You Don’t Know The Difference Between Lactate And Lactic Acid


Kilo’s to the cafe…

While out on a training ride with a client and friend this morning we decided to knock out a hard set of 1-kilometre efforts.

Yep, sick pups…

Towards the end of the 3 rd and final set my mate threw in the towel.

“I can’t take anymore of this f++king shit, I’m done! The lactic acid in my legs is unbearable man, honestly”.

This progressed into how much he hated cycling and then me. Standard enough really…
However, after a coffee we were friends again and talking about how much he loved the bike. It’s a mad oul sport!

The whole lactic acid thing registered in my head when he said it, but he was far fucked to mention it and it would have been pure cruel to tell him at the time that the burn wasn’t caused by lactic acid.

Hold up is there a difference between the two?

Yes ! As bike riders we throw the two terms around flippantly, but do you know what they are? Most of us haven’t a clue!

You’ll hear “lactic acid” and “lactate” used interchangeably by bike riders, coaches and other proclaimed experts.

God the gyms love it!

“Feel that lactic acid.. Own that burn”.

You know you’ve heard it!

Accordingly, the average sod then assumes you mean the same thing when you use either term, but they are a little different folks.


Lactate is produced by your body in response to aerobic exercise and serves as a fuel for the muscles and actually delays fatigue.

That’s right FUELS the muscles!

Lactic acid….

Lactic acid contains one extra chemical molecule and is not produced by the body at all during exercise! The technical difference between lactate and lactic acid is therefore a chemical one.

“My legs are flooded with lactic acid”… nope pal. No they’re not.

In a nutshell the body produces and uses lactate – not lactic acid!

So, what the hell causes the burn then?

Without getting too scientific, it’s caused by excess hydrogen ions, these little buggers cause the blood to become far more acidic (hence the burn!)

Once over a certain threshold the bodies removal system can’t cope… boom !

You’re done.

To wrap this part up..

Most bike riders consider lactic acid their enemy, and believe that training helps eliminate it from their muscles so the muscles will function longer and harder.


Thanks to the world of research we now know this to be untrue. Training actually teaches muscle cells how to use lactate as a fuel.

Remember that squiggly looking thing back in your secondary school biology days? (No double meaning intended!)


With training, mitochondria ( the squiggly looking thing where lactate is processed) grow. This is why all the top endurance athletes possess vast quantities of mitochondria in their muscles.

Therefore they take in more lactate and burn it to generate more energy for your working muscles.

More discussion on this in the members area!

Get on it like a car bonnet.


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