When charging hard on your board, I’m sure you will have felt those legs burning at some point! It can get so intense you have to stop instantly to ease off the burn and let your muscles recover. Let’s dive into the science of lactic acid to see if we can beat out leg burn and improve your performance on snow.
Lactic Acid & Energy Production
What is It?
When doing any sport such as snowboarding your muscles need more oxygen. You breathe faster to take on more oxygen to feed your muscles. Your body’s preferred way of getting energy is by aerobic methods. This means using oxygen. Sometimes though you need energy faster than your body can deliver oxygen. When this happens energy is made anaerobically (without oxygen). This fuel comes from glucose.
The glucose is eventually broken down into a something called pyruvate by a process called glycolysis. If there is lots of oxygen, the pyruvate is taken an aerobic route to be further broken down for fuel. However, when oxygen is limited your body temporarily changes the pyruvate into lactate. This lets the glucose breakdown and therefore the energy production to carry on.
The cells in the working muscle can carry on this type of fuel production for one to three minutes. The lactate levels can become high. This makes the cells more acidic slowing down the energy production. This is the body’s survival instinct kicking in. It is trying to prevent lasting damage during extreme effort. It does this by slowing the main systems required to keep muscle contraction going.
When the body slows down the oxygen becomes more accessible. The lactate turns back to pyruvate, letting aerobic metabolism happen and gives energy for your body to recover from vigorous exercise.
It is NOT lactate that is to blame for the sore muscles you feel the day or two after boarding. However, the lactate you make along with other metabolites during extreme exercise causes the burning sensation in active muscles. It is this feeling that stops you overworking your body, making you take a recovery break to clear the lactate and other metabolites.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS as it is sometimes called is muscle tenderness and as loss of strength and range of motion. It usually reaches a peak 24 to 72 hours after you do strenuous exercise. The exact cause of DOMS is still unknown although many theories are thrown around.
5 Tips To Reduce Lactic Acid Build Up While Boarding
Drink plenty of water, as it is essential to muscle health and recovery. By the time you feel thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. Lactic acid is water soluble, so the more dehydrated you are, the more likely you are to feel a burn while you board and cause lactic acid to build up.
The mineral magnesium is essential for proper energy production. Healthy magnesium levels help the body to deliver energy to the muscles while exercising, therefore limiting the build-up of lactic acid. Make an effort to increase your magnesium intake by eating vegetables like:
- Swiss chard
- Green beans
- Legumes like navy, pinto, kidney and lima beans
- Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower
- Tofu – especially nigari tofu – is particularly rich in magnesium.
Foods rich in fatty acids.
Foods rich in fatty acids help the body to break down glucose, a process essential for normal energy production. This can help to limit the body’s need for lactic acid during a tough riding session and keep you going for longer. Fatty acids also help to reduce inflammation, which lessens muscle soreness following a tough day on the slopes.
Food rich in fatty acids include:
- Cold water fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel
- Nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseed
- Plant oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil
Boost Your Snowboard IQ To Beat Leg Burn
Foods high in B vitamins.
B vitamins are used in transporting glucose around the body. This helps to fuel the muscles during boarding, reducing the need for lactic acid as fuel. B vitamin-rich foods also replenish the body with other nutrients that are lost during intense exercise.
- Leafy green vegetables
- peas and beans
- Protein-rich foods such as fish, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products are also good sources.
It’s never a good idea to drink alcohol while boarding. Have fun but be safe on the slopes. Too much alcohol severely dehydrates the body, crippling your performance and endurance. After a heavy night of drinking and inadequate hydration, lactic acid can build quickly in your leg muscles. This leaves you with serious leg burn on top of a hangover! It will also have a long-term impact on your general health, nutritional status and well being.
How To Increase Your Lactate Threshold
Don’t think you can go from sitting 8 hours at a desk to spending days on the slopes. Increase the amount of exercise you do gradually so that your body builds up a tolerance. This builds up your lactate threshold. Everyone should do at least one hour of exercise every day. Try out some yoga or start up a strength and conditioning program a few weeks before you head to the slopes.
Drink plenty of water.
Eat a balanced diet.
Get plenty of sleep.