Saturday, October 29, 2011


This weekend was amazing.  When my teachers told us during the first week that they needed grad students to go to the MWACSM (Midwest Chaptor of American College of Sports Medicine), I made sure to tell them right away I wanted to go :)  I always enjoy reading research articles from them online, and it's the organization I got certified through for personal training.  (Which, my teachers told me that is the most highly recognized organization, so we should get certified by them, if possible, in case anyone wants to know :)  My teacher was the executive director this year.  I remember I was on the 2008 jeopardy team when they came to BGSU.  I got to watch that this weekend, it was fun, our team of undergrads didn't win, though :(  They pulled questions like which muscle flexes the knee and internally rotates it?  I couldn't remember, but it was Popliteus.  LoL, who would remember that muscle?  Now I'll never forget it :) 

There were 5 of us grad students, we had to have at least 2 students working registration at all times, I felt a little guilty I kept leaving, but my teacher said it was ok, they wanted us to learn and see what was being done in the field.  I sat in on The Female Athlete Triad, Patellofemoral Syndrome, Resistance Training for Triathletes, Genetics and Sport, Physiological Adaptations to Long-Term Exposure: Implications for Exercise Performance (which was very interesting, but the way, they studied natives in the Andes and Himalyays and compared the two, interestingly, the andes natives had way more hemoglobin than at sea level, and I forget what else, but the himalayans adapted more physiologically to their climate.  Anyways, what was the most interesting to me was that from living at high altitudes for all their lives, their brains can actually atrophy, and have some cognitive impairment.  The researcher wasn't sure if that was from the altitude or nutritional deficiencies, they didn't study it further), I also listened to the Physiology of Endurance Performance:  What do we Really know?  Basically, it was about environmental factors like heat, carbohydrate intake (they talked about depleting carbs somewhat the week before, then a few days before eating more of it to help increase performance, and caffeine actually helps.  I'm sorry I can't go into much of this further because I was very tired at this point, and although interesting, I couldn't pay attention fully :(  And I'm exhausted right now, it's been a long weekend)

Anyways, I enjoyed chatting with the guys who talked about resistance training in triathletes-no one really knows the exact doseage of resistance training for triathletes.  They said either lifting heavy with low reps, OR lifting light with high reps worked the same.  Interesting, as I have always been taught in undergrad that for endurance athletes, you want them to lift light but with high reps, for some strength and more importantly muscle endurance.  However, some people may respond differently to it, (like me, I think, I gain muscle so fast), and you also want to help these athletes train for power, because duh, you need powerful arms, powerful legs on the bike and run.  Yes, you can train for these sports, but important to get in the weight room during off season, at least twice a week, if not 3-4.  Now, during the summer, they told me to back off resistance training (I usually do anyways, ha, but I was curious as to what they did, so I had a chat with them afterwards and today :)  So...yeah...if I want to get faster, I'm going to have to make lifting a priority as well.  It will not increase VO2max, BUT it will help these athletes train at a higher percentage of their VO2max if their muscles are stronger and more powerful-this means you will be able to exercise for a longer period of time without fatigue at a higher intensity.  Cool.  I think I knew that, somewhere back in the cobwebs.  This is what I like about exercise science.  There are always new findings in the field, and what we were once taught, could change.  It's a very humbling field.  You think you know it all, then we come out with new insights and studies, and information, and it completely changes.

So, the one guy gave my his contact info and told me to email him.  So I did already :)  Northern Kentucky.  Now, I know I keep talking about the West, haha, but Kentucky may have what I'm looking for, too.  Ah, this is why I take the road less traveled by.  Always an adventure, life, not knowing where you're going.  Sorry, this is probably poorly written, I'm very tired from the weekend, I didn't even get to workout 2 days in a row!  (figured I needed a break anyways, I'm still not fully recovered from trail running up and down hills 3 days in a row last weekend.) 

