Lactate Threshold Testing

Rationale

Direct blood lactate profiling is a unique physiological performance assessment tool beneficial to all endurance athletes. CPS In-Motion offers one of the most complete Lactate Threshold testing services available in London.

The Maximum Lactate Steady State (MLSS) parameter determined from the assessment is a strong predictive performance parameter, representative of all-round cycling (power), or running (pace) ability. Tour de France pro-riders are able to maintain between 5-6.5 Watts/kg at lactate threshold. Elite marathon runners can sustain over 20km/hr at very low lactate levels. Such efforts will predict success on key climbs, time-trials, and importantly the overall general classification.

This lactate threshold turning point is considered an objective and extremely trainable component of performance which is now commonly accepted in the sports science community as the gold standard in physiological assessment. This contrasts greatly with the usefulness and typical error of measurement seen in VO2max testing, which has long been known to offer little insight into the understanding of the performance status of a cyclist.

In general, VO2max values change very little pre-competition and in-competition within the same rider, and vary greatly between similarly trained cyclists. In contrast, profiling lactate kinetics provides a cyclist with an understanding of strengths and weakness across a range of intensities, and how those may be improved, depending on the type of event being trained for.

BENEFITS of LACTATE THRESHOLD TESTING

  • Captures how effective training is (or not).
  • Predictive of Race Performance. TT, RR, Tri.
  • Provides optimal pacing to save glycogen.
  • Determines Recovery intensity in races.
  • Physiologically relevant Training Zones.
  • Effective interval sessions above threshold.
  • Footprint/ direct marker of physiology.
  • Benchmarking against other riders. Improve weaknesses.

Science

Lactate is a product of glucose metabolism when at rest and under intense exercise. The liver recycles lactate as glucose for fuel to the muscles, brain and blood. When the body is exercising at high intensity the amount of oxygen available to the muscles is insufficient to produce enough energy from fats and glucose alone. Considerably more anaerobic metabolism is required to maintain increasing effort until complete exhaustion occurs and the muscles fail due to increased acidity, which lactate production fails to buffer. The point at which the increase in lactate production overwhelms the muscles and liver is termed OBLA (Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation). Just below this concentration the MLSS is defined as the point at which an individual can exercise for the longest duration at the highest intensity, until muscle and liver glycogen run out. Reducing the lactate levels at MLSS should be the goal of all competitive cyclists, increasing clearance and distribution of lactate or reducing the dependence on it by increasing aerobic capacity and fat metabolism at these levels are all good examples of improving this relevant parameter, depending on your performance goals.

The rate of lactate production/ clearance across increasing intensities of work is indicative of the degree of synergy between both anaerobic and aerobic systems which can be specific to different aspects of the sport; sprinting, time-trial, climbing etc. The fine balance between these two energy systems ultimately determine success in any specific event or type of cycling you choose to participate in (road-racing, criterium, cyclo-cross, time-trial, track or longer endurance events).

Lactate_profile_in_practice

The first step in adding structure to a training plan is to set personalised and physiologically relevant training zones scaled from the power output and heart rate at maximal lactate steady state.  This lets you know that your energy systems are exposed to the right amount of stress for the optimum duration, to cause desired adaption and performance gains. Lactate clearance is fundamentally the key parameter for assessing the ability to recover, and is representative of metabolic efficiency.

Not only does lactate threshold testing or profiling serve as insight into your cycling specific physiology, it also acts as the baseline measurement to which you can compare the effectiveness of your training programme, once a follow-up test is performed. Re-assessing your physiological training zones is a crucial part of continuous adaptation and the most effective way of avoiding stagnation or disappointing performance.

Lactate_Protocol

Test

The appointment for lactate threshold testing takes approximately 1.5 hours, which includes a pre-assessment consultation, the test itself, and time for a chat and coffee afterwards. Under controlled conditions on a specialist ergometer (Computrainer), the test protocol is easily conducted after an initial warm-up period, followed by incremental increases in resistance (or speed on a treadmill) which are dependent on your current fitness status. Constant power steps are increased every three minutes, while heart rate, cadence, perceived exertion are recorded, a painless finger-prick blood sample is taken during the last 30 seconds of each stage to measure blood lactate concentration.

The overall shape of the lactate-power curve is expertly assessed, (which distinguishes CPS In-Motion from most other practitioners), as the baseline, gradient, peak concentration and blood lactate clearance are all important elements which indicate how well optimised and synchronised your aerobic and anaerobic systems are. This should be modelled on specialist software.

Profile_Modelling

Relative to your training history, current status and future objectives, thisinformation provides you with an opportunity to address any weaknesses or focus on strengths for key events in the coming season.  A fully comprehensive detailed report is provided, which highlights recommendations for training which are specific to you and your objectives. The resulting MLSS heart rate or power-output, or pace values are used to accurately scale personalised training zones, so that each physiological system can be optimally targeted for performance gains during training. Whether you train with a heart rate monitor or power meter, or ideally both, a well conducted lactate threshold profile is the first step towards achieving your desired peak performance.

Example Cycling Lactate Threshold Profiling Report

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FREE downloadable Info PDF: A Guide to Lactate Threshold.

LACTATE THRESHOLD TESTING

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