Lactate threshold refers to a person’s ability to perform aerobic exercises the fastest they can before the fatigue kicks in. Exercises performed close to this threshold lead to a sudden rise in blood lactate levels.
Blood lactate is usually 1-2 mmol/L when you rest or perform low-intensity training. However, it rises to over 20mmol/L when you engage in an intense workout. The typical way of testing lactate threshold is to draw blood at different levels of physical exertion.
With the help of lactate threshold tests, athletes can determine the type of training they must perform. It also helps them know the pace they can continue with during endurance training. Since lactate threshold can be increased with training, it is possible to specific training plans to enhance this value.
What is Lactate Threshold?
When you are not exercising or in the resting state, your blood produces lactate in an amount that is absorbed quickly. It serves as fuel for your muscles, heart, and liver. The absorption rate of lactate changes when you perform moderate-level exercises at a steady rate. And during high-intensity workouts, lactate is produced in an amount higher than the body can absorb.
The lactate threshold is the point during an all-out exercise at which the body cannot remove the lactate buildup in the blood. This threshold also leads to a slight drop in body pH levels, leading to fatigue and a reduction in muscle contraction power. The maximum workload that you can maintain without having a lactate buildup is called the maximal lactate steady state (MLSS).
Measuring Lactate Threshold
The lactate threshold is usually measured in the lab. This test usually resembles the VO2 max testing, using a stationary bike or a treadmill. The lab expert divides the entire exercise into several 4-5-minute periods; exercise intensity must be increased at the start of every next period. At the end of every period, the blood sample is taken using a finger stick. Other measurements include power output, heart rate, and VO2.
The lab expert suggests continuing this exercise until there is a significant rise in the blood lactate levels. There may be a spike in the data because the lactate threshold generally occurs sooner than the VO2 is maxed out. Power output is recorded to design training programs.
Lactate Threshold Estimation
Estimation can be helpful for people who do not have access to specialized equipment for testing lactate threshold. One simple way to estimate your lactate threshold is to exercise for 30 minutes at a sustained, high pace. This test is most suited for experienced athletes. The main objective of this test is to go with an all-out physical exertion and monitor the heart rate.
The types of exercises performed during this test include running, swimming, cycling, or performing any other endurance activity that you can continue for 3o minutes. Generally, the estimation is performed using a heart monitor and a stopwatch.
Here are the steps involved in this test.
- 15-minute warm-up
- Beginning exercising and reaching the peak in the next 10 minutes
- Recording the heart rate every minute for the rest of the workout duration
Now, calculate the average of the recorded heart rate. The figure you get is the average heart rate at the LT.
Other Ways to Estimate the Lactate Threshold
Here are some other ways you can estimate your lactate threshold.
The Race Time Method
Your lactate threshold is a predictor of your running time. But you can use your running time to estimate your lactate threshold. It usually involves using a time recorder and a specialized “running calculator” or you can use a VBT. All you have to do is feed your running time into this calculator. The number shown in the section “vLT” is your estimated lactate threshold.
To do it manually, warm up and increase your pace to a steady, intense running state. Monitor your heart rate. Record it when it reaches a constant state. That’s your estimated lactate threshold.
The High-Tech Method
Another way to estimate your lactate threshold is to use wearable technology. This method may be more effective than other self-testing ways to measure your LT. Some wearables are programmed to generate notifications when there is a drop or rise in the heart rate. This allows you to adjust your pace to keep your heart rate steady over a certain time.
Increasing your Lactate Threshold
Athletes can enhance their tolerance for intense physical activities for longer durations with the help of proper training and other methods. Athletes participating in marathons, triathlons, or duathlons may increase their LT by training, recovery, and diet.
And it goes without saying that testing lactate threshold helps ensure that your efforts pay off.
Lactate threshold training involves exercising at or above your LT. the exercises involved in this training may be interval training or steady-state training. You can combine interval training and high-intensity training while continuing steady-state training for the best results. You must set exercise duration based on your goals and current fitness levels.
Once you have held on to all the metrics involved in training, you will need to increase the volume of your training every week, ideally by 10% to 20%. You can do it with the help of the Vitruve encoder. Be sure to track your progress and go for testing every few months to see if your LT levels have improved.
Constant training may cause burnout, which can do more harm than good. So recovery is vital to keep you on track. Interspersing rest days or days of light work between active training days can help you recover optimally. You can boost your recovery with stretching, mobility, and foam rolling. And last but not least, be sure to get a good night’s sleep.
You can boost your recovery and performance with nutrition. If you want to increase your LT, you will have to make sure that you never run out of glycogen. For this purpose, plan your pre-workout and post-workout meals carefully.
Increased lactate threshold is an ultimate requirement if you want to enhance your sports performance. With proper testing, you can identify your LT levels and devise a plan to increase those levels.