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JONES: Muscle gain without pain: Discern the burn

Dear Doug,

Mahalo for answering my question last month about muscle soreness. I loved your point about how lowering weight is both the cause and the cure. I had always thought that lactic acid was the primary culprit. I guess not, huh? Does lactic acid have anything at all to do with soreness the day after I work out?

Penny from Po‘ipu (again)

Aloha again, Penny.

I’m happy to elaborate for you. There is definitely a lot of misinformation out there, and the topic of muscular soreness unquestionably deserves a two-part answer.

To ensure clarity, let me nitpick your question a bit, semantically, for lack of a better word. Persnicketiness is paramount.

Your question about soreness specially referred to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which typically presents itself one to five days after a workout. Eccentrics is both the cause and the cure, as eccentric muscle actions (lengthening muscle under tension by slowly lowering weight) simultaneously create and prevent muscular soreness. The paradoxical magic of muscle is truly miraculous when you “Exercise Your Eccentric Genius,” which is coincidentally the title of my book series.

For more information about soreness after exercise, please visit my website below. For more information about soreness during exercise, let’s take a look at your aforementioned friend and foe, lactic acid.

High levels of exertion require high levels of energy. At extreme intensities of exercise, your body progressively shifts gears to provide more and more fuel via anaerobic metabolism (without air or, more specifically, without oxygen). This is a good thing… a great thing. It gives you energy whether or not you “have” it, if that makes any sense. In the weight room, most of your exercises would fall into this category. Harder workouts, such as resistance training with weights, are typically considered to be more anaerobic in nature.

Now for the bad … the “No Pain — No Gain” of fitness. When your body gradually uses more energy (from carbohydrates vs fats) at higher intensities, more lactic acid and acidic hydrogen ions are produced. At one time or another, you have probably felt (or have perhaps tried harder to avoid feeling) this acidic burn associated with intense exercise. The accumulation of lactic acid happens with strong stamina, as well as with sustained strength, and climbing up the steepest slope of Kapa‘a’s Sleeping Giant comes to mind. As with delayed soreness, some people enjoy this burning sensation during intense exercise; most don’t.

So, how does this acidic burn relate to eccentrics? Weight lifting produces up to 70 percent more lactate (along with lactic acid, hydrogen ions, and acidity) than weight lowering. By my math, that’s over two-thirds more pain, if not nearly three-quarters! This equates to eccentrics (lengthening muscle under tension by slowly lowering weight) producing significantly fewer burning by-products than are typically produced by conventional weight lifting. Again, lowering weights is a much better solution.

Less lactic acid – less acidity − less pain − more gain. Your muscles are working just as hard; in fact, they’re working even harder (read my other columns). However, it just doesn’t feel like they are. Eccentrics is very productive with very little discomfort. What an ingenious invention!

During your weight-lowering eccentrics workout, you might even say, “Wow … this is really easy!” But, don’t forget, the next day (or two or few) you might say, “Wow … that was hardly easy!”

Eccentrics creates less acid, which causes less burn, and results in less pain. Eccentrics creates more force, which alters more muscle, and results in more gain. These two phenomena are mutually exclusive, but both are extremely significant.

The fact that eccentrics doesn’t burn, per se, means that you are much more likely to exercise. The fact that eccentrics does transform muscle in a positive way means that exercise is always very productive, even if you don’t feel the burn. Again, it’s the best of both worlds. Eccentrics is easier and superior.

While we’re all here, I do need to mention that fitness enthusiasts seem to have been pervasively persuaded to believe that lactic acid causes next-day muscle soreness. It does not. One does not cause the other. Lactic acid created during exercise is utilized and converted by the body (muscles, liver, heart, brain, kidneys) and thereby essentially completely cleared from the body within minutes.

Consequently, lactic acid only cause “soreness” during exercise; it does not cause the perception of DOMS that occurs after exercise. Please help to spread the word about this often-misconstrued acidic perfusion confusion. Mahalo!
Source: The Garden Island

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