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The onset of muscle fatigue has hampered many athletes from achieving their maximum potential. Lactic acid buildup is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. Under normal activity levels, the body mostly relies on aerobic metabolism and hence lactate (another name for lactic acid) buildup is not a major concern. However, with increased activity levels, specifically, when the metabolism switches from aerobic (oxidative) to anaerobic (glycolytic), as in power activities performed at high heart rates, lactate levels quickly build up, which, if not cleared from muscles, cause fatigue and a burning sensation.

But how quickly lactic acid is cleared and how quickly a person feels this fatigue is also influenced by your genetics, especially the MCT1 gene. This article provides insights into how individual differences effects the lactic acid clearance rate and muscle fatigue.

How your muscles become fatigued?

During short term power (anaerobic) exercise, our body uses substances such as ATP and creatine phosphate (CP) within the first 7 seconds to produce energy. This signals the body to start glycolysis, a process to utilize the glycogen (stored glucose) to produce energy. When glycogen is broken down to release energy, which allows the muscle movement to continue. During this process, a substance called lactic acid is formed. Small amounts of lactic acid operate as a temporary energy source, thus helping you avoid fatigue during a workout. However, a buildup of lactic acid during a workout can create burning sensations in the muscle & limits the muscle contraction, resulting in muscle fatigue. For this reason, it may be desirable to reduce lactic acid build up in the muscles. However, if you are a bodybuilder, lactic acid buildup has been shown to be highly anabolic- meaning, good for muscle building. Body builders routinely workout to feel the “burn” in their muscles.

Genetics and muscle fatigue resistance

Monocarboxylate transporters (MCT) regulates the transport of lactate and many other substances and removes lactic acid from the muscles. MCT1 gene influences the amount of MCT you produce. The more you produce, the quicker is the clearance rate, thus the delay in the onset of muscle fatigue. Individuals with faster version have shown to produce higher levels of MCT, making them more suitable for endurance based exercises than individuals with slower versions producing lower levels of MCT.

Simple ways of reducing lactic acid through diet:

Adequate magnesium levels in your diet will help the body deliver energy to the muscles while exercising, thus limiting the buildup of lactic acid. Foods rich in magnesium include legumes like navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans and seeds such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds  and vegetables like spinach, greens, turnips. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It helps the body to break down glucose and thus can help to limit the body’s need for lactic acid. Food sources of these fatty acids include fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, from nuts and seeds like walnuts and flax seed and from plant based oils such a olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil. B vitamins: help to transport glucose throughout the body and help provide energy to the muscles. Food sources of B vitamins includes leafy green vegetables, cereals, peas and beans, fish, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

BOTTOM LINE: If you are an endurance runner, excess lactic acid buildup is undesirable as it leads to fatigue. If you are a bodybuilder, you need lactic acid buildup as its highly anabolic and good for muscle growth.

Discover your genes and align your training with your genetic type. Try Xcode’s fitness genetics test which can tell you whether you carry faster, slower or both versions of the MCT1 genes . Write to us at

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