Ever wonder what the hype over “lactate” based energy supplements is all about?
Products containing “lactate” are becoming increasingly popular and many specifically target the box community with extremely attractive claims:
Increase work capacity | Reduce muscle fatigue | Increase endurance | Increase recovery speed |Reduce Lactic Acid | Improve Aerobic Threshold |Reduce Muscle Soreness
Well due to the recent flood of emails we’ve been receiving with inquiries around these specific claims, we thought we would just put this information out there, and then leave it up to you to experiment and let us know. Specifically we are talking about powdered pre-workout or energy supplements that contain Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Lactate, Magnesium Lactate, or a combination of all three.
For those who do not have a full awareness of lactates role in the body, we did our best to cover it at a high level, unfortunately biochemistry is a bit unforgiving when over simplified. So here it goes:
Of the 3 energy systems, it’s the Anaerobic Pathway where “lactate” comes into play.
Unlike the ATP-Phosphocreatine System (PC) which utilizes high energy phosphates stored within the muscle tissue, the Aerobic and Lactic Acid (Anaerobic) pathways rely on a different mechanism to produce energy. They both need a chemical substrate that has to be cleaved in subsequent reactions to provide the cell with its main energy currency, ATP. The most used chemical substrate in the tissues is Glucose, whether it is coming from regular diet or intrinsic metabolic pathways such as glycogenolysis or gluconeogenesis, it is the downstream cascade of reactions that are to be taken in account to objectively evaluate abovementioned claims.
It’s important to note, although both the PC and Lactic Acid systems are considered anaerobic, they are not part of the same type of performance (mechanical work). PC is responsible for the explosive, fast twitch contractions 0-10 seconds, 1 RM, or 40 yard dash type of work. Whereas the Lactic Acid system is responsible for your performance during an intense 10-30 second exercise range, limited by the energy output of this pathway and the chemical properties of lactate (lactate acid) that’s proven to interfere with cellular homeostasis.
Each glucose molecule entering a cell during an energy demanding state goes through a process called Glycolysis, where they are cleaved by several enzymatic reactions to synthesize “Pyruvate”. This fact is why “Pyruvate” and more specifically “Creatine Pyruvate” can be found in several popular pre-workouts. This molecule with energetic potential has two downstream options that rely on the presence or absence of Oxygen, hence aerobic and anaerobic pathways. The difference between both pathways is that the aerobic goes through a secondary phase called Kreb’s Cycle, providing with 32 ATP per glucose molecule overall, while the anaerobic goes directly to lactate and provides only 2 ATP per glucose molecule.
This “lactate” moves passively out of the muscle cell membranes to the bloodstream and heads to the liver to be metabolized. This process is called “Cori Cycle”. In this cycle, lactate is reconverted to glucose by liver cells by a process called gluconeogenesis (new synthesis of glucose), but this reaction requires energy. As lactate produces 2 ATP in the muscle tissue, it uses 6 ATP in liver cells, giving a total output of negative 4 ATP, so this high energy demanding metabolic process by itself is not efficient in overall performance.
The abovementioned fact is the main argument of why lactate intake would not be the most efficient supplementation to increase performance. Since you are already taking the molecule “lactate”, the muscle tissue is not creating the 2 ATP that would be produced during anaerobic glycolysis, and is also depleting the liver of 6 total ATP for each 2 lactate molecules that are being converted to 1 Glucose and sent to the muscle tissue latter on. This process, by quantifiable fact, is not very efficient.
Moreover, lactate by itself, regardless of ATP production, has chemical properties that can alter normal molecular behavior. Lactate is an acid, meaning that it can decrease the pH of its surrounding environment, and as the cell is exposed to unnatural conditions, some enzymes that are in charge of glycogen breakdown stop working properly. Acidity will interfere with calcium binding to troponin preventing efficient contractile force. Continuous exposure to an acid environment will deplete cells from potassium, originating an electrolyte imbalance within the muscle cell, hence, subnormal muscle response - “the burn”.
There is some scientific literature that supports that lactate intake can increase performance, but the majority lack proper biochemistry support. Also, their sample sizes are not big enough to give a statistically significant conclusion. Of the studies available, the stated hypotheses do not include all of the surrounding implications. However, as the possibility of these claims to be true should not be ruled out entirely, there are no current studies that properly support them.
So before you drop $50 on magic engine powder containing the same ingredients found in TUMS (Calcium Carbonate), please note that ingesting “Calcium Carbonate” or “Lactates” is not currently a scientifically accepted practice that can produce these abundant performance enhancing claims.
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