Got to know my classmates better.  I don't think I'll be as nervous standing up in front of the class.  Now, I have a paper due Monday I need to finish tomorrow, and present it on Wed.  It's on fitness and activity levels in older adults and how it impacts their cognition.  It'll be fun to talk about.  I wanted to do my masters thesis on it. this what I PERSONALLY enjoy doing, or am I doing it just because my grandmother has Alzheimer's and I want to find ways to help improve cognition and at least delay the onset of the disease.  No...I am personally more interested in endurance performance.  I may have to have a talk with my teachers...ugh.  I can't let this be like PT school.  I have to do things for myself, or I'm never going to be fully happy.  I may radiate happiness (most of the time, unless I'm stressed from school, yes, it happens with deadlines and training and lack of sleep, but in the end, I'm glad I'm doing this :)  but I have to do what I want to do. 

So...I emailed that professor who studies endurance athletes in Kentucky, he seemed interested in chatting with me (especially after I told him what I did this summer...:) and he knows one of our new professors at BGSU.  Awesome.  So..maybe I can keep in touch with him.  Also got the contact info from the guy who studies altitudes.  I LOVE THE OUTDOORS.  Options...OH!  My classmate asked if I wanted to be in our new professors study-he's testing runners-having them do intervals and testing VO2max, I believe, as well as blood lactate, I think, and other things.  So...I told him I was interested.  I'm not the best runner, though, but it'd be cool to be in that study. 

Now I've made some of my dreams come true already.  I'm unsure of my future.  I have options.  I'm waiting to here back from Rev3 for a sponsorship( lol, I still find it weird saying those  sponsored?)  It prob won't happen, it's probably really competitive, but I sure am motivated.  All I like to do is train and study exercise physiology.  I'm not your average 24 yr old, I'd rather stay at home and write a blog on this than go out LOL :)  Besides...I have a 2hr run and 1hr resistance workout I need to get done tomorrow morning before I start my project.  No time for drinks, did that last night with my classmates and teachers haha :)

Sorry my blogs are more emotional and personal than they are scientific.  I'll post my writings towards the end of the semester if I get good grades on them, lol.  And adventurous lately, no big races.  Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI was fun last weekend though!  Beautiful area, lots of outdoorsy stuff to do. 

I should end this with a quote, as I'm tired and can't blog anymore!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I---
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
People, I WILL finish a half ironman, full ironman, more 5k swims, 10k swims, maybe the Channel, maybe ride across USA, ultramarathons, and snowboard in CO.  I'm thinking no full on marathons for awhile, I need to cross train if I have some talent and motivation in triathlons.  Oh and more backpacking and extreme hiking and snowboarding :)  I want to backpack a little of the AT this spring break if I can :) Oh, and I'm thinking, I might possibly try to write out a triathlon training plan for myself this winter break, but I'll need some help.  Maybe I can email that guy from Kentucky after I write it.  Hopefully I have time with all the snowboarding :) 

sorry for typos,

Your adventurous, nerdy endurance sport/physiology loving friend,

P.S.  Ask me anything you want.  I love talking about this stuff.  I hope I never come off as arrogant, and because like I said, this field is always changing, one must have an open mind to study in the field of the exercise sciences and sport performance as well as the physiology and biology behind all of this.  I don't even know the half of it yet, nor will I ever, I'm sure.  :)  I'm just really passionate about all this and like to share it with others who like it, too :)

P.S.S. the National ACSM meeting is in San Francisco this year, but I don't think the school has funds to send me to that one...darn..:)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What the Heck is Lactic Acid and What is Responsible for the "Muscle Burn"?

While studying for my Exercise Physiology Exam, I came across lactic acid.  I remember my teacher telling us the "burn" in our muscles isn't actually from lactic acid, but from Hydrogen ions.  I couldn't remember why, exactly, and where lactic acid played a role.  So, I looked it up in my book.  It's pretty common language among athletes to blame the burning in their muscles from sprinting or racing, on lactic acid.  But actually....while it is somewhat true, it's not the real reason.  Let's dive into the underlying science behind it so you can actually understand why lactic acid accumulates in the blood and what, exactly, is responsible for the fatigue!!

