When Does Lactic Acid Fermentation Occur?

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When you are running a race without training, it is common to feel out of breath and have cramps. If you could look inside the muscle cells, then lactic acid fermentation would be obvious. This process occurs when the cells make adenosine triphosphate or ATP without oxygen.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Lactic acid fermentation happens when cells produce ATP without oxygen being present. This means only glycolysis occurs.

Lactic Acid Fermentation in Animals and Bacteria

Lactic acid fermentation creates ATP, which is a molecule both animals and bacteria need for energy, when there is no oxygen present. This process breaks down glucose into two lactate molecules. Then, lactate and hydrogen form lactic acid. Lactic acid fermentation provides an alternative way to generate energy when normal cellular respiration is not possible.

Lactic Acid Fermentation in Food

When your favorite craft beer company creates its product, yeast helps ferment the malt. In general, anaerobic bacteria and yeast are responsible for fermentation in food products. For example, Lactobacillus is a common bacteria in yogurt and part of the fermentation process, which creates the tart flavor that people love. Other foods that rely on lactic acid include preserved meats.

The fermentation of pickles provides a good example of lactic acid in action. Lactic acid bacteria grow and give the pickles their tangy taste. They also prevent other bacteria from growing in the container, so the contents do not spoil.

Lactic Acid Fermentation in Muscle Cells

Your muscle cells can produce lactic acid to give you energy during difficult physical activities. This usually happens when there is not enough oxygen in the body, so lactic acid fermentation provides a way to get ATP without it. The process relies on stored energy sources such as sugars or starches, which it can break down to make simpler molecules and energy. By breaking them down, you get a burst of energy that can help you finish a race or climb a staircase. However, lactic acid can build up in the muscles and create cramps.

Lactic acidosis usually occurs because of exercise. It causes symptoms such as muscle aches, pain, cramps, nausea and weakness. When there is too much lactic acid in the blood, lactic acidosis happens. Although intense workouts are the most common culprit, sometimes cancer, liver problems and medications can cause it.

You can prevent lactic acidosis by exercising with less intensity and building up your stamina. In addition, drinking water and remembering to breathe while working out can help. If you notice the symptoms, remember to slow down and take a break.


About the Author

Lana Bandoim is a freelance writer and editor. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry from Butler University. Her work has appeared on Forbes, Yahoo! News, Business Insider, Lifescript, Healthline and many other publications. She has been a judge for the Scholastic Writing Awards from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. She has also been nominated for a Best Shortform Science Writing award by the Best Shortform Science Writing Project.