Fitness & Equipment Guides > What is Lactic Acid and Why Does it Build?

What is Lactic Acid and Why Does it Build?

18th Feb 20

Exercise is a tough subject to truly master. There’s a lot that goes into it after all. That ranges from the most basic principles such as what goes into burning calories all the way through to how to get the best out of each and every performance. Whether that’s improving your 100M sprint record or jogging for the first time, there’s often one niggling factor that steps in to cause you grief. That’s lactic acid. It’s a serious pain that we all have to deal with.

What Lactic Acid actually is


Person struggling to do push ups


Lactic acid, or lactate, is a substance that your body produces and uses for energy in certain criteria. It allows you to fuel your movement and keep going onwards, especially in exercise or dangerous situations. That’s the barebones definition of what lactic acid is.

Why it Forms

The next question in the story of what lactic acid really is comes from what its purpose is. If it causes issues, then why does it happen? Well, when there is not enough oxygen to use for fuel during aerobic respiration, you need something to keep you going. That’s lactic acid. That’s essentially when you get out of breath during exercise, but you can keep pushing on.

Why it Builds up

So, so far so good; lactic acid helps. Lactic acid build-up, however, is where we start seeing problems. It’s very difficult to actually use all of the lactic acid that your body makes. As a result, that all goes into your bloodstream. When it gets a little too much, called reaching your lactate threshold. Things take a turn for the worse here.

What are the Symptoms

Much like with a stitch, the symptoms of lactic acid are hard to miss. They tend to be a level of high physical pain. It’s seriously uncomfortable, and chances are, it’s the burning, almost nauseous feeling you get after exercising at a high pace for a prolonged period. It’s instantaneous and really comes out of nowhere a lot of the time.

Dealing with Lactic Acid Build Up


Person breathing to reduce lactic acid build up


Now that we know about what lactic acid is and why it happens, it’s time to look at what to do when it actually occurs. There’s nothing worse than being forced to exercise in pain after all, and there’s more to it than just suffering.

How to Reduce it

The first stop is the immediate actions you should take when it does happen. There are steps to take after all. The biggest is actually, believe it or not, just to stop exercising. Your body will deal with it naturally as long as you stop the build-up ASAP. Don’t push through it if you don’t need to. There’s just no real need, and it’s going to make your performance subpar anyway.

How to Prevent it

The other side of the coin comes from how to stop it from happening in the first place. The best offence is a good defence as the old saying goes. Stopping the problem before it starts is one of the best things you can do in any situation. To do that, you need to usual pillars of healthy fitness:

  • Sleep
  • Hydrate
  • Eat well
  • Warm-up
  • Build up

All of these things play a massive part in what lactic acid is and how it works, so remember all of them and how important they are too good health in general. They have a huge effect on everything.

Start slowly and work your way up to exercise gradually. There’s no reason to push yourself to your absolute physical limit every single time you exercise after all. Push gradually and let your fitness improve over time.


Good luck with your training!


For more info on the subject, check out this article form WebMD General Banner


Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.