Peeters, M. J., Rhodes, E. C., Langill, R. H., Sheel, A. W., & Taunton, J. E. (2007). The effect of recovery strategies on lactate clearance and high-intensity exercise performance. ACSM Annual Meeting New Orleans, Presentation Number 1606.

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"High-intensity exercise results in an accumulation of lactate (La-) in the blood and muscle. Previously, it has been suggested that the accumulation of La- can result in decrements in performance and is a factor in the development of fatigue as it affects acid-base status. It has been shown that active recovery (AR) can result in faster La- clearance when compared to passive recovery (PR), and can be beneficial to performance".

This study compared the effects of two recovery intensities (relative to individual thresholds) and passive recovery on performance of a bicycle sprint task and lactate clearance. On separate days, males (N = 9) performed three supramaximal exercise bouts at 120% of maximum aerobic power for 60% of their time to exhaustion. These bouts were separated by five minutes of passive recovery, active recovery, or combined active recovery. The third bout was followed by 14 minutes of the same recovery activity. Recovery intensities were as follows: 1) passive recovery (rest), 2) active recovery (50% of the workload difference between the individual anaerobic threshold and the individual ventilatory threshold below the individual anaerobic threshold), and 3) combined active recovery (the individual anaerobic threshold workload for five minutes and the active recovery workload thereafter). Approximately two minutes post-recovery, five 10-second sprints were performed.

There were no consistent differences between recovery strategies with respect to peak power and mean power. Peak power was significantly greater in the fourth sprint for both combined active recovery and passive recovery than active recovery. Lactate values were significantly lower in the active recovery trial compared to passive recovery from the sixth minute of recovery onward. Lactate was lower at the sixth and fourteenth minute of recovery in the combined active recovery compared to passive recovery. Lactate differed only at the ninth minute between active recovery and combined active recovery.

Implication. Active recovery and combined active recovery both demonstrated improved lactate clearance when compared to passive recovery. Differences in lactate clearance did not affect performance on a repeat sprint task for any condition. Clearance of lactate did not appear to be beneficial to performance when a moderate duration recovery period was employed. [This finding will be disputed by adherents to the belief that "lactate is evil".]

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