Sporting myths: the REAL role of lactate during exercise


  • T Mann



Background. Lactate or, as it was customarily known, ‘lactic acid’ was one of the first molecules to attract the attention of early exercise scientists, mainly because blood lactate concentration could be measured and was shown to increase with increasing exercise intensity. This connection resulted in lactate being associated with numerous other events associated with high-intensity exercise including muscle cramps, fatigue, acidosis and post-exercise muscle soreness. Nobel prize-winning research by AV Hill and Otto Meyerhof provided a rational explanation linking lactate to anaerobiosis and acidosis, which resulted in this relationship being widely accepted as fact. It was only following isotopic tracer studies of George Brooks and others that the true role of lactate during rest and exercise was revealed. Conclusions. Lactate is now acknowledged as an important intermediate of carbohydrate metabolism, taken up from the blood by tissues such as skeletal and cardiac muscle as a substrate for oxidation. Furthermore, lactate formation consumes a proton, thereby buffering against muscle acidosis. For this reason, lactate production forms an essential aid to endurance performance rather than a hindrance.


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How to Cite

Mann, T. (2007). Sporting myths: the REAL role of lactate during exercise. South African Journal of Sports Medicine, 19(5).