The Performance Benefits of Lactate Threshold Testing and Training That Triathletes Need to Know.

Lactate is a by-product that is measured by sports scientists or coaches to evaluate workouts and profile athletes during fitness testing.

The lactate threshold is a performance marker used by athletes and coaches to measure an athlete’s potential.

This article provides an overview of lactate testing, including its purpose and how it works.

What Is Lactate in the Blood?

Lactate is a normal by-product of the body and is used to fuel during intense activities. The feeling of discomfort during a workout is not from the lactate, but most likely from the hydrogen ions that occur when the body’s pH level drops. The pain from working out is related to lactate, but the cause of the discomfort and residual pain afterwards is more about muscle damage than acids in the bloodstream. Lactic acid has been incorrectly blamed for fatigue for many years when it is actually a normal part of biochemical reactions in the body. Lactate isn’t a wasted biochemical product, it helps the body cope with fatigue.

The opinion on lactate changed from seeing it as a harmful substance to viewing it as beneficial during the early 2000s, as research suggested that without it, metabolism would be damaged during conditioning. Some coaches began to believe that lactate was actually either directly anabolic or a biomarker that indicated specific adaptations were taking place. This change in how people thought about those who were once seen as enemies created new problems, as new myths were created that caused confusion.

Lactate is an important biological marker that can indicate whether an athlete is working too hard. Lactate is produced when the body breaks down glucose, and high levels of lactate in the blood can disrupt the pH balance. A rise in the level of lactate in the blood may indicate an increase in endorphins and the occurrence of other physical reactions. It is an excellent marker for sports scientists and coaches to use.

In the second edition of Better Training for Distance Runners, David Martin wrote a fantastic summary of lactate:

” We know that ATP is an important energy source, released from both fast-twitch (FT) and slow-twitch (ST) skeletal muscle cells and usable as a fuel, especially by the ST muscle cells. This website is not a gremlin molecule that should be thought of as a harmful substance. It is not produced in an unknown or mysterious way, but in a way that is well-understood and can be used as a significant energy source.

What Is Lactate Testing?

Blood samples are taken from a lancet, and used on the finger, earlobe, or another part of the body, to test for the presence of lactate. Lab testing is considered invasive, even if it’s practical and portable for field tests. Since lactate testing involves taking blood from an athlete, gloves must be worn to protect against infection. Lactate testing is usually done with endurance athletes to calculate their lactate threshold, which is the intensity of experience before the lactate level starts to increase exponentially. The so-called ‘lactate inflexion point,’ or ‘LIP,’ is no longer considered as useful as it was 10 years ago, though many athletes and coaches still use the zone of intensity it denotes.

Coaches sometimes use lactate testing for intervals and real-world testing conditions like shift evaluation during ice hockey, not just for endurance sports and graded conditioning tests. Lactate testing is also used by sports practitioners to determine the body’s response to speed and power work, like repeated or absolute sprints and weight training.

Lactate testing is a great way, to sum up, what is happening in the body when a change in pH is expected. Lactate testing is not just a local muscle test like EMG, it is a global indicator of how intense the work is. Resting lactate tests that are done for medical purposes are not sports performance tests. One proper way to evaluate an athlete is by using baseline testing while the athlete is at rest. Another way to evaluate the athlete is by looking at how the athlete responds to training that gradually becomes more intense.

A lactate test is often done at the same time as a gas exchange test, which measures the amount of oxygen that someone uses while exercising. Other field tests, such as intervals or recovery-style testing, can give you an estimate of how your body will respond to work, but they are not perfect. This means that even if you have a high-quality portable lactate analyzer, the accuracy will only be about half a mmol. Applied values are useful for comparison, but actual lab values are more accurate.

Many coaches believe that lactate levels respond to exercise similarly to heart rate. Because of this, they often choose to begin training using heart rate instead of testing lactate levels. Although it makes sense, using lactate responses and monitoring heart rate are not the same thing. Short exposure intervals make it difficult to use heart rate as an indicator of change. Heart rate monitors can be useful for coaches in seeing how hard a person is working during a workout.

How can Lactate Testing help athletes?

The main advantage of lactate testing is that it provides a clear overview of how the body is responding to the workload so that comparisons can be made. The arguments against lactate testing have some validity because there is no prize given to athletes for having the best lactate reading. Coaches rely on hard measures like speed and pacing to assess their athletes’ performance, rather than physiological responses. However, lactate measurements can help to keep coaches honest.

It is easy to train an athlete too much and eventually cause them to overtrain. You need to find a workout that is just right, not too little and not too much. You may not need to train at lower levels of lactate, such as at the scholastic level. replacing lactate meters with non-invasive options such as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).

Coaches look for athletes who adapt well to the work they are being asked to do. If an athlete experiences less fatigue while doing the same workout, they are becoming fitter. There are various explanations for this improvement, e.g. running more efficiently, a change in the mitochondria, or more effective cooling or fuelling strategies, but the bottom line is that there has been a change.

What is Lactate Threshold?

