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What is Blood Lactate? How Floating can Help with Sport Recovery

20 July 2021, by i-sopod

It’s well known by now that floatation is very beneficial for athletes and sport players, speeding up recovery time and supporting better performance. But why is this exactly?

In this article, we’re going to hone in on one of the key factors which makes float therapy beneficial for sport recovery: blood lactate. We’ll be exploring the science behind this compound and how it works, and how adding floatation to your post work-out or training routine can be a real asset to your game.

What is blood lactate?

If you’re into any intense form of fitness or sport, you have most likely heard the term ‘lactate threshold’, which is used as a metric in training and fitness, relating to endurance and performance.

Lactate is a gluconeogenic precursor, meaning it generates glucose in the body, and functions as a source of potential energy. When you work out, lactate is produced in order for glucose to be released and sustained – the higher the glucose need in your muscle cells, the higher the lactate production.

There is a common misconception that blood lactate is a waste product that increases fatigue in the muscles. Everybody has a lactic threshold; this is the point at which, if exceeded, there will be a build up of blood lactate in the muscles.

Whether working out, running, or practising any intensive sport, you will have experienced the feeling when you stop and your legs suddenly feel extremely stiff and heavy. Known as ‘jelly legs’, this is what happens when your lactic threshold is exceeded. Reaching this threshold can be a repeating hinderance to your performance.

Often we try to outperform current endurance levels and push our limits to perform better, but this process will result in an overproduction of blood lactate, and the aches and stiffness which come with it.

Elite athletes train in a meticulous way to gradually raise their lactate threshold and avoid reaching this point, so that blood lactate is released and used by the body as a potential energy source and not suffered as a hinderance to performance. A well trained athlete will therefore have low lactate levels showing in their blood, despite a higher output of energy and of performance.

How does floatation help?

It has been proven that an hour spent in an isolation tank reduces lactate levels by 37% (as shown in this study), and also eases and decreases the associated aches and pains from lactate build up.

This decrease in lactate not only leads to a faster recovery: floating regularly alongside training, the athlete is also ensuring that lactate levels are repeatedly reduced, meaning they are able to increase that lactic threshold, and therefore have a higher level of performance and endurance.

3 Other Reasons to Float For Recovery

Besides this reduction in lactate, there are a number of other factors which make floatation a solid recovery choice for anyone training. Here are just a few:

  • Zero gravity gives every part of your body a deep rest, taking away all weight and pressure. Not using your muscles at all, this is a highly restorative experience for the body.
  • The high levels of magnesium and sulphate in the Epsom salts used in floatation tanks act as both a muscle relaxant and protein builder, a combination which is incredibly beneficial for the joints.
  • The lack of gravity increases blood flow and the distribution of red blood cells around the body. Not only does this speed up recovery from injury, but also flushes out cortisol and adrenaline, leading to a physical state more conducive to rest and recovery.

To read more on the other ways in which floatation can benefit anyone who’s serious about their sport training or fitness, check out this blog post where we look at all the aspects at play.

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash