Like a bad cold sore or rash that just will not go away, there is Lance Armstrong. Recently, every time I watch a Youtube video about cycling, Lance Armstrong’s face pops up and promotes a new lotion that suppresses lactic acid. Teaming up with Amp Human, the developer of this . . . er lotion, Lance Armstrong drops in some money and peddles it like a street vendor selling snake oil to cure all. Seriously, who thought of using an admitted doper to promote a cycling “product”? Lance is actually quoted using the phrase of “human optimization” to push this product:
There are these smaller buckets in this space, which are things like health, fitness, wellness, nutrition and endurance, outdoor and performance. But they really make up one big bucket, which is ‘human optimization.’ And I know that sounds like a real sexy buzz phrase, but the only thing that bugs me about it is that it sounds like it’s geared toward the person who wants to win the marathon—it’s not. It’s about every athlete, every ability level.
What would Lance know about enhancing the human body, outside of pumping drugs to to enhance his efforts? Does he hold a degree in exercise physiology? Nope. He is just a proven and self-admitted cheater. Why would he have any credibility with cyclists, or the general public for that matter? This “American hero” who lied to the world and hurt many, many people connected to him . . . and not connected to him . . . is still making, what appears to be, a very good living with cycling. So now, I have to see him pop up on Youtube and say that he has “tested” this stuff and it “works.” That, in itself, is hilarious.
Speaking of exercise physiology, let us take a peek at real science and how “lactic acid” hinders performance. Dr. Simeon Cairns, Auckland University of Technology, wrote an actual peer-reviewed, scientific article that disproves the idea of “lactic acid” affecting exercise.
It should not be taken as fact that lactic acid is the deviant that impairs exercise performance. Experiments on isolated muscle suggest that acidosis has little detrimental effect or may even improve muscle performance during high-intensity exercise.
Trevor Conner, a research scientist in the Department of Health and Sciences at Colorado States University sums it up nicely:
At no point in its physiological pathway does lactate function as an acid. Lactate is formed by binding a hydrogen ion to pyruvate inside cells, so as recent research is showing, lactate formation not only doesn’t contribute to acidity but in fact acts as a buffer by binding intracellular protons. Further, the lactate that is pumped into the blood never has a physiologically dissociable hydrogen ion that can contribute to acidosis.
At no time does lactate physiologically function as an acid or contribute to metabolic acidosis. So I think it’s important for our readers to stop thinking of “lactic acid” — a substance that only appears when we work aerobically, that increases acidity, and leads to fatigue. Instead, it is important they instead think of “lactate” — a substance that is constantly produced (even at rest), that can be formed as an acid buffer, and serves as an important fuel shuttle within our bodies.
Many of us have felt the burn in our muscles when exercising hard, but it has NOTHING to do with “lactic acid.” The burn we feel is breaking down of ATP (Adenine Triphosphate) that creates the release of hydrogen ions in the blood. The ATP is breaking down to give you energy so that body can do what it is being asked to do. This breakdown increases with higher intensity exercise, like a sprint or hill climb. These hydrogen ions are protons, and the cause of the “burn.” These buggers start hurting performance by inhibiting anaerobic ATP production, which hinders the muscle contraction process.
As athletes, we must be smart and do our own research. No, not Googling a topic and reading the first thing that pops up, but we must read scientific articles on sports/exercise physiology and be in the know. Just because some former professional athlete promotes a product does not mean it is a good product that you must waste your money on so that you can be “better” at your sport. Most of the time, it is the opposite. They are getting paid to sell you a bit of snake oil.