Cycling and sore legs the next day. It is not lactic acid
Leg pain is as much a part of cycling as the ball is a part of football. How many times have you suffered from this problem the day after an intense training session or a cycling tour?
When I was a kid, I was always told it was lactic acid. And this belief has remained with many of us for a long time… but it is a myth that obviously needs to be disproved.
Pains that appear after intense activity are called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness): they appear after about 24/48 hours and can last up to a week.
But we tried to clarify things a bit.
1. What is lactic acid?
Lactic acid is activated to produce ATP during intense exertion, when aerobic metabolism is “maxed out” and is no longer able to meet energy demands.
Lactic acid is produced in limited quantities even when the effort is not extreme: when more is produced than is eliminated, the pain starts. The point that must not be exceeded is precisely the anaerobic threshold. As a toxic substance, when it accumulates in the bloodstream and cells, the pH of the muscles decreases and this causes pain and fatigue. In extreme cases, it even causes cramps.
What not everyone knows is that lactic acid is not a real waste product for our body because, thanks to a series of processes, our body converts it into glucose through the liver, using it as a source of energy. For its part, the heart metabolises lactate for energy purposes, as do the brain and kidneys.
In this way, and thanks to the processes we have just discussed, lactic acid is eliminated from the bloodstream in a few minutes and is completely eliminated within 2/3 hours after the end of physical activity.
It is clear, therefore, that the next day’s pain is not due to the accumulation of lactic acid.
2. And then?
DOMS occurs as a result of very intense efforts, especially anaerobic, or as a consequence of activities to which we are not accustomed. Does the classic annual company indoor football match, after which you can’t move for a week, mean anything to you?
But what is the cause of this pain?
These are micro-injuries of the muscle and connective tissue generated during physical activity, which need a few days to heal and cause an inflammatory state.
It is very important to differentiate DOMS from other pain due to more serious injuries, such as sprains or contractures: while with DOMS it is possible to train, with other injuries it is necessary to stop.
In addition, we must put an end to the myth that “if it hurts, you’ve trained well”. In fact, training can be beneficial even without the onset of pain.
3. Day After Leg Pain Remedies
Prevention is better than cure. Getting used to the athletic gesture and the effort proportional to our level is essential.
However, it is normal that in a race or at certain times you have a lot of movement, and in this case, there is not much you can do except take good care of yourself in the following days.
How? Like this:
- Do a gentle activity that improves blood flow by accelerating the elimination of waste substances (cycling, swimming, etc.).
- Perform anti-fatigue massages and cryotherapy or hot and cold-water treatments that stimulate circulation.
- Drink plenty to eliminate waste substances.
And to conclude, follow a proper diet, along with supplementation with antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. That always helps.