Muscle Dysmorphia – A Personal Account

This week The Guardian ran a great piece by Sirin Kale on the rise of muscle dysmorphia (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/17/gym-eat-repeat-the-shocking-rise-of-muscle-dysmorphia).

For those of you that don’t know what muscle dysmorphia is, it’s a psychological condition where the subject feels they need to be bigger and more muscular, despite already being big and muscular. Tagged “bigorexia” it can become a devastating and all consuming obsession with serious emotional, mental and physical issues.

Mainly affecting men, self-referral is rare (often only when something has gone catastrophically wrong) and so it remains often undiagnosed and untreated.

The piece is full of stories of young men who’ve take muscle dysmorphia to an extreme. The symptoms: excessive workouts, eating disorders (too much, too little and/or binges), steroid and performance enhancing drug (PED) abuse.

Worryingly muscle dysmorphia is on the increase for young men, driven by media images of rippling torsos and six packs. Bigger is better is the clear message and it’s no surprise that in the UK we’re also seeing an increase in PED abuse, particularly for young men.

I’ve got personal experience of muscle dysmorphia, and I continue to witness it within the fitness profession. In the worst cases people are physically ruined. I see a lot of lies, deceit and people misleading others and hiding from their own behaviour.

So – in the hope of helping others with this article – I felt compelled to share my story.

25 year or so ago I was a fresh faced fresher at university. I was eager to carve a new identity, to fit in, to be self-confident. To me the key was to have a good body.

I’d been a fat kid until I was sent to boarding school where a combination of lots of sport and physical and mental bullying meant I shed the pounds. I threw myself into sport and weights with vigour. Among the sports I played through my teen years and twenties were rugby, rowing and boxing – all sports that value power. That meant lots of gym time.

However, my earlier fat kid taunting told my subconscious mind that despite the often insane amounts of exercise I was doing, I was still a fat kid. It came to a head during my first year at university, where I would train for 1 to 2 hours a day, but then have a salad for lunch and dinner, convinced I was still too fat.

Of course, I was working against my body. I wanted to bulk up and get big. I should have been eating everything I could get my hands on, but convinced that the person in the mirror was still fat and my muscles weren’t showing through enough, I did the opposite. The result was I didn’t see the goals I was looking for.

I was lucky. Over time I gradually let go of my behaviour and educated myself on how to nourish my body. But it’s a pattern that persisted until fairly recently (I‘m now 46). Until about 4 years ago, I would still leave food on plates even though I’m still hungry, not eat pizza crusts and make strange, irrational food choices because there’s a voice in my head telling me if I eat it I’ll get fat.

Thankfully I’ve worked on my psyche as well as my nutritional knowledge and I love my food and my training. Most importantly I learnt to love my body too. I do often wonder though how much I may have stunted my development by being so calorie deficient during my growth spurt years.

Sadly, I see muscle dysmorphia all the time in the fitness industry, and it’s getting worse, with social media playing a massive part in fuelling it.

I know a PT who looks amazing. But he should. He obsessively weighs and measures all his food, pre-packing it in boxes each week and eating at set times. He won’t go on dates as he won’t drink or eat food that isn’t on his programme. He’s depressed, lonely and aside from this there’s another price to pay. Every 6 to 8 weeks he’ll totally lose it, have a massive weekend, binge on drink and drugs, feel terrible, beat himself up about what he’s done then commit even harder to the rigidness of his regime. He’s been running this cycle for years.

So my advice:

  • Guys – please don’t look at these big muscly dudes and think it’s natural. It’s not – and they’re putting their body under huge stress that will wreak havoc in years to come.
  • Also – realise their looks come at a HUGE price – no social life, no love life, obsessive behaviour and a general lack of energy and lust for life – not to mention erectile disfunction!
  • And finally – stop comparing. Try if you can to see your body as a glorious gift that is more than JUST aesthetics. We lack perspective in today’s ‘body conscious’ society – so cultivate gratitude.

If this resonates please feel free to share – and of course reach out to me. It’s my mission to pass on my knowledge so that you can start living a happy, healthy life for good.

James x

Middle Age & Weight Gain: How To Handle It

What makes loosing weight hard as we get older and how can we get a handle on it?

