Lactic acid or Lactate is produced by the body during exercise. Glucose is broken down through glycolysis into pyruvate. When there is not enough oxygen present for this pyruvate to be aerobically transformed into energy, the pyruvate is temporarily transformed into lactic acid or lactate which allows glucose breakdown and energy production to continue.
A side effect of the high lactate is an increased acidity level in the muscles. This acidity slows the body’s capacity for more work. It is thought that lactic acid in fact serves a purpose of protecting the body from damage from overexertion by introducing this acidic environment which inhibits the body from exercising more.
According to The Scientific America, ‘contrary to popular opinion lactate is not responsible for muscle soreness felt in the days following strenuous exercise’. The DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness which athletes experience that peaks 24 to 72 hours after an event is not caused by lactic acid but ‘muscle cell damage and an elevated release of metabolites into the tissue surrounding the muscle cells’.