Knowing your Lactate Theshold could give you the best training tool to improve your endurance
Sports Science isn’t just for the pros. We all stand to profit from knowing our bodies better, and as a consequence, how to get more out of them.
You’ll hear the terms ‘threshold’ and ‘lactate threshold’ bandied around over mid-ride coffee, but they’re often misused and misunderstood.
‘Lactate threshold’ is a physiological phenomenon that’s hugely important for endurance performance. Your LT basically represents the tipping point where your body shifts from coping with what you’re asking of it to accumulative fatigue that will rapidly lead to exhaustion.
The significance of LT is knowing where that tipping point occurs in relation to an accessible measure of your current physical exertion, such s your power output or heart rate. When you know this, it means that during long rides or competitive events, you can gauge your pace to stay within a sustainable level of exertion.
Essentially, blood lactate build-up is the result of lactic acid (a by-product of energy metabolism in active muscles) being produced at a rate that exceeds the body’s capacity to remove it. The build-up is commonly felt as a burning sensation in the muscles, and once you go beyond your threshold you’re peddling on borrowed time.
At low levels of intensity, blood lactate accumulation will remain at around 1-2mMol (the standard unit relating to chemical reactions) in most individuals, but as intensity increases lactate will begin to increase exponentially to exhaustion, such that the curve on a graph will typically resemble a J-shape.The point at which the curve begins to rise rapidly varies between individuals, but often a lactic acid concentration of above 4mMol is seen as a key indicator of having reached the threshold.
To find out where that point of no return is for your body we use our Wattbike ergometer to run a 3-min MMP test, or incremental stages test starting at 150w with +25w every three minutes..
Before we begin we take a weight measurement, then its on to the Wattbike for a warm-up protocol. You’ll need to keep a constant 95rpm for the entire test and you’ll be cooling-down while we crunch the numbers. Using the data we can prescribe precise training zones for you, and you can be much more structured about training plans, plus we’ll know what intensity range your body can operate for extended periods which can really help for certain events.
Where lactate measures really come into their own, though, is for future tests, where you can overlay the data and see where training is working and where improvements are coming from.
Any good sports coach or sports scientist will tell you that LT is among the most vital numbers to know if you’re serious about making big improvements through training.