Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 4 - The Lactic Acid Mystery

I went for my cardio workout today. I was unsure how the changes in my diet would affect my run, because I felt like I had no energy (from the lack of grains). I started out slowly on the green way near my house, which has an excellently marked 5k course, so I don't have to think about how far or where I'm going I can just enjoy the run.

Everything felt normal, but I still felt like I didn't have a whole lot of energy. I kept at a slow/medium pace for about 3/4 a mile, and then I started to ramp up the speed. I felt surprisingly good. Still a little foggy in the head, but my muscles felt great. I kept going faster and faster and my muscles didn't burn like they usually do when I run. I actually felt great and I had no intention of slowing down, but I wondered if I could keep that quick pace.

I didn't time myself because I forgot to bring a watch, but just from observation I know that I was running pretty hard, and I definitely was able to run at a higher speed for longer than I normally can. Normally, my muscles are burning for me to slow down, but not this time. I remember reading somewhere that a high carbohydrate diet (like the one I was accustomed to) is shown to increase lactic acid.

There seems to be all sorts of confusion as to what lactic acid really is. In an article from The New York Times, Gina Kolata writes,

"Everyone who has even thought about exercising has heard the warnings about lactic acid. It builds up in your muscles. It is what makes your muscles burn. Its buildup is what makes your muscles tire and give out.

Coaches and personal trainers tell athletes and exercisers that they have to learn to work out at just below their "lactic threshold," that point of diminishing returns when lactic acid starts to accumulate. Some athletes even have blood tests to find their personal lactic thresholds.

But that, it turns out, is all wrong. Lactic acid is actually a fuel, not a caustic waste product. Muscles make it deliberately, producing it from glucose, and they burn it to obtain energy. The reason trained athletes can perform so hard and so long is because their intense training causes their muscles to adapt so they more readily and efficiently absorb lactic acid.”

Most articles say that lactic acid is fuel for exercise that helps you avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This is contrary to the popular belief that lactic acid is excess waste our body produces. I’m in way over my head with all this science speak, but I was able to tell first hand that I didn’t have the same lactic acid build up (or whatever causes our muscles to burn), when I was running today, that I had the past 8 months of running.

I know, this is just the first experience running on the paleo diet, but it was a good one. And I look forward to seeing how I perform at hockey, because I always feel like I have no energy by the third period, no matter what I eat.

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