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Biosensor knows when you’re going to ‘hit the wall’

The human body is capable of a lot, but sometimes, our energy production just can’t keep up with our energy expenditure. Luckily, there’s now a sensor that will help athletes figure out when they’re out of juice.

‘Hitting the wall’ for those of us who aren’t pro athletes, is a term used to describe when your body can’t produce enough energy to account for the energy you’re using. It happens when the glycogen levels in your muscles and liver are totally depleted and will manifest itself as a sudden and overpowering fatigue. Mild cases can be combated by rest and intake of carbs…  but everything has a breaking point.

There are several ways to combat, or at least delay, hitting the wall. Truly managing it however, means knowing how close you are to hitting it, and that’s a difficult task. Luckily, a new biosensor is being developed by a team led by Joseph Wang from the University of California, and it can help you stay on top of what’s going on in your muscles. The sensor sticks to your skin and monitors the lactate level in your sweat. Lactate is produced during all forms of exercise, including milder aerobic and heavier anaerobic exertion (unlike the more well-known lactic acid, which is only produced during anaerobic exertion).

It’s cool-looking too

When your body hits a certain level of lactate, it shuts down, no matter how much you want to keep pushing. It’s a humbling experience, but for pro-athletes or soldiers for example, it’s a game ending experience as well. Knowing when to hold back to keep from over exerting yourself is important, and if you want to keep track of how much you can push to guarantee you’ll see the end of that marathon or not collapse on patrol somewhere, the sensor can be a big help.


David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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