I'm just going to quote my book here-

-"Various metabolic byproducts of metabolism have been implicated as factors causing, or contributing to, fatigue.  One example is Pi, which increases during intense short-term exercise as PCr and ATP are being broken down.  Additional metabolic by-products that have received the most attention in discussing fatigue are HEAT, LACTATE, and HYDROGEN IONS."
-Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic glycolysis (what is broken down by anaerobic metabolism,  anaerobic means without oxygen, aka-working out above lactate threshold, aka- sprinting)
-Here is the important part:  "Although most people BELIEVE that lactic acid is responsible for fatigue in all types of exercise, lactic acid accumulates within the MUSCLE FIBER ONLY during relatively brief, highly intense muscular effort.  Marathon runners, for example, may have near-resting lactic acid levels at the end of the race, despite their fatigue.  Their fatigue is likely caused by INADEQUATE ENERGY SUPPLY, NOT EXCESS LACTIC ACID".  This is true for any endurance sport.--it's actually pretty hard to take in enough calories during exercise, despite your efforts, especially in a long race, hence, the fatigue (For me, when I race, it's usually at a higher intensity, and I don't know about you, but sometimes the last thing I want is food, but I know you have to get it down, little bit at a time, as long as you can get some energy in, that's good)

So, what is responsible for this type of fatigue (for short efforts), you say, if it is not what we all commonly think of, lactic acid? (Well, not all, but at least I, and a number of others I'm sure, have misinterpreted!)
Well, it's actually due to the accumulation of Hydrogen ions, wow!!

-"Short sprints in running, cycling, and swimming all lead to large accumulations of lactic acid"-What most of us believe to be true, yes.
-"But the presence of lactic acid should not be blamed for the feeling of fatigue in itself.  When not cleared, the lactic acid dissociates, converting to lactate and causing an accumulation of HYDROGEN IONS.  This Hydrogen ion accumulation causes MUSCLE ACIDIFICATION, resulting in a condition known as acidosis."
-"Activities of short duration and high intensity, such as sprint running and sprint swimming, depend HEAVILY on ANAEROBIC GLYCOLYSIS (remember, anaerobic=exercising without oxygen, which is why you can only do this for a few min, if that.) and produce LARGE AMOUNTS OF LACTATE and HYDROGEN IONS within the muscles" (remember, lactic acid is converted into lactate, which then is responsible for the accumulation of hydrogen ions).
-"Fortunately, the cells and body fluids possess buffers, such as bicarbonate (HCO3), that minimize the disrupting influence of the Hydrogen Ion.  Without these buffers, Hydrogen ion would lower the pH to about 1.5, killing the cells.  Because of the body's buffering capacity, the hydrogen ion concentration remains low even during the most severe exercise, allowing muscle pH to decrease from a resting value of 7.1 to no lower than 6.6 to 6.4 at exhaustion."--I learned in class that the better trained you are, the better you are able to buffer lactic acid.  Cool.
-However, those 6.6 and 6.4 levels are pretty low, and "most researchers agree that low muscle pH is the major limitor of performance and the primary cause of fatigue during maximal, all-out exercise lasting more than 20s to 30s."
-Now, "reestablishing the preexercise muscle pH after an exhaustive sprint bout requires about 30-35 min of recovery"--crazy!

How does this apply to athletes?  Well....

"Even when normal pH is restored, blood and muscle lactate levels can remain quite elevated.  However, experience has shown that an athlete CAN continue to exercise at relatively high intensities even with a muscle pH below 7.0 and a blood lactate level above 6 or 7 mmol/L, 4-5x the resting value.
     "Some coaches and sports physiologists have attempted to use blood lactate measurements to gauge the intensity and volume of training needed to produce an optimal training stimulus.  Such measurements provide an index of training intensity, but they might not reflect the anaerobic processes or the state of acidosis in the muscles.  Because lactate and hydrogen ion are generated in the muscles, both diffuse out of the cells.  They then are diluted in the body fluids and transported to others areas of the body to be metabolized.  Consequently, blood lactate concentrations depend on rates of production, diffusion, oxidation, and clearance.  A variety of factors can influence these processes, so measuring blood lactate is of questionable value for fine-tuning training."

There ya have it.  I hope this cleared up what exactly lactic acid is and what it does inside your body during exercise.  It's converted to hydrogen ions!

Wilmore, J., H., Costill, D., L., & Kenney, L., W.  (2008).  Physiology of Sport and Exercise.     
     Champaign, IL:  Human Kinetics.