How to Measure your lactate threshold
What is Lactate Threshold?
Lactate is a product of anaerobic metabolism can be produced from any exercise intensity, despite what people may think. When someone stands up after sitting in a chair, they are producing lactic acid. An important key in athletics is balancing the rate of lactate production with lactate absorption.
When exercise is light to moderate in intensity the blood concentration of lactate remains low. This means the body is able to absorb lactate at a faster pace than the muscle cell producing them. When exercise intensity increases there will come a point when lactate removal can’t keep up with the rate the lactate is produced.
When there is excessive amounts of concentration of blood lactate and hydrogen ions combined it interferes with the efficiency and the proper muscle contraction. When this happens you will have power output drops, which means you will need to slow down.
The lactate threshold means the highest amount of time an athlete can stay at steady exercise intensity usually around 30 minutes.
Today many coaches and sports scientists recognize what the lactate threshold is, and can do, and that it is one of few strong predictors when it comes to endurance performance.
Lactate Threshold helps serve as a useful measure when it comes to determining training zones and how effective a training program is.
How is Lactate Threshold Measured?
When completing a lactate threshold test it will typically be performed on either a treadmill or bicycle with an ergometer. Once a good warm up has been completed the test will start and the exercise will intensify about 50-60 percent of the subject’s VO2MAX.
There will be many stages each lasting between 2 – 6 minutes. This will allow a sufficient amount of time for the test subject to get a steady heart rate, VO2 and lactate production. There will be blood samples taken near the end of the stages to determine the blood lactate concentration is, something like finger prick will work.
The will increase the workload in steps and continue the process until they see an obvious spike in the lacate concentration. During each stage, they will record things like the power output and/or speed, VO2 and heart rate.
The blood lactate concentration is measured in millimoles (mM) of lactate per liter of blood (mmol/L). The lactate threshold will typically be expressed as a percentage of the athlete’s maximal heart rate or VO2MAX. Power meters can identify what an athlete’s threshold and training zones are.
Since an athlete can evaluate their lactate threshold they can determine what their potential is for success. An example would be a male racing in the Tour de France – he would need to maintain somewhere between 5-6 watts/kg at lactate threshold. This means that a man that weighs about 150 pounds needs to produce 350-400 watts in order to make it through the toughest hills.
Two Cyclists – Who Wins?
A good way to help you understand would be to take two cyclists. One would have a high VO2MAX and a moderate lactate threshold and the other with a moderate VO2MAX and a ridiculously hight lactate threshold. The cyclist would need to be the same size and weight but in the end, the cyclist with the highest lactate threshold would more than likely come out ahead in a monster hill race.
You are able to get your lactate threshold without having to go to a lab. Most cyclists probably don’t even care what their actual lactate threshold is. Mainly what they are working towards is their ability to go fast and long during their workload.
Most applied exercise physiologists feel that if you can find your lactate threshold in the field, you’ll have a better reading than if you get it from the lab. What you are able to do during a ride is a good indicator of what you can really do while riding. That make sound odd, but it is just common sense. There are many different techniques that can be used to find your lactate threshold while you are actually training.
Every trainer or coach has its own method to get the lactate threshold. They may each vary a little bit, but they all give you a good idea of what your lactate threshold is. Some can be more complicated than other. You can use the following steps along with a power meter or heart rate monitor.
Finding Your Estimate Lactate Threshold
• Find a piece of road that is flat. You can use a trainer as well.
• Make sure to spend 10 – 15 minutes warming up.
• Run a time trial of 30 minutes and make it your best possible time.
• For heart rate monitor use it will be the last 20 minutes of the run. You will take the average heart rate from this time and it will give you an estimate of your lactate threshold.
• For the use of a power meter, again recording the last 20 minutes of your run and it will give you an estimate of what your power output is for the lactate threshold.
How Does Your Lactate Threshold Rate?
Someone who hasn’t trained will reach their lactate threshold at approximately 60% of their VO2MAX.
For the moderately trained runner their lactate threshold is at about 65-80% VO2MAX.
For those elite athletes, they have a lactate threshold that is about 85-95% their VO2MAX. It is because of this they have the ability to make money, or even a living, doing things like running, riding bikes or even doing both.
The lactate threshold rate can change. If you do proper training, you can increase the percentage of VO2MAZ, which is what affects your lactate threshold.
It is something that you can control. Upon working hard and training for long periods of time, you can perform at a near maximum for long periods of time.
Factors that Affect the Rate of Lactate Accumulation
There are many things that can change the rate the lactate is produced.
• If you exercise is intense. The harder the work the more your active muscles will produce lactate.
• Diet is very important. You need to make sure you have glycogen stored or the high intense training won’t last long.
• Making sure you train properly is important. There are four mechanisms that will primarily help to slow down the rate of lactate accumulation.
1. Having a higher mitochondrial density will help for a greater amount of lactate resynthesis.
2. For the time that exercise intensity is high superior fatty acid oxidation will help prevent the lactate production.
3. In order to help deliver oxygen to and remove lactate from the active muscles, it is important to have greater capillary density.
4. The composition of the muscle fiber type plays a big part. Type I, slow twitch, muscle fibers will produce less of the lactate with a given workload than Type II, fast twitch muscle fibers. Genetics plays a big part in this as well, but by training properly, you can influence the proportion between slow and fast twitch muscle fibers.
• The distribution of the workload also needs to be considered. When a large muscle mass is working at a moderate intensity it can produce less lactate than having a small muscle mass working at a high intensity. There are also techniques that slow down the overall accumulation of lactate because they use different muscles.
What does it all mean?
The lactate threshold is one of the few strong predictors for endurance performance. If you can increase your lactate threshold you can swim, bike and/or run faster and make your friends and the other competitors hurt. Training properly will dramatically increase your lactate threshold.