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Lactic acid not athlete's poison, but an energy source - if you know how to use it

scle fatigue, and at the cellular level, Brooks said, training means growing the mitochondria in muscle cells. The mitochondria - often called the powerhouse of the cell - is where lactate is burned for energy.

"The world's best athletes stay competitive by interval training," Brooks said, referring to repeated short, but intense, bouts of exercise. "The intense exercise generates big lactate loads, and the body adapts by building up mitochondria to clear lactic acid quickly. If you use it up, it doesn't accumulate."

To move, muscles need energy in the form of ATP, adenosine triphosphate. Most people think glucose, a sugar, supplies this energy, but during intense exercise, it's too little and too slow as an energy source, forcing muscles to rely on glycogen, a carbohydrate stored inside muscle cells. For both fuels, the basic chemical reactions producing ATP and generating lactate comprise the glycolytic pathway, often called anaerobic metabolism because no oxygen is needed. This pathway was thought to be separate from the oxygen-based oxidative pathway, sometimes called aerobic metabolism, used to burn lactate and other fuels in the body's tissues.

Experiments with dead frogs in the 1920s seemed to show that lactate build-up eventually causes muscles to stop working. But Brooks in the 1980s and '90s showed that in living, breathing animals, the lactate moves out of muscle cells into the blood and travels to various organs, including the liver, where it is burned with oxygen to make ATP. The heart even prefers lactate as a fuel, Brooks found.

Brooks always suspected, however, that the muscle cell itself could reuse lactate, and in experiments over the past 10 years he found evidence that lactate is burned inside the mitochondria, an interconnected network of tubes, like a plumbing system, that reaches throughout the cell cytoplasm.

In 1999, for example, he showed that endurance training reduces blood levels of lactate, even w
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Source:University of California - Berkeley


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