DOI: 10.1044/2023_jslhr-23-00531 ISSN: 1092-4388

A Tutorial on Skeletal Muscle Metabolism and the Role of Blood Lactate: Implications for Speech Production

Mariah E. Morton-Jones, L. Bruce Gladden, Andreas N. Kavazis, Mary J. Sandage
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


The purpose of this tutorial is threefold: (a) present relevant exercise science literature on skeletal muscle metabolism and synthesize the limited available research on metabolism of the adult human speech musculature in an effort to elucidate the role of metabolism in speech production; (b) introduce a well-studied metabolic serum biomarker in exercise science, lactate, and the potential usefulness of investigating this metabolite, through a well-established exercise science methodology, to better understand metabolism of the musculature involved in voice production; and (c) discuss exercise physiology considerations for future voice science research that seeks to investigate blood lactate and metabolism in voice physiology in an ecologically valid manner.


This tutorial begins with relevant exercise science literature on the basic cellular processes of muscle contraction that require energy and the metabolic mechanisms that regenerate the energy required for task execution. The tutorial next synthesizes the available research investigating metabolism of the adult human speech musculature. This is followed by the authors proposing a hypothesis of speech metabolism based on the voice science literature and the application of well-studied exercise science principles of muscle physiology. The tutorial concludes with a discussion and the potential usefulness of lactate in investigations to better understand the metabolism of the musculature involved in vocal demand tasks.


The role of metabolism during speech (respiratory, laryngeal, and articulatory) is an understudied yet critical aspect of speech physiology that warrants further study to better understand the metabolic systems that are used to meet vocal demands.

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