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All About Lactic Acid: Know About Muscle Pain While Cycling

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Are you an avid cyclist and experience severe soreness in muscles, especially in the shoulders and legs after a ride? Well, it is something common that almost all the cyclists and the athletes experience after a strenuous session of training. Muscles feel stiff, and the pain gives a flaming sensation. So, do you blame the lactic acid for it?

Despite maintaining a strong workout regime, you can get the stiffness and pain in your body. What we have learnt from the beginning that it is lactic acid that causes all the pain and discomfort as a result of tiring exercise.

But, it would be wrong to blame the lactic acid alone because in reality, the acid is never the cause that makes the muscles tired or painful. It is actually an energetic fluid that gets built up naturally in muscles.

There are so many reasons behind the post exercising pain and fatigue. However, a detailed discussion about the acid can make you aware of many aspects that are still unknown to you regarding the athletic exhaustion that you suffer from after a long cycling session.

Why Does Lactic Acid Build Up in Muscles?

The more we workout, our breathing paces up. As a result, the muscles signal to get more oxygen. It is the intensity level of your workout that will fuel your body to ask for more oxygen.

Origination of Lactic Acid

When the human body asks for oxygen or energy beyond the production capability of the blood, it is lactic acid or lactate that takes over the muscle fibres and gets shaped up within the muscles.But where does lactic acid come from? The body glucose gets broken into several pieces that are known as pyruvates and produce the acid. However, once the level of the acid goes higher, they easily get into the muscles to be locked up and result in a burning sensation within.

Muscle soreness DOMS
Muscle Soreness (Source)

What can Cause Muscle Soreness?

When you run for a prolonged time on the tracks or challenge yourself in the gym and get indulged in excelling gym sessions, your body responds with severe soreness. Over-enthusiastic weightlifting can also cause massive muscle pain and fatigue.

And Why Does It Cause Soreness?

Researchers in the recent times do not find lactic acid to be the main culprit behind the pain and tiredness. Yes, the experts do admit that it is the burning sensation that gets caused by the presence of the acidic element. However, the acid and its effect go away overnight. Most of the time, the fatigue and burning sensation of the muscles leave the body within an hour or two. But the stern soreness is felt after 2 to 3 days.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

The soreness that appears after 48 hours of rigorous physical training is largely known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. By the onset of the pain, you may feel lack of stamina, muscle tenderness and exhaustion. Though the absolute reasons behind the delayed arrival of the pain are still unknown, most of the researchers point out cell damage of muscles as the primary cause.

Why Do You Feel Pain After a Sports Activity?

According to the experts, it is the increased number of metabolites that get released and reach the tissues and eventually cause the pain. Muscle contraction is something obvious that you may get after a rigorous athletic training, and it is said to be a major reason behind the delayed arrival of sore muscles.

Lactic Acid Build Up in Thigh Muscles

If you are not that regular about cycling or strenuous exercising sessions, then it is strongly possible for you to develop DOMS very easily. If you extensively cycle or involve yourself in a rigorous workout session in a day, you will surely get lactic acid build up in your thigh muscles.

Muscle Fatigue & Soreness from Lactic Acid
Pain in Thigh Muscles due to Lactic acid

According to conventional theories, it is lactic acid that causes soreness to the muscles. But this concept is not even partly true. So, what does lactic acid do? The acid and the released metabolites cause the burning sensation within the muscles and are not the reason behind the pain.There are other aspects that must be discussed in details that will help you to understand the reason for soreness.

Anaerobic Energy

For the wellbeing of your overall health and body, you maintain a light fitness routine including light exercises. Oxygen is the fuel behind the same. Keeping respiration as the medium for the flow of oxygen along with ATP or adenosine triphosphate, it reaches the muscles through the bloodstream.

If you are happy with your light exercise routine, then there is no problem with the body. But, once you put your larger muscles such as the thighs into an extensive workout regime, your thigh muscles would ask for more fuel than the capacity of the blood. Hence, Anaerobic Energy takes up the charge to fuel the muscles and break glucose into smaller molecules. Eventually, you get sore muscles.

Protective Function

Muscles with soreness and burning sensation would force you take a break from the extensive amount of workout. It is the metabolites and the lactic acid that sits locked up into the muscles. Although this creates a burning sensation, it actually offers a protective shield. The discomfort lets you pause excessive workout and prevents you from getting a permanent muscle injury.

