Taekwondo Physiology – What Is Lactic Acid And Blood Lactate?

Tae Kwon Do PhysiologyOk, so most people will have heard about these but one of the most common questions I ever get asked is what is the difference between the two and what are they? So lets set the story straight…

As mentioned previously Lactic Acid is a by product of Pyruvic Acid during the use of the Anaerobic Glycolytic System (without the presence of oxygen – around 30 seconds of high intensity exercise).

Lactic acid and lactate are two terms which are used interchangeably but are in no way the same substance. When the glycolytic energy pathway produces lactic acid, it quickly dissociates releasing hydrogen ions (H+). The remaining compound then combines with Sodium Ions (Na+) or Potassium Ions (K+) to form the salt base called lactate.

Many Taekwondo coaches I have spoken to still believe lactic acid is a waste by-product resulting from a lack of available oxygen to the working muscles. It is blamed for the burning sensation during vigorous exercise, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and central to the process of fatigue. The general consensus was, and still is amongst many coaches and athletes, that lactic acid is responsible for fatigue and exhaustion.

Well for once most Taekwondo coaches were right about a few things… Lactic acid only accumulates within muscle during relatively short, highly intense exercise such as within a Taekwondo match and is responsible for the condition of lactic acidosis and fatigue. However it cannot be blamed for everything most notably DOMS and is not the sole reason for fatigue.

So what does this mean for a Taekwondo athlete/coach?

Lactic acidosis is the result of an increased accumulation of Hydrogen Ions (H+). Most coaches would assume then that any increase in the production of lactic acid and hence lactate is detrimental as it will increase the production of hydrogen ions and hence fatigue.

There is a suggestion that lactate production (especially if accompanied by a high capacity for lactate removal) may be more likely to delay the onset of acidosis. The reasons for this, amongst others, are that lactate serves to consume Hydrogen Ions (H+) and allows the transport of these from the cell. However, there is also the suggestion that increased lactate concentration, coincides with cellular acidosis and remains a good indirect marker for the onset of fatigue.

So both lactic acid and blood lactate can be used as good indicators of the onset of fatigue within a Taekwondo athlete during competition and training.

Please let me know what you thought of the article in the comments box and if there’s anything in particular you want to know, feel free to include that too.