Exhausting activity results in a marked and immediate drop in blood pH which gradually returns to normal over the following 6h. The acidosis is caused largely by elevated Pco2 levels, which vary inversely with pH. Blood lactate concentration increases slowly, reaching a maximum at 2--4h post-exercise, and contributes significantly to the acidosis only late in the recovery period. The slow time course of lactic acid release into the blood permits temporal separation of the peak metabolic acidosis from the peak respiratory acidosis. Evidence is presented that a metabolic acid other than lactic also makes a modest contribution to the pH depression during the recovery period.

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