Lactic Acid Decrease

If you are wondering how to get rid of lactic acid, then the answer is simple. Go for light exercising. It takes almost an hour to flush out the acid from the affected muscles. You can rely on some light physical activities. You can walk slowly or go for slow cycling. You can also practice some aerobics by lowering the pace.

Applying ice on the sore areas can get you relief. Applying ice especially on the leg muscles, is really good. Regular aerobic activities, intake of plenty of water and healthy fluids can also keep you protected from aching muscles. To comfort your painful muscles, you can count on suitable massage as well.

Tolerance Boost

Lactate or lactic acid constantly moves inside the body to enhance the fuel system. To keep it in control, you must keep the tolerance level of your body in check. You can surely go through prolonged working out sessions but, don’t forget to take breaks in between.

The necessary breaks would let you breathe and feel the great feeling of paced up breathing because of the tenacious workout. But, it would not push you to the discomfort that gets caused by excessive exercising which is beyond your limit.

Is Soreness a Precondition for Growth?

If you ask any expert, he or she may tell you how people ask them every time if soreness is good or something essential for further advancement. Even the experts are not sure if the soreness is mandatory after working out because there are many who exercise vehemently and still do not suffer from that much pain.

The sores are majorly believed to arise due to the microscopic damages on muscle fibres. This is the reason the experts always suggest people that they should keep their limit in check and not to go beyond their capability.

Treating and Preventing DOMS

To treat DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness, researchers did some tests on people in the year 1993. A group of people were given the anti-inflammatory element Ibuprofen before weightlifting sessions, and another group of people was given the same after 24 hours of lifting the weight.

Is Anti-Inflammatory Effective?

The results showed that the group of people that was given Ibuprofen before weightlifting felt 40% to 50% less soreness than people who took the anti-inflammatory after their activity. The test proved that the anti-inflammatory could offer positive results before undergoing any rigorous physical activity.

But, this test was not a complete success because there were people who did not maintain the suggested period compared to the people who took Ibuprofen before lifting the weight. Hence, the same kind of test got conducted in the year 2003.

This time, people religiously took Ibuprofen in every 8 hours after 48 hours of weightlifting. And they felt impressively lesser pain. Hence, experts concluded that Ibuprofen does help as a lactic acid pain relief.

Your intensity level of working out, your level and capacity of exercising and the intervals you take, all these points matter when it comes to keeping soreness and other physical discomforts under control.

Is Pre-Stretching helpful?

According to research conducted in the year 1999, people were asked to stretch one of their legs before doing rigorous leg exercises. They pre-stretched one leg and then worked out using both of their legs. But all of them said to have delayed pain within 48 hours. This showed that pre-stretching is not effective as a protection from muscle soreness.

Does Pre-Stretching Help? for reducing soreness
Pre Stretching before Cycling (Source)

Though many accept the conclusion, there has been no mention of any further test to check whether stretching after exercising can give someone relief from severe soreness and fatigue. But, it is true that exercising with the right techniques can surely offer comfort.

Is Massage Useful?

According to studies, massage does help in reducing muscle soreness. A test was conducted on a few people. Half of the people got body massage after 2 hours of weightlifting, and the other half did not get a massage after doing the same physical activity. People who got massage reported to have lesser soreness than people who did not receive the massage.

In a test conducted in the year 2005 also, weightlifters were given a massage after 30 minutes of weight lifting, and they were offered a massage for the next 14 days. But half of the people from the same group who also lifted weight did not get a massage. Those who received massage reported feeling lesser soreness and fatigue compared to the ones who did not receive a massage.

According to the experts, people who received the expert massage strokes got relief as the strokes were successful in removing the lactic acid out of the muscles that create burning sensation.

Clearing Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a fluid that though causes a burning sensation in the muscles, works as a defensive shield for the muscles at the same time. If your question is how to get lactic acid out of muscles, then the answer is you can simply relax for a period and the acid will make its exit from the muscle fibres on its own. Light exercise and massage also work great in this regard.

Is it Ok to Exercise Despite Soreness?

There are different test results that talk about skipping a workout if there is soreness. But there are other observations too. Other tests say that, if you have soreness in muscles and you are hesitant to work out further, you can do some light exercises.

Cardio, aerobics, walking and a little bit of stretching can be helpful in this regard. However, you must not hurry up while practising these activities. Keep your pace lowered and breathe properly and you will get relief soon.