We had this question recently from one of our clients, but it’s not the first time we’ve been asked it. We’re middle aged ourselves so this is something we’ve looked into, for our own goals and to successfully help our clients.

First up, why does it get harder to lose weight as we age? Well, there are a few reasons – mostly to do with the natural ageing process of our bodies. After about the age of 35 (we’re all different though – that’s why we work with blood tests and genetic samples with our consulting clients), there are a number of hormonal changes going on in the body which can contribute to weight gain.

For both men and women sex hormone levels drop, with less testosterone in the body, we have a lowered ability to synthesis new muscle tissue. This is an issue as from this age we’re losing roughly 3 to 5% of our muscle mass per decade with a resulting progressive drop strength. It’s a double whammy, our muscle tissue is degenerating and our hormonal balance is no longer primed for regeneration.

Our bone density also lowers (partly in thanks to lower oestrogen levels), while this won’t affect our weight per se, it’s important to note this for the fixes we’re going to recommend.

Likewise our collagen production lowers as our age increases (yes wrinkles!) but also less elastic tendons and ligaments.

On top of this our metabolisms also slow as we age, meaning we burn less energy than we used to. Now factor in that muscle is highly metabolically active, and that we’re losing that too and you can see that we’ve got double whammy of metabolic sluggishness.

Throw increased stress into the mix (midlifers are known as Generation Squeeze – careers, kids, parents etc) and you can be looking at raised cortisol levels too. This is linked with increased body fat (particularly abdominal fat) not to mention a host of other negative health indicators – both physical and mental.

So, let’s recap: our metabolisms are slowing, we’re losing muscle mass (slowing metabolism further), strength, flexibility and bone density. We’re probably stressed too, leading to more fat gain and our lifestyles probably mean we’re not moving as much as we should and we’re probably eating too many of the wrong things at the wrong times. That’s why losing weight is harder as we get older.

All is not lost – far from it! And it doesn’t take a massive lifestyle overhaul. We need to address two factors – movement, and nutrition.

As we age, it’s great to keep moving for all kinds of health reasons, and if you can, a couple of HIIT sessions a week are going to be great to boost your cardiovascular fitness, burn body fat and raise your metabolic rate. If you need to ease into HIIT then standard cardio is fine, it’s about getting moving regularly.

If you can go the HIIT route then you need to train for 15 – 20 mins twice a week – do-able!

We also want to not only preserve, but increase that muscle mass, so a minimum of two sessions of resistance training a week are your prescription for: increased muscle, increased strength, better bone density, higher metabolic rate.

These sessions don’t have to be in a gym, or even using weights at all. Again, a 20 to 30 minute bodyweight workout can work wonders.

Moving more burns more calories too, which is going to help with your fat loss. The other thing that’s going to help is addressing your nutrition. Knowing what to eat, when makes a huge difference and it’s not about restriction or foregoing your pleasures – we love a drink. This is something we spend time coaching our clients on and helping them with their nutrition, making sure they’ve got a firm grasp of the essentials for sustainable, long term healthy living.

Add some stretching post workout for those tendons and ligaments, or a regular yoga class, and when you put it all together you’re helping future proof your body for old age.

Finally, address the stress. Start habits and rituals that help move you to a more positive space. Practice meditation and mindfulness. There’s a lot you can do for yourself, but working on your mind is definitely an area that getting help can make a big difference with. We’ll use NLP techniques or patterning based on hypnotic symbolism to help clients reduce stress and shift towards positive habits and thoughts.

There we have it, some of the things that are happening to us as we get older, and solutions for dealing with them so that we can get to, then stay, in the mental and physical shape we want to be in.

With the right knowledge its not that hard, its not that time-consuming but the results can be life changing and prevention is better than cure. It’s not too late to start and imagine how good you could be feeling a month from now 🙂

If you’d like to learn more fill out this form ➡️https://bit.ly/2VFZfhe⬅️

or book a call ➡️https://bit.ly/2P35PvP⬅️

https://38nacademy.com/midlife-mentors/

Will A Blow Out Ruin My Progress?

This one is a really popular topic – especially over the summer in Ibiza! A little bit of sun, a dash of uplifting music, some drinks, and that one small beer turns into a mighty session… have you undone all your good work?

