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Lactic Acid Naturally Protects, Feeds Muscles

Between Lance Armstong's successful pursuit of the his sixth straight Tour de France and the U.S. taking the lion's share of gold medals at the Summer Olympic games, you've probably heard countless athletes talking about "feeling the burn." That's a sensation normally associated with the presence of lactic acid, a waste product that tells people when their muscles are fatigued. At least that's been the popular opinion until recently...

Actually, lactic acid helps muscles continue firing when they might otherwise fail, according to a new study. And, the presence of lactic acid really protects muscles from being fatigued.

Not too long ago in a previous study, researchers proved the lactate from lactic acid is a valuable fuel derived as the body breaks down carbohydrates. Not only do muscles consume it eagerly, the brain and heart also suck it up from the bloodstream to keep systems running.

High levels can cause some sensation of muscle burn during exercise--due to hydrogen ions that are released when lactic acid is broken down into lactate--but it doesn't stick around long after activity.

This new research shows that lactic acid serves as more than a fuel. In fact, lactic acid actually help keeps muscles running when they might otherwise become sluggish.

ABC News August 23, 2004

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