ATP is a molecule consisting of adenosine and three phosphate groups. ATP provides the energy to move by breaking down into adenosine and three phosphate groups. ATP is only stored in the body in small quantities and would be used up very quickly if the body didn’t have ways of replenishing it. Three different energy systems can produce energy for the body. These are the ATP-PC system (which is used for short, explosive movements), the glycolytic system (which is used for intermittent hard intervals) and the aerobic system (which is used for endurance exercise). The most common explanation that athletes give for the intense burning feeling during exhaustive exercise is that it is caused by the accumulation of lactate in the blood.

The glycolytic energy system provides energy when the aerobic system cannot produce it fast enough. The glycolytic energy system is not truly anaerobic, there is simply not enough oxygen available to meet the energy demands of the body.

The glycolytic system is quick but it doesn’t produce as much energy, for the amount of fuel burned, as the aerobic system. The lactate in your blood and muscles starts to accumulate when the production of lactate starts to exceed the body’s ability to clear it.

The lactate threshold can be increased through lactate testing, by following a training program, and by making use of the lactate threshold to improve strength and speed.

Why Lactate Threshold Matters

Your lactate threshold defines how hard you can push yourself in training and competition before your body starts to tire. Once you begin to exercise more intensely and rely more heavily on your glycolytic system for energy, you’re using up energy that you will need later. If blood lactate builds up, your muscles won’t be able to contract as well and you’ll have to slow down or stop.

Doing more work before reaching the lactate threshold is better. If you can maintain a faster pace than your competitor at your lactate threshold, you will finish first and win the race.

Working at a higher lactate threshold means that you can maintain a lower pace for a longer period. While your main rivals are using up a lot of energy by riding quickly, you can stay with them and mostly rely on your aerobic system. This allows you to conserve energy for more difficult tasks later, like running during a triathlon, climbing to the finish line, or sprinting.

Lactate Threshold Testing

LT testing can be used to find a training intensity that is appropriate for athletes of all levels, as well as to monitor their progress. The test is similar to the VO2 max test, but it has longer intervals between changes in workload. The test will require you to have several blood samples taken from your finger to assess your blood lactate levels. It is not a maximal test, but it does require a high-intensity effort.

First, the athlete warms up on the cycling trainer or treadmill. The example below is discussing the protocol for cycling, but it is very similar to the protocol for using a treadmill.

The athlete rides on an electronically-braked bicycle. This means that the amount of work done, in watts, stays the same even if you change the speed at which you are pedalling. This refers to the test starting at an easy load, typically 100-125 watts. Approximately every three minutes, the workload is increased by 25 watts. RPE, HR, and blood lactate are measured in the last 60-30 seconds of each stage. Most athletes will ride for 7-8 stages, or until their blood lactate values start to increase.

Evaluating LT Data

The lactate test provides an indication of the fitness level of athletes and how much training is needed. Different protocols can be used to collect data on maximum sustainable power or pace for cycling and running, recovery heart rate, pace and power at lactate threshold, and a relative index of fitness. The athlete benefits greatly from the performance information.

You can get the most out of lactate testing by comparing your results over time. If you are working hard to improve your performance, regular lactate testing can give you clear proof of your progress. Some athletes test themselves two to four times per year and over several years. If you have a history of lactate tests, it should show your fitness level improving over time, with increased power and/or speed at your threshold. This text is discussing the benefits of improved fitness. With improved fitness, you will see an improved recovery heart rate, a higher lactate threshold heart rate, and a higher pace or power-to-weight ratio.

LT Training

Getting information on your body and lactate threshold is not helpful unless you use it for your training. Working on improving your lactate threshold pace or power typically occurs after you’ve already built up a strong aerobic foundation. If you’re a summertime competitor, you’ll need to do some lactate threshold work in the mid-spring. After completing several training blocks that focus on targeted interval workouts, you will move on to harder workouts that are shorter in duration.

If you want to improve your performance at the lactate threshold, you need to be consistent. You need to work steadily and increase your workload gradually to put enough stress on your system. Since you can’t spend much time working above your lactate threshold, these intervals should be at an intensity that is just below your lactate threshold.

Lactate threshold-focused interval workouts should last for 5 minutes and then should gradually progress to intervals that last up to 20 minutes. recover for about one-third to half the amount of time as the interval

Your goal is to start with shorter intervals and then gradually progress to longer intervals. Lactate threshold workouts are hard on the body. You should do a day of light training or active recovery between days of lactate training threshold.

The Effect of LT Training

The body can be trained to contract muscles quickly and forcefully without causing too much buildup of blood lactate. When you work out at a faster aerobic pace, you use less muscle glycogen and produce less blood lactate.

To improve your endurance, first, increase the amount of work you can do before reaching your lactate threshold, and then the power you can produce at that threshold. You can improve your event-oriented skills by training specifically for them. As you get closer to your event, your training should become more specific to the event, and then you should start tapering off. The taper is a period of rest and recovery before a competition. The goal during a taper is to reduce volume but maintain intensity to stay fresh and powerful. In addition, focus on recovery to restore and replenish all your energy systems.

You want to use your time and energy efficiently. The safest and most successful path to peak performance is through methods that have been proven to work over many years. Lactate threshold testing is a way to measure your fitness level and it is becoming more available to the public. This season, try to be more precise in your training.


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