Although the next morning it will probably feel like it – not at all – and this is where people go wrong. A big day or night out is not going to help your health progress – no doubt on that (although if you have a good time and end up with a smile on your face – hey!) BUT falling off the wagon doesn’t mean you’ve lost the wagon train and you should lay down and wait for the vultures.

We see this all the time – people work hard for their body goals – watching their diet, moderating their drinking, training hard, then boom! That big blow out and they give up. Don’t!

First up, we’ve been prone to the odd big night out. BUT…what we learnt about ourselves early on is that the all or nothing approach does us no favours.

If you restrict yourself over too long a period of time – strict eating, early nights, herbal teas instead of Gs & Ts, sure, you start to feel physically great, BUT…

Emotionally you’re probably bored, overthinking and stressing about every little thing.

So…

Moderate.

We’ve learned having the odd drink when we want, going out when we feel like it – all helps with overall balance and our goals aren’t as impacted as when we’re trying to be at the extreme end of something. Think of it like an elastic band, we want to be flexible in the middle, not pulled tight at one end, or else, when the band pings…

So….live a balanced life, acknowledge your goals, stay on track, understand your need to have fun (within reason) and you’ll be far less inclined to “go hard or go home”.

But what if you did slip?

Here are some practical ways forward…..

You wake up feeling like death warmed up – all those negative voices in your head will start telling you “See, told you so…” Thank them, acknowledge them, and pick yourself up and move on.

If you’ve had the mother of all days/nights/48 hours, don’t try to do anything. Respect your body and your mind. Rehydrate with lots of water, eat nourishing food, rest.

If you’ve only gone moderately hard, and you feel you can, then moving can really help a) shake off a hangover b) help swing your mood back up as the endorphins from exercising kick in.

Only go at a pace and intensity that feels okay to you, and is safe for whatever you’ve done the night before. Aim for either a short burst of activity to get you sweating a little bit, or go for a long steady walk in the fresh air. Both work, sometimes short and sharp is better, like ripping a plaster off.

Remember that your insulin and blood sugars will be all over the shop from over-indulgence, but rather than going for the fatty, starchy food your hunger hormones will be screaming for, smash in lean protein like fish, chicken (easy to digest) and lots of veggies.

Be realistic, it’s not the end of the world. Rest, realign and once you’re recuperated, carry on as before and you’ll be back on track before you know it.

10 Top Healthy Christmas Gifts For Physical & Mental Wellbeing

Tis the season to be jolly, overindulge and enjoy yourself. But how about giving the gift of wellbeing this Christmas? Or adding one of these to your own letter to Santa?

New workout gear: putting on workouts clothes you feel good in is proven to boost your motivation, so rather than that old pair of leggings again, how about some new gear that you feel great in? High street chains offer great ranges as well as your usually sporting suspects like Nike, Reebok, Adidas etc.

DNA testing: this might sound scary but training in line with your genetic potential (your inherited traits) gives you a 30 % boost in performance. Add in stats about what’s currently going on in your body and get the full picture. Vitagen-X offer a comprehensive range of DNA, blood and hormonal test. Get £50 off with the code XMAS38N

Online training & nutrition: fancy training at home, as you travel, in fact, anytime, anywhere? The 38N Academy offers a range of real time workout videos, nutritional advice, recipes, mindset workshops and even live weekly workouts, all for under £30 a month. Grab 3 months membership for £69 here or email us to gift 3 months to a loved one.

Hypnotherapy: hypnotherapy doesn’t have to be about overcoming a phobia or giving up smoking (though it’s great for both), it can be about healing past trauma, overcoming blocks, lowering stress, increasing confidence and a whole lot more. We’re big fans of the direct to the root of the problem approach hypnosis offers, and the effective results. We’re also big fans of Zoe Clews Associates on Harley Street as our go to.

Body composition monitors: ditch the scales! Yes controversial advice, but we coach our clients to focus on the fit of their clothes, how they feel, and their body composition. Why? muscle is denser than fat, as we get fitter we add muscle and drop fat, so we can often become heavier while looking and feeling better as we “lean down”. Bonus result, your metabolic rate increases. A decent set of Tanita body composition monitors for you to track body fat as opposed to body weight is where it’s at.