A 10 to 15 minutes session of cardio, stretching and lifting can get you a quick recovery from your sore muscles. But we all have different body types. Hence, if you feel you are not getting satisfactory results despite following these techniques, you can surely consult an expert physician and take necessary medications if required.

Expert Advice to End Paining After Activity

Aching is something natural if you are not an avid sports enthusiast or if you don’t undergo a lot of physical activities on a regular basis. If you are a beginner to exercising, then it is normal for you to feel excessive soreness after going through the strenuous workout session.

Burning sensation in the muscles is one of the lactic acid build up symptoms that you may get after 24 to 48 hours of working out. But fortunately, there are ways following which you can come out of the pain and fatigue caused by a sports activity.

Eat well

Maintaining a healthy diet is very important. Especially a right kind of meal after every workout session is vital. Within the first two hours post workout, you can consume 50 grams of carbohydrate. Experts also suggest consuming 20 to 25 grams of good quality protein to enhance your muscle build-up.

healthy food cycling
Eating healthy food is the key!

Intake Fluids

If you drink plenty of water daily and add healthy fluids to your daily diet, you will surely get great results. As an athlete, it is natural for you to lose a lot of fluids through sweat. To repair the damage, daily intake of 1 to 1.5 litres of fluid is pretty essential.

Active Recovery Techniques

To get rid of the fatigue and muscle soreness, you can do some light activity that you enjoy as a hobby. You can go swimming and cycling, but do not do anything excessive or you may end up harming yourself.


Muscles that are stressed out need proper relaxation hence, when you feel exhausted by the strenuous activity training, let the muscles relax a bit. Do not overdo anything or your muscles may end up injuring your muscles permanently.

Sleep Properly

Sleep is the ultimate relaxing activity when your whole body gets the comfort it requires. Sleep can also be considered as a muscle repairing process. Hormones such as melatonin, testosterone, and growth hormones get enhanced during the sleeping hours. Damaged cells and tissues get rejuvenated because of these comforting hours.

getting rid of lactic acid by sleeping
Sleeping-The ultimate activity for reducing soreness (Source)


Though stretching is not a proven concept to adopt before getting into an exercising session to ease up sore, there is no harm in stretching before starting any physical activity. You can stretch a little and then start working out. It will give you a warmed up and relaxed feeling to start your activities.

Take Massages

You must have seen how professional athletes prefer to take body massages after training. Massage is good because the calculated strokes can really offer some relaxation that the painful muscles need. Professional body massage is somewhat expensive, but you can surely get satisfactory results availing it.


Compress is nice to adopt if you want to get out of muscle pain. The process does not cost much as well. Hence, it is a good idea to go for a compress to get rid of fatigue and pain post workout.

Take Ice Bath

To get rid of the sore muscles, the professional athletes prefer to take ice baths frequently. Ice is a great soothing element that people rely on when they feel severe pain in the muscles. You can also use ice on the affected area for instant relief.

Stay Away from Alcohol

You may find sipping in alcohol after a painstaking physical training relaxing. But in reality, alcohol leads to muscle recovery delayed. To freshen up after a game, it is better to have any healthy and tasty fruit juice rather than consuming alcohol or alcohol based products.

Know Your Limits

No matter how eager you feel to get a ripped body or a healthy daily routine, never overdo it. Once you start exercising, you would know what your limit is. Make sure that you don’t go beyond the limits being emotional. Those who understand their limit and workout accordingly, always get satisfactory results.

Have you ever thought what causes muscle soreness without exercise? Yes, it’s the lactic acid buildup in muscles without exercise that makes it happen. There are 600 muscles in a human body. Some them you can control and some of them you can’t. It is wrong that muscle pain can occur because of heavy exercising.

External conditions can also be the reason you can experience severe muscle pain. Hidden medical conditions are also another reason for muscle pain. Some of the soreness in the muscles can be caused by stress and tension as well.

Learn Why Recovery is Essential

Recovery is important. Not because you would want relief from the unbearable pain but recovery will let you exercise again. Recovery lets your muscles and fibres get relief and proper treatment. That’s the whole reason why the experts always suggest having a full recovery and then get on with workout to get desired results.

Lactic acid is something that human body naturally develops post workout. So, there is no way that you can prevent it from developing. The good news is, the acid is not that bad, and it does not create the pain you experience after working out. It is responsible for the burning sensation in the muscles and goes away within an hour or two. So, If you are an avid athlete and have experiences worth sharing, you can feel free to get in touch with us. We would love to know more about it. Stay healthy, stay fit and keep cheering.

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