Sportsmen and also women pushing their bodies to the limit. That's what the Olympic games are every about.

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We have become familiar v the sight of rowers collapsing after ~ giving whatever in pursuit of gold, of athletes staggering over the complete line and also cyclists through nothing left in their legs.

So what is happening as soon as these upstream athletes collapse with effort and also exhaustion? Is a accumulation of lactic mountain in the muscles to blame, together many people assume?

Lactic mountain is frequently used to define the pains felt throughout strenuous exercise and the cause of sore muscles, cramps and also fatigue afterwards.

But Dr Steve Ingham, head that physiology in ~ the English academy of Sport, says lactic mountain has had actually a negative press.

"It's a natural repercussion of maintain hard. However it's not the thing that hurts. That's her nerves picking up the your muscles are working hard."

Lactic mountain is a by-product as soon as the muscles usage carbohydrates to develop energy because that exercise. Lactic acid then division down into hydrogen ions and lactate, and also it's the hydrogen ion that reason the pain.

Dr Ingham adds: "They are making the uncomfortable for you and also they're speak 'stop it'."

Where the average person in the street can stop to run in an answer to this pain, a optimal athlete will show much an ext resilience.

Dr Tom Saw, a sports and exercise medical professional in Milton Keynes who has worked closely with GB Rowing, says this is to do with their training.

"Athletes can go for longer before the malfunction products of management start bring about problems. They deserve to work harder for much longer to develop the exact same amount that lactate in the bloodstream - and cope with it better."

In elite athletes, lactic acid starts to develop up once they space operating in ~ somewhere in between 80% and also 90% of your maximum heart rate.

Yet civilization like Sir chris Hoy and also Mo Farah should train seriously at least five times a week come tolerate it and also produce high quantities of it, whether it damages or not.

"You deserve to overcome that by pushing you yourself very, an extremely hard. As soon as you space finished exercising the human body will use it as fuel," claims Dr Ingham.


Image caption, Sally Pearson the Australia after ~ winning the gold medal in the Women's 100m hurdles

Many year of research in this area by researchers at the college of California, Berkeley, has discovered that endurance training makes lactic acid a friend - not a foe.

They say that intense training teaches the body to use lactic acid as a resource of fuel top top a par v the carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue and the sugar in blood.

This efficient use that lactic acid no only stays clear of lactate build-up, that ekes out an ext energy native the body's fuel.

Dealing through the muscle pain different from sports to sport, yet the vital is to store the muscle moving, states Dr Saw.

"Rowers need to stop rowing conveniently after a long race. Due to the fact that of the sudden avoiding their muscle are complete of hydrogen ions and there's one imbalance the biochemistry in their legs, which reasons pain and also weakness."

The key to obtaining rid the pain-inducing hydrogen ion is just to train harder, although some people, favor Redgrave and also Sir Matthew Pinsent, are simply genetically predisposed to gift 'big engines'.

These room athletes that can get rid of hydrogen ions, by breathing in oxygen and also creating much more energy.

The GB rowing squads are tested on their lactate thresholds - just how much effort they deserve to put in before the lactic acid builds up.

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Dr Ingham states lactic acid is simply evolutionary feedback, a helpful tool for old man on the hunt for food.

"If you're going to go chasing ~ an animal to eat it, and also expend many energy, then it requirements to be worth it."