One-to-one coaching: sometimes we all need that little bit of extra help. Wherever you feel you need help in your life, why not reach out to a coach. We offer 6 week packages that not only address training and nutrition with bespoke solutions for both, but will help you set and work towards life goals as well as body goals.

A fitness kickstart holiday: having a holiday to look forward to will boost your mood, it will help you focus on your body goals, why not get an even bigger boost with a fitness holiday? We specialise in empowering our clients for sustainable change for life – which is why we’ve won awards and rave reviews. We’ve got options from 3 nights up to 6 nights in Marbella and Ibiza for 2019. Go on treat yourself.

Some quality supplements: there are loads of supplements out there. If you’re training then we’d always recommend topping up your protein with a good quality protein blend. There are lots of good ones out there (also lots of really bad ones – be careful). One of the best we’ve tried is Pure Blend Co – all natural ingredients, low sugar, no nasties. Bulkpowders also do a great range of products at great prices.

A kettlebell: weird choice? Not at all – a kettlebell (or better still 2 or 3) will open up a whole new world of resistance exercises you can do at home. Cheap, will last for years and will get you results when used as part of a programme. The only bit of kit we recommend for our at home transformational programmes like Ibiza Beach Body, as it’s so versatile. You can pick them up at pretty much all sports stores these days.

A hand blender: we start our day with a power smoothie (our clients get to learn our secret recipe and they love it) – protein, low GI carbs, anti-oxidants – it keeps you full to lunch time, doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels and is a great way to start the day. Nutribullet, or similar is perfect.

Understanding Lactic Acid

If you want to start a debate in a group of runners, mention lactic acid and lactate threshold. The topics are two of the most confused and misunderstood in the running world. For the last few decades, lactate was presumed to be all bad–causing only muscle soreness and dashing dreams of personal records.

But that’s only half the story.

Lactate threshold is the exercise level at which lactic acid builds up in the blood. This accumulation of lactic acid is associated with fatigue, and most people assume the burning sensation of hard exercise is caused by lactic acid.

Endurance athletes specifically focus on lactate threshold as a measure of efficiency and fitness. For many, the goal of training is to maintain increased power and speed without crossing over this threshold. Most athletes want to stave off blood lactate accumulation, training so they clear it faster and produce less.

That’s why lactate is generally considered a four-letter-word, thought to be a waste product linked to muscle fatigue.

Research on the issue makes muddy waters more clear: producing and burning lactate provide essential fuel for cells throughout the body when oxygen is depleted.1

Lactate & Lactate Threshold Basics

There’s a nuance to lactate responsible for its bad rap.

Lactate: More Protons, More Problems

Also known as lactic acid, lactate can be produced throughout the body naturally.2 It’s a result of rapidly burning carbohydrate when the demand for energy is high, and oxygen availability is low, such as during sprinting or other high-intensity workouts.

Glucose is the body’s most readily available fuel, easily transported around the body and broken down to support short bursts of intense exercise. Glucose gets metabolized by a process called glycolysis, resulting in pyruvate. There are two possible uses for pyruvate: anaerobic or aerobic energy production.

When there is plenty of oxygen, pyruvate is turned into energy in the form of ATP through the aerobic pathway. Without enough oxygen present, pyruvate has another fate: anaerobic conversion to lactate. So all that huffing and puffing during intense exercise is used (among other things) to fuel the metabolic reactions that make our muscles work.

The majority of lactate released into the blood is mopped up in the liver where it can be converted back into glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis, and then released back into circulation.1 For example, the brain can directly use it as fuel (along with other parts of the body).

Lactate itself isn’t at all that bad for the body. The bad part is the acid associated with it.

Lactate caries a proton (an acid) when it’s released, and the build up of protons decreases the pH of the blood. When the body gets more acidic, function becomes compromised because the protons interfere with energy production and muscle contraction.

All this time, athletes have been blaming lactate like it’s a referee. But they should be blaming those protons.

Still, generally, lactate is pretty much always associated with protons, so there is a strong relationship between high lactate and fatigue.

A chart illustrating that when speed increases, lactate increases but arrives at a point where it increases exponentially
As speed increases, lactate production reaches a point where it increases exponentially

Lactate Threshold: Recycling is the Name of the Game

Blood lactate levels rise gradually as one exercises. The harder the exercise, the higher it climbs; this is an indicator of a shift in our energy production from aerobic (lots of oxygen) to anaerobic (less oxygen).

