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How to Push Through Muscle Fatigue

Some moves to combat hyperlactemia and exercise mental strength

Whatever your fitness goals may be - getting faster, stronger, or leaner - you can only achieve your desired results by pushing yourself to reach new milestones. Since evolution designed our bodies to protect us against damage and stress, we experience discomfort as our body attempts to preserve itself when we intensify our training routine. Muscle fatigue is a decline in muscle force over a sustained period. Usually, it results in pain and soreness and stops us from continuing a workout. A few simple tips will help you combat two main reasons for quitting a workout too soon: acid build-up and central fatigue.

Lactate: what it is and why it is produced

We often experience high levels of lactate, or hyperlactatemia, in our muscles during strenuous exercise. When workout intensity quickly increases, our body can’t keep up with the oxygen demand needed to metabolize glucose into energy. In order to keep feeding energy to our muscles, our body switches to anaerobic respiration, which doesn’t require oxygen to produce energy.

During this process, we create a byproduct called lactate. Our muscles can use lactate for energy until a certain point; once we’re unable to convert it into energy, it builds up in our muscles and bloodstream. As you run out of usable energy during an intense set or a sprint, your muscles become more acidic and start to fatigue. You can feel it happening - your muscles begin to burn and feel sore during the workout. At this point, you reached your lactate threshold, the time when your body no longer produces the energy needed to maintain the intensity of your workout.

How to deal with hyperlatemia

In most cases, exercise-induced hyperlactatemia is not harmful but makes it harder to complete exercises and improve performance. However, a few techniques can allow you to combat and delay the threshold: regularly exercising, staying hydrated, and healthy nutrition.

The more consistently we exercise and gradually increase our training intensity, the more we delay the lactate threshold. Research suggests focusing on HIIT at or near your threshold to delay it’s onset effectively. Delaying the threshold means you have more energy to continue to perform strenuous exercises. Ensuring we’re hydrated may decrease the burning sensation from our muscles’ acidity as it dilutes the blood so that you won’t be halted as quickly by intense soreness. Hydration also helps to clear lactate from our bloodstream.

The power of your mind

Now that you understand how to delay muscle fatigue caused by acidity, the real challenge becomes our mindset. Our brain can misread how much energy we have left during a workout and demand less of our muscles, causing us to quit early.

To override this mechanism, we need to train our brains to push through the limit. Experts believe our perceived effort makes us end an exercise rather than truly running out of energy. When appropriate, there are ways to overcome central fatigue to continue pushing ourselves during strenuous workouts: keep a positive mindset, fuel your brain, and practice pushing through the muscle burn.

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