Contrary to popular belief, this increased concentration of lactate does not directly cause acidosis, nor is it responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness. This is because lactate itself is not capable of releasing a proton, and secondly, the acidic form of lactate, lactic acid, cannot be formed under normal circumstances in human tissues. Analysis of the glycolytic pathway in humans indicates that there are not enough hydrogen ions present in the glycolytic intermediates to produce lactic or any other acid.
The acidosis that is associated with increases in lactate concentration during heavy exercise arises from a separate reaction. When ATP is hydrolysed, a hydrogen ion is released. ATP-derived hydrogen ions are primarily responsible for the decrease in pH. During intense exercise, aerobic metabolism cannot produce ATP quickly enough to supply the demands of the muscle. As a result, anaerobic metabolism becomes the dominant energy producing pathway as it can form ATP at high rates. Due to the large amounts of ATP being produced and hydrolysed in a short period of time, the buffering systems of the tissues are overcome, causing pH to fall and creating a state of acidosis, a natural process which facilitates the easier dissociation of Oxyhaemoglobin and allows easier transfer of oxygen from the blood. This may be one factor, among many, that contributes to the acute muscular discomfort experienced shortly after intense exercise.