Before reaching the lactate threshold, blood lactate concentrations increase gradually. But upon arriving at the lactate threshold, the blood concentration of lactate begins to exponentially increase. Usually that intensity hovers around 80% of an athlete’s maximum heart rate, or 75% of their maximum oxygen intake–but you can also link it to speed or power.

Recycling lactate is true north of endurance training, which aims to maintain an intensity below the lactate threshold. When the recycling process can’t keep up, lactate produced by the exercising muscles begins build up in the bloodstream.

Well-designed training programs target both sides of the lactate threshold; there should be some training sessions working at or above LT. These sessions are harder on the body, but this forces adaptations that ultimately increase speed on race day.

Why Does Lactate Build Up Happen During High Intensity Exercise?

Lactate buildup is a result of the rapid anaerobic breakdown of carbohydrate.

Cells break down carbs and fats from our food to produce a molecule called ATP (the body’s energy currency), which is then used as energy by exercising muscles. ATP is produced from carbs through a three-step process: Glycolysis, Krebs Cycle and Electron Transport Chain (ETC). Products from Glycolysis feed Krebs which feeds ETC.

ETC is what generates most of our ATP. Energy generated from ETC is effective enough to sustain moderately-intense exercise…but the process doesn’t happen fast enough to keep up with the energy demand of high-intensity exercise. This means rapid-release energy from glycolysis is required to keep going. Glycolysis increases to supplement the difference but, as we know, this leads to lactate production.

A female runner exercising, which shows the increase of glycosis and lactate

Oxygen delivery rate also becomes limited during high intensity exercise. The ETC absolutely relies on oxygen for its function. We can’t breathe enough, or pump blood fast enough to our muscles when they are in overdrive to keep the ETC going. This necessitates oxygen-free energy production via glycolysis and lactate production.

That extra lactate (along with its acidic proton) ends up in the blood and decreases our pH. Our brains aim to keep a steady state of pH, and sensing this imbalance in pH, cause us feel nauseous. This leads to a feeling of fatigue, then a decrease intensity, then decreasing ATP demand, then glycolysis slows, leading to a better match between oxygen demand and oxygen delivery. Ultimately, this match allows lactate clearance from the blood.

Exercise above the lactate threshold can only be sustained for a limited amount of time: the body runs out of glycogen (stored carbs) to convert into lactate, and the increasing acidity of the blood causes fatigue.

Better athletic performance comes from training with LT in mind, geared to a higher production of speed or power at the lactate threshold.

How to Figure Out Lactate Threshold

A female runner and male coach figuring out lactate threshold on a track

Testing protocols to determine lactate threshold are sport-specific. Many consider the running speed at lactate threshold (RSLT) to be the best indicator of running fitness and the most reliable barometer of endurance performance.

In cycling, step-tests (where power is increased at regular intervals until you are exhausted) are the gold standard for measuring physiological performance markers, such as lactate threshold.

Upon completing the test and finding a personal lactate threshold, one can begin incorporating lactate threshold training to target specific adaptations for the body to make.

There are a few different ways to test for a personal lactate threshold, and factors to consider when doing so. It’s important to remember everyone is different, and lactate threshold changes in response to training (or sadly, de-training).

Lab Testing: Accurate But Expensive

The most concrete way to determine lactate threshold is to take a series of blood samples as exercise is conducted at increasing intensities. This type of lactate testing occurs at an exercise physiology laboratory, and tends to be expensive (but worth it).

In a lactate threshold test, athletes exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while increasing intensity every few minutes until exhaustion. A blood sample is taken during the each stage of the test–similar to testing for ketones, through the fingertip or earlobe–illustrating blood lactate readings at various running speeds or cycling power outputs. Results are then plotted on a curve to show the speed or power at which the lactate threshold occurs.

However, lactate threshold changes as more training is done to build your aerobic base. So in order to maintain an updated understanding of your lactate threshold, you’d have to visit the lab again after a block of training.

During her time on the Great Britain Rowing Team, HVMN Research lead, Dr Brianna Stubbs, did lactate threshold testing every 2-3 months. She recounts the collective effort to find lactate threshold.

