In the physically demanding sport of motocross, Arm pump can be a riders biggest enemy. The foods listed in this article will reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles during heavy exercise and help eliminate arm pump.
Whether you’re a motocross rider or another type of athlete, understanding lactic acid and its role in athletic performance is vital. Not only can lactic acid cause a painful condition known as “arm pump” in motocross riders, but it can also lead to debilitating soreness for other athletes (including runners, cyclists, and swimmers), too.
Luckily, lactic acid buildup is easy to prevent by following a few simple steps. One of the easiest solutions is to eat a healthy diet composed of foods that reduce lactic acid buildup. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
What Are Lactic Acid and Lactic Acid Buildup?
Lactic acid isn’t inherently harmful. It’s the result of normal metabolism. The basics are simple – your blood needs oxygen in order to convert glucose into energy. When there is insufficient oxygen, however, the body begins to break down glucose in its absence. This results in lactic acid.
Also known as lactate, lactic acid can build up in many tissues of your body (most notably, in your muscles) before entering the bloodstream. While the body can use small amounts of energy, a buildup can make your muscles feel tired, sore, and worn-out.
There are certain health conditions that lead to increased lactic acid production or can make it harder for your liver to clear excess lactate from your blood. We don’t talk about those conditions (which can include heart failure, a severe infection, or poorly controlled diabetes) in this article, because those are serious medical problems that require the attention of a medical team.
What we are referring to here is, instead, exercise-induced lactic acid buildup, or “hyperlactatemia.”
Keep in mind that the buildup of small amounts of lactic acid is not harmful, and in fact, can be beneficial. It can increase your endurance, help you burn calories, and teach your body to absorb energy more effectively. On the flip side, though, lactic acid can lead to debilitating cramps and muscle pain – and it can lead to arm pump, too.
Why is Lactic Acid Buildup an Issue for Motocross Riders?
If you are an avid motocross rider, you’re probably already familiar with the dread condition known as “arm pump.”
Humor me for a minute, and let’s pretend this is a new term for clarity’s sake.
Arm pump is essentially when blood pools in the forearm, preventing it from flowing effectively back to the heart and to your hands. It not only creates intense pressure in your forearms, but it can also make it more difficult for you to hold onto the bike and to control essential components like the brakes, throttle, and clutch.
Without a doubt, arm pump is one of the most debilitating conditions you can suffer from as a motocross rider.
While this condition can be caused by other factors, including age, issues with your blood pressure, or scar tissue in your wrists, hands, fingers, or forearms, poor nutrition is one of the most common causes of arm pump. While stretching and warming up your forearms can help decrease the symptoms of this condition, watching what you eat to control the buildup of lactic acid is one of the smartest decisions you can make.
What Are the Symptoms of Lactic Acid Buildup?
The most obvious sign that lactic acid is accumulating is that you’re going to feel it. You will experience fatigue and an overall feeling of tiredness along with soreness in the affected muscles specifically.
If you notice symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, severe muscle cramps, headaches, diarrhea, yellowing of the skin or eyes, or shallow breathing, you’ll want to contact a doctor. This can signify a more severe buildup of lactic acid.
Top 15 Foods That Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup
When it comes to fighting inflammation and reducing lactic acid buildup, you can’t go wrong with a bowlful of cherries. The tart kind of cherries are the best – in fact, some studies have found that they are better than aspirin when it comes to reducing muscle pain and soreness.
Ginger has an active ingredient known as gingerol that has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It has the same ability as ibuprofen to fight pain, yet won’t cause any harmful side-effects when it comes to removing lactic acid from your body. You can take a ginger supplement or add a few teaspoons of ginger to your favorite coffee or tea.
Often considered a superfood, the humble blueberry can help decrease inflammation and reduce muscle soreness. Multiple studies have found that eating blueberries on a regular basis can speed up muscle recovery and improve muscle strength, too.
4. Whole Grains
There’s not a ton of scientific evidence pointing to the efficacy of whole grains in reducing lactic acid specifically, but scientists know for sure that high-quality carbohydrates are essential for helping your body repair damages, especially in the muscles.
Eat carbohydrates after a long ride – not only to restore lost calories and nutrients but also to help reduce lactic acid buildup. Good choices include brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, and oats.
You don’t have to be in a Popeye cartoon in order to reap the benefits of spinach! Spinach, along with other leafy greens (like kale and chard) can significantly improve the ability of your body to remove and reduce lactic acid buildup. Spinach is jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants, both of which help reduce soreness and recovery. This vegetable also contains nitrate, which can help boost your muscle strength, too.
