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Cool science info for the day…

Cheryl's Musings: Cool science info for the day…

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Cool science info for the day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Question for the day: Why do you breathe harder when you exercise?

If you’re like me, you probably think it’s because your body needs more oxygen. And that’s no doubt part of the truth, but there’s another piece of the puzzle that I didn’t know until today: you breathe more rapidly in order to keep your blood from becoming too acidic.

Here’s how it works (in Cheryl’s condensed and oversimplified science version):

When your muscles work, they metabolize energy-storage compounds to release energy and—in the process—they release acidic products like lactic acid.

Lactic acid moves into the blood stream where, if nobody does anything about it, it will make the blood acidic. Too acidic = bad.

Luckily, your blood contains a buffering system made up of carbonic acid (H2CO3) and the hydrogen carbonate ion (HCO3-)

In your bloodstream, there’s a constant back and forth reaction between these two guys. H2CO3 loses a proton (H+) to form HCO3-; HCO3- picks it back up again to form H2CO3.

When lactic acid comes on the scene, it adds more protons to the mix, which get picked up by HCO3-; the tricky part is that these compounds are a sort of teeter-totter. If there are too many on one side of the teeter-totter (equation), then they’ll slide back over to the other side. Interpretation: add more protons and it forms H2CO3, but if too much H2CO3 builds up, it will break apart again.

The solution is that the body has to get rid of the H2CO3. Which it does by means of another reaction that converts H2CO3 to water and carbon dioxide (CO2.) This reaction is on a teeter-totter, too, though. They body has to get rid of that extra CO2 or the whole process backs up like a tube slide full of kids.

How do you get rid of CO2? You breathe.

So when you breathe harder when exercising, just think: you’re not just gaining oxygen. You’re lowering your blood pH!

(And when you think that, you may count yourself a true science geek :).)



At February 8, 2010 at 8:09 PM , Blogger mirrorsandmagicfrogs said...

I feel smart now because I actually knew that already. I doubt I could've explained it, but I knew it! I should give myself a gold star. :)


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