“The gym even got gory on step-test days, with athletes dripping blood from the testing holes in their earlobes.”Dr. Brianna Stubbs

“Seeing results change over time was interesting,” she said. “I recorded my highest power at lactate threshold toward the end of the winter training block, which made sense because that’s when we did most of our endurance work.”

Do-it-Yourself Field Test: You Have a Few Options

Many endurance athletes choose to estimate their lactate threshold by measuring heart rate and/or VO2 max at different training zones (there’s even a portable lactate blood analyzer some use to further cement results).

Simplified VDOT chat showcasing max mile pace and the corresponding pace at which to threshold train

There are several different methods to estimate running speed at lactate threshold:

VDOT (or VO2 max) Chart

  • A VDOT chart is an adjusted VO2 max chart (created by esteemed running coach Jack Daniels) that uses some of your most recent run times (at max effort) to identify training pace that will maintain your lactate threshold. There are two corresponding chats that work together to illustrate max effort and training paces for different distances (we’ve simplified it above)
  • For example, running at a 7:49 mile pace at max effort corresponds to a VDOT number of 36. That VDOT number illustrates the pace at which training should be done to maintain lactate recycling: 8:55. For a more in-depth analysis of interval training and different distances, refer to these charts here

Conconi Method

  • Using a heart rate monitor set to a five second recording interval
  • Begin running and increase speed every 200 meters until exhaustion. The goal isn’t to maintain a steady state of exercise, instead increasing incrementally to test yourself
  • Plot heart rate against speed; the deflection point in the graph (where your heart rate goes up much more than your speed) roughly corresponds to speed at lactate threshold

Time-Trial Method / 30-Minute Test

  • Research has shown that doing a 30 minute flat out time trial is one of the most accurate ways to find your lactate threshold without using fancy equipment3
  • Start by warming up
  • Then, on a track or treadmill, run for 30 minutes at the fastest sustainable pace. 10 minutes into the run, obtain and note your heart rate. Then, after the final 20 minutes of the test, obtain and note your heart rate again
  • Add your heart rate at the 10-minute mark to heart rate at the 30-minute mark–that’s your lactate threshold heart rate. And your average pace for the entire 30-minute test (assuming it was steady) is your lactate threshold pace

Both elite athletes and weekend warriors can benefit from understanding personal lactate threshold to maximize results. However, lactate threshold is impacted by training and changes over time. So keeping regular on these types of tests will indicate an improving lactate threshold through focused training.

Optimizing Lactate Metabolism

Lactic acid gets blamed for muscle soreness, but the production of lactate is an important metabolic process. The idea that lactate is pure waste and leads to fatigue is somewhat outdated. Nevertheless, a higher speed or power at lactate threshold is still one of the key goals of aerobic training.1

Different strategies can help minimize lactate buildup during exercise.

Warming Up: As Important as Cooling Down

Warming up is important to reducing risk for injury and minimizing potential lactate buildup. During a warm-up, heart rate increases, and blood vessels dilate, meaning there is more blood flow and more oxygen reaching your muscles.

When exercise intensity picks up the pace, there’s less mismatch between oxygen needs of the muscles and blood. Therefore, you don’t need to do as much anaerobic respiration, and you don’t build lactate early in the run.

Equally, cooling down and stretching immediately after a workout is especially important. Gentle exercise (slow jogging or spinning on a bike) or using a foam roller can help clear lactic acid buildup from the muscle by stimulating blood flow and encouraging lymphatic drainage.

Nutrition and Supplements: Replenishment is Key

The key to dealing with high lactate production is dealing with the acid associated with it (that pesky little proton). Two “buffer supplements,” sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine, work by mopping up that proton. This means lactate levels can go higher than before without triggering fatigue because the proton is taken care of.

Beta-alanine works inside the muscles to clean up protons before they affect muscle contraction. Compounding effects of beta-alanine powder (~5g per day) happen after several weeks, but studies show around a 2-3% performance boost.4

Sodium bicarbonate is better for short-term boosts in proton buffering. Bicarbonate is the main buffer usually binding protons to stop blood from becoming too acidic. About an hour before exercise, taking bicarb powder dissolved in water, at 0.3kg per body weight, has shown to improve performance.5 Be weary of stomach aches when first introducing bicarb. But there are bicarbonate gels that provide the same buffing effect without the side-effects.6

Lactate can only be produced by breaking down carbs. Sustaining an exercise intensity that is producing lactate means the depletion carbohydrate stores (glycogen). When the glycogen gas tank reads empty, we hit a wall.

