Anyone who has performs physically strenuous activities like martial arts training or lifting weights has experienced the soreness that follows. You might have been told lactic acid is responsible for the soreness, but that’s not entirely true. Lactic acid production is an essential and valuable part of training hard.
In an ideal world, all of your training would be aerobic activities since you recover faster, experience less fatigue, and get more out of your workouts. However, your body can’t deliver all the energy you needed during workouts by aerobic methods alone, primarily when you’re engaged in moderate to high-intensity exercises.
Your body has two main ways of delivering additional energy besides aerobic means: the alactic and lactic systems. These two systems generate energy faster than aerobic means, but using these systems leads to more fatigue.
The alactic system uses energy present in muscle tissues to produce high levels of energy that last for up to 12 seconds. It then hands over the responsibility of generating energy to the lactic system. The lactic system can be your primary energy source for about a minute before you have to slow down or take a break.
Many activities like training or competing in martial arts require you to perform longer than a minute, so developing both systems is essential to improve your ability to perform at a high level for longer periods.
Understanding The Differences Between Alactic And Lactic System Training
We’ll start by taking a closer look at the lactic system to paint a clearer picture of its similarities and differences with the alactic system:
We’ll need to understand how the lactic system works to understand how muscular fatigue occurs. Lactic energy production is made possible by a series of chemical reactions called anaerobic glycolysis. The reaction starts with a molecule of sugar that is converted into glucose. The glucose is then split into two molecules of pyruvate. This pyruvate can be used oxidatively by the body or converted into lactate to power intense activities.
The more intense your physical workload, the higher your lactate levels will be. This is what initially led researchers to think lactic acid was the cause of the fatigue and pain associated with intense workouts.
Science also tells us that any lactate present in your blood during high-intensity exercise is gone within a few hours after exercising, so it can’t be responsible for muscle soreness following workouts since most people report peak soreness about 24 hours after their workouts.
The real reason you experience soreness after intense workouts is likely the hydrogen ions that accumulate in the body during intense exercise. While this remains a theory that has not been fully proven, the fact remains that lactic energy is good – not bad – for your body.
Think of lactic acid as a bridge between aerobic and anaerobic energy production. It can be used directly by the muscles it is produced or transferred to other parts of the body to be used for aerobic energy production. Athletes and martial artists who rely significantly on their lactate metabolism often produce as much as 50 percent more lactic acid than athletes who compete in aerobic sports.
The additional lactic acid production is a testament to the body’s improved ability to tolerate intense physical activity. This means you can make your body more efficient at creating lactic acid by regularly performing intense physical activities.
Your body stores energy in your cells in the form of a chemical compound known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Your muscle cells can only store enough ATP to fuel a few seconds of intense work. However, these muscle cells also store another compound called creatine phosphate, which replenishes used ATP quickly.
ATP and creatine phosphate make up the alactic anaerobic system. The system can supply energy for up to ten seconds of muscle contraction, and existing creatine phosphate stores quickly replenish them. Once ATP and creatine phosphate are exhausted, it’s up to the lactic or aerobic systems to replenish them.
Improving Your Lactic Metabolism
Your anaerobic system is responsible for how much power you can generate quickly and how long you can keep it up. Improving your anaerobic capacity will allow you to perform intense workouts for longer periods while improving your anaerobic power allows you to perform more reps of intense activities.
Your anaerobic threshold is the level where you can no longer sustain high-intensity activities. It is also known as your lactic threshold. This level can be easily determined by the accumulation of lactate in the blood. When you reach your anaerobic threshold, your body’s need for energy becomes greater than the energy your body can produce. Once you reach this point, your output will be diminished until you’re forced to stop the activity altogether.
Your anaerobic capacity depends on how often you perform physically-intense activities and your aerobic capabilities below the anaerobic threshold. That means your training programs should include a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
Training to improve your anaerobic capacity leads to a few distinct changes in your body, like an increase in your pH buffering capability, an increase in available energy substrates, and an increase in the rate at which waste products are removed.
Increasing your anaerobic power leads to changes like improvements in your central nervous system pathways, glycolytic enzymes, and an increase in glycolytic muscle tissue. However, there are some limitations regarding how much you can develop your lactic system. For example, your genetics plays a role in how much you can improve your anaerobic system.
Improving Your Alactic Metabolism
Since the body rapidly uses creatine phosphate and ATP, you’ll need to focus on short, all-out exercises that last about ten seconds, like sprints, vertical jumps, and lifting heavy weights you can rep once or twice.
Give your body ample time to recover from each exercise since your body needs to replenish its creatine and ATP stores before your next set. Aim to get about 30 seconds of rest for every 10 seconds of work when performing exercises to strengthen your alactic system.
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