6. Brazil nuts
Magnesium is a vital nutrient when it comes to reducing lactic acid buildup. It’s a mineral that’s found naturally in the human body, but you also need to eat a fair amount of magnesium in order to maintain proper health.
Magnesium helps improve nerve function and muscle contraction (including the beating of your heart). It also builds proteins. Adding magnesium boosts energy production so that your muscles receive ample amounts of oxygen while you are working out.
There are all kinds of foods that are rich in magnesium, including legumes, leafy greens, and most nuts. Brazil nuts are some of the best, however, especially if you eat them on a regular basis.
Pomegranates taste wonderful in a juice, smoothie, or even when eaten fresh. They contain helpful antioxidants that can reduce soreness and fight inflammation after a tough ride.
Citrus fruit of all kinds is believed to be effective at reducing lactate levels and enhancing your overall athletic performance. That’s why you might see aid stations at major road marathons passing out orange slices to participants.
Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which not only helps your body uptake nutrients more effectively but can help prevent macular damage, too. These citrus fruits are believed to be particularly effective because they contain folate, which can reduce muscle fatigue and boost overall wellness, too.
The best part is that you can get the benefit of this fruit both when consumed whole as well as in a juice form, making it accessible and easy to take with you on the trails.
9. Sunflower seeds
Like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds are also rich in magnesium. They can be eaten as a healthy snack or even tossed on a salad for an occasional welcomed crunch. Either way, they’ll do the trick to help your muscles recover faster.
While any kind of fish is a healthy choice when it comes to lactic acid buildup, your best bet will be fish that is wild-caught. Farm-raised fish tend to be lower in nutrients and higher in pollutants than their wild-caught counterparts. Good options include tuna, salmon, and mackerel, all of which have a high level of essential omega-3 fatty acids.
11. Lean meats
Any kind of lean meat, from grass-fed beef to free-range poultry, will be effective at building back broken muscle tissue and flushing lactic acid from your muscles. Protein is a great nutrient at repairing damages, and lean protein will provide you with all the benefits you need and want without adding unnecessary cholesterol and fat to your diet.
Turmeric, like ginger, is also known to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Its active ingredient, curcumin, helps with muscle repair and to flush lactic acid from the body post-ride. Like ginger, it can be taken as a supplement or added as a spice to your favorite meal. It has a strong flavor though, so you might want to start off using it in small doses!
13. Black currants
Black currants sound exotic, but they can be particularly effective at removing lactic acid from your muscles and enhancing your muscles’ ability to recover.
Any kind of black currant will work, but studies show that the New Zealand Sujon black currant is one of the most effective. This dark purple berry has the highest concentration of flavonoids and antioxidants and can quicken the removal of lactic acid from your muscles.
14. Chocolate milk
You might be surprised to see chocolate milk on our list of superfoods for lactic acid buildup, but don’t be. Chocolate milk does a great job of replacing the essential sugars that it loses through exercise. If you’re riding frequently, chocolate milk can help provide the protein and carbohydrates your body needs to flush out the lactic acid. Plus, it contains essential minerals and vitamins for an added boost of nutrition, too.
15. Red peppers
Like oranges, red peppers are packed with vitamin C. In fact, just one red pepper has more vitamin C than an orange! While they might not taste as great (fresh-squeezed red pepper juice, anyone?) red peppers have tons of vitamins and antioxidants to help your body remove lactic acid more efficiently.
Other Ways to Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup
Following a smart diet is a good way to reduce lactic acid buildup, but it’s certainly not the only way. There are other tips you can incorporate into your daily lifestyle to reduce the impact that lactic acid has on your performance, too.
For starters, make sure you are well-hydrated before, during, and after a riding session. Keeping your body hydrated will help it break down excess lactic acid. Water is the best choice, but certain sports drinks with added electrolytes can be beneficial, too. Steer clear of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for best results.
You can also try taking deep breaths once the initial soreness sets in. breathing deeply will help deliver oxygen to your muscles and slow the production of lactic acid. Make sure you stretch gently before and after a ride, too, which can alleviate the cramps caused by lactic acid buildup.
Finally, if lactic acid and arm pump remain your mortal enemies, consider decreasing your intensity. You might want to try riding a little less often – or for shorter durations or intensities – to let the oxygen levels recover in your blood.
Improve Your Performance by Following a Smart Diet
At some point, just about every motocross rider is destined to suffer from arm pump or a similar issue related to lactic acid buildup. That doesn’t mean you can’t take smart steps now to prevent it!
Not only will eating the right foods prevent lactic acid buildup, but it will give you the energy and stamina you need for continued performance, too. So toss that stale bag of chips to the side and start filling up on these nutritional powerhouses – your arms (and the rest of your body!) will thank you.