HOW TO COUNTERACT MUSCLE FATIGUE USING THE MENTAL COMPONENT
Whatever your fitness goals – getting faster, stronger or thinner – you can only achieve the results you want by pushing yourself to push the boundaries. Since evolution has designed our body to protect us from damage and stress, we are uncomfortable when it tries to preserve itself in the face of the intensification of our training routine. Fatigue is a decline in muscle strength over a prolonged period: usually, it results in pain and soreness and prevents us from continuing with our training. A few simple tips will help you fight the two main reasons why you give up on a workout too soon: acid buildup and fatigue.
Lactate: what it is and why it forms
We often experience high levels of lactate, or hyperlactataemia, in our muscles during very strenuous exercise. When the intensity of training increases rapidly, our bodies cannot keep up with the oxygen demand needed to break down glucose into energy. To continue providing energy to our muscles, our body then switches to anaerobic breathing, which does not require oxygen to produce energy.
During this process, we create a by-product called lactate. Our muscles can use lactate as energy to a certain extent, but once we are unable to convert it to energy, it builds up in the muscles and blood. When you run out of usable energy during an intense series or sprint, the muscles become more acidic and begin to fatigue: this sensation is felt very well when the muscles start to burn and you feel pain during training. Reaching this point means having reached the lactate threshold, that is, the moment when the body no longer produces the energy necessary to maintain the intensity of the training you are facing.
How to fight hyperlathemia
In most cases, exercise-induced hyperlactataemia is not harmful, but it makes it more difficult to complete exercises and improve performance. However, some techniques can help combat and delay this threshold: train regularly, stay hydrated and have a healthy diet.
The more consistent we are with training and gradually increase the intensity of the session, the more we delay the lactate threshold. Research suggests focusing on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) at or near your threshold to effectively delay its onset. Delaying the threshold means having more energy to continue performing strenuous exercises.
Hydration can decrease the burning sensation due to the acidity of our muscles, because it dilutes the blood as much as necessary so as not to stop quickly due to intense soreness. Hydration also helps eliminate lactate from our bloodstream.
The strength of the mind
Now that you understand how to delay muscle fatigue caused by acidity, the real challenge becomes our mindset. The brain can fail to understand how much energy we have left during a workout and demand less effort from our muscles, thus causing us to stop earlier.
To bypass this mechanism, we need to train our brains to push beyond this threshold. Experts are of the opinion that perceived exertion causes us to finish an exercise rather than truly running out of energy.
Another study supports this theory, noting that cyclists with nerve blocks – that is, cases where the brain could not communicate with their legs – push their training far beyond their normal limits. In this case, there are ways to overcome fatigue and continue to give your all during very strenuous workouts: for example, keeping a positive mindset, feeding the brain, and training to move beyond muscle burning.
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