Exogenous ketones can lower lactate production. By drinking pre-workout exogenous ketones, like your body can use the ketones for energy instead of carbohydrates–glycolysis decreases and therefore, so does lactate production.

Having ketones as a whole new source of fuel means the body doesn’t need to dip into its existing carb and protein stores: athletes using HVMN Ketone show a decrease in the breakdown of intramuscular glycogen and protein during exercise, compared to carbohydrates alone.7

Exercise: Training Toward Adaptation

Regular training forces the body to adapt; what once felt like an unsustainable pace becomes easy. And adopting a training plan helps accelerate how that adaption will progress.

Looking at the whole body, the heart muscle gets stronger, building more small blood vessels. These small blood vessels mean more oxygen-rich blood can be transported to the muscles, requiring less demand for anaerobic respiration and lactate production.

On a muscular level, cells can produce more mitochondria, which are the site of aerobic respiration. This helps increase reliance on that energy system. Muscle cells also express more of the transport proteins for lactate, so lactate doesn’t build up inside the cells and compromise their function.8

Lactate threshold training switches up workout intensity, optimizing the body’s lactate response.

Peter Broomhall, who has been running ultramarathons for seven years, started incorporating lactate training into his regimen with his coach.

“I’ve trained with lactate threshold in mind this year more than any other year. It takes time to build up that threshold, but things like recovery become quicker. It compliments every aspect of training.”Peter Broomhall

For runners, one way to work on lactate threshold is to breakdown a run into mile sections: the first mile or two should be run at a pace just below lactate threshold, while the proceeding mile section should be slower, thus allowing the body to process the lactate. Active recovery is more effective at clearing lactate than passive recovery.9 This allows a high volume of miles without going overboard.

Lactate, A Misunderstood Villain

Next time your running club gangs up on lactic acid, maybe you can remind everyone of its important role in helping our bodies produce energy quickly when oxygen is short.

We do know the combination of high lactate (and the associated increase in protons in the muscles and blood) can impact our ability to maintain peak athletic performance. But we now have a deeper understanding of blood lactate (and how to optimize it), thanks to monitoring tools outside the lab, structural training regimens and recovery techniques.

Train smarter for better results

Scientific Citations

Patrizia Proia, Carlo Maria Di Liegro, Gabriella Schiera, Anna Fricano, and Italia Di Liegro. Lactate as a Metabolite and a Regulator in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Sep; 17(9): 1450. Published online 2016 Sep 1.
2. Matthew L. Goodwin, M.A., James E. Harris, M.Ed., Andrés Hernández, M.A., and L. Bruce Gladden, Ph.D. J. Blood Lactate Measurements and Analysis during Exercise: A Guide for Clinicians. Diabetes Sci Technol. 2007 Jul; 1(4): 558–569. Published online 2007 Jul.
3. McGehee JC, Tanner CJ, Houmard JA. A comparison of methods for estimating the lactate threshold. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Aug;19(3):553-8.
4. Hobson RM, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris RC, Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):25-37. Epub 2012 Jan 24.
5. Peart D1J Siegler JC, Vince RV. Practical recommendations for coaches and athletes: a meta-analysis of sodium bicarbonate use for athletic performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jul;26(7):1975-83.
6. Mark Kern; Lisa M. Misell; Andrew Ordille; Madeline Alm; Brookell Salewske. Double-blind, Placebo Controlled, Randomized Crossover Pilot Study Evaluating The Impacts Of Sodium Bicarbonate in a Transdermal Delivery System on Physiological Parameters and Exercise Performance: 2402 Board #238 June 1 11. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 50(5S):595, MAY 2018 Issn Print: 0195-9131. Publication Date: 2018/05/01
7. Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Willerton, K., Evans, R., Smith, A., Murray, Andrew J., Stubbs, B., West, J., McLure, Stewart W., et al. (2016). Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes. Cell Metabolism 24, 1-13.
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