Back in the day, lactic acid was seen very much as the bad boy of metabolism – a pointless waste product that was blamed for everything from muscle fatigue during exercise to cramp to delayed-onset muscle soreness.
But over the years, lactate* has staged a comeback that even Rocky would have been proud of.
Its status has slowly shifted from a metabolic waste product to a source of fuel for your brain, heart and muscles, and more recently to a signaling molecule that plays an important role in how your body adapts to training.
Now, it turns out there’s another benefit – new research suggests that the lactate produced during intense exercise may affect some of the hormones involved in regulating your appetite.
For the study, Canadian researchers rounded up a group of volunteers, and got them to do high-intensity interval training (1 minute of cycling at 90% max heart rate separated by 1 minute of recovery) on separate days .
One of the workouts was performed after a dose of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), which typically leads to an increase in lactate levels for a given exercise intensity.
This allowed the researchers to see what happened to appetite when the same people performed the same workout, but with different lactate levels.
And sure enough, the subjects reported feeling less hungry after the high-lactate workout, in part because lactate seems to alter several of the hormones involved in regulating your appetite.
Now, none of this means you should start taking baking soda and doing intense “high lactate” workouts solely for the purpose of losing fat. Short-term changes in post-workout hormone levels and appetite don’t automatically translate into long-term effects on fat loss.
While some studies do show that HIIT trumps steady-state cardio for getting rid of fat, the difference between the two isn’t as great as was once believed.
In any case, when it comes to getting lean, what you eat is a lot more important than what you do in the gym (a subject I cover in Gutless – https://muscleevo.co.uk/gutless).
You’re much better off treating exercise as a way to make you fitter, healthier, happier, stronger and more muscular, rather than as a way to lose fat.
Christian Finn, M.Sc.
Founder of Muscle Evo
* Lactate is lactic acid minus a hydrogen ion. Some people use the terms interchangeably, and some people don’t.