fact or fiction? That is a rhetorical question because I had a very strong suspicion the answer was ‘fiction’ and it took about 22 seconds to confirm that.
I don’t have one of those ‘100 things about me’ posts but if I did number 42 would read: I spent 2 years working on a PhD in physiology. Because of that training I often doubt popular but odd sounding nutritional and fitness theories. If I had any guts I’d find a way to go back to graduate school and get a PhD in exercise physiology but I digress.
Not only are the crystals a myth, there isn’t really any lactic acid that forms in your muscles. What you get is lactate which is a by product of metabolism and is something you need. The whole ‘lactic acid threshold’ thing is grossly misunderstood and widely misrepresented. I even recall the Discovery Channel doing a thing on Lance Armstrong where they showed that he didn’t produce lactic acid the way most of us do. I’m sure Lance does something different than the rest of us (like winning the Tour de France 7 times) but I’m guessing what we all understood from that special isn’t quite right. If I think of it I’ll do some more research.
Anyhow, back to the crystals:
From Lactic acid and running: myths, legends and reality – the ABC :
Most runners still believe that lactic acid is released during hard or unaccustomed exercise and that this is what limits running performance, as well as being the cause of stiffness. Neither is correct. But not even is the terminology of “lactic acid”.Lactic acid does not exist as an acid in the body: it exists in another form called “lactate”, and it is this that is actually measured in the blood when “lactic acid” concentration is determined, as is done from time to time. This distinction is important not only for the sake of correctness, but more importantly, because lactate and lactic acid would have different physiological effects.The greatest myth is that lactic acid is the cause of the stiffness felt after an event such as a marathon. Stiffness is due mostly to damage to the muscle, and not an accumulation of lactic acid or lactic acid crystals in the muscle.
From the link in the title of this post which is also found here:
health.iafrica.com fitness online running Cramp: every runner’s nightmare
Another misconception is that lactic acid (melksuur) build-up causes cramp. This is patently incorrect. High levels of lactic acid in the muscle contribute to fatigue and the inability to sustain a particular exercise intensity by interfering with muscle contraction. On the contrary cramp is a sustained muscle contraction. Lactic acid is generated during high intensity exercise where oxygen delivery to the muscle is insufficient to meet the demand. In endurance events oxygen transport is not a limiting factor, so lactic acid production is minimal. Also, lactic acid does not stay in muscle for very long – it is shunted off to the liver to be recycled into more glucose. It does not form crystals, either in the muscle or anywhere else, so this additional explanation for cramp and also muscle pain is also without physiological foundation.
So – if you are laboring under the idea that you have lactic acid crystals in your body or some other form of lactic acid poop fagetaboutit. Not true. A massage feels great – I absolutely endorse getting a massage at every opportunity but know this – it isn’t about your crystals, it’s all about your chakras.