Lactate testing for sports athletes

It was long believed that lactate was the main cause of muscle exhaustion during exercise and that it was a byproduct of glycolysis, the metabolism of glucose.

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Early research revealed that lactate grew in blood and muscle tissue in a way depending on exercise intensity, leading to the misconception that lactate generation and tiredness levels were strongly associated.

Understanding the fundamentals of glucose metabolism is essential to comprehending the relationship between lactate levels and training programs and athletic performance. During regular muscle contraction, glucose is broken down as an energy source to produce pyruvate and two H+ ions as waste products. Pyruvate is then used in further metabolic pathways to provide additional sources of cellular energy. This is referred to as aerobic metabolism of glucose. Lactate becomes the favored endpoint of glucose utilisation as muscular activity rises and oxygen becomes a limiting element in glucose metabolism. Anaerobic glucose metabolism is what is meant by this.

As a result, lactate is the final byproduct of the body’s use of glucose and is utilized in a variety of ways. Lactate may either be transformed into glucose via the liver’s process of gluconeogenesis, or it can be turned back into pyruvate to power the Krebs cycle, which in turn generates the biochemical energy source ATP.

These additional routes are powered by the active transfer of lactate from muscle fibers into the circulation. Typically blood lactate levels after moderate activity or at rest range from 1 to 2 mM. Therefore, during periods of rest and moderate activity, the body may use glucose, pyruvate, and lactate as energy sources and as building blocks for other metabolic pathways.

Increased glucose metabolism during high-intensity exercise is oxygen-dependent, and switching to anaerobic glucose metabolism with lactate generation as the goal has negative downstream effects. Additionally, the amount of lactate that muscles can use and extract from their fibers is limited. As a result, lactate starts to build up in the muscle fibers and eventually the blood.

Training enables the body to better use lactate, allowing muscles to continue to contract for extended periods of time before lactate builds up and raises blood lactate levels.

Thus, an elevated lactate threshold is linked to improved endurance. The initial rise in blood lactate over the resting level, which in healthy persons is usually between 1 and 2 mM, is therefore defined as the lactate threshold.

How can athletes raise their lactate threshold, whether they are distance runners, swimmers, or cyclists? For athletes to develop both the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways, a combination of slower endurance training and speed work is necessary. This applies to both novices and experienced athletes. The lactate threshold test has been used by sports science to establish tailored training regimens for a variety of sports.

The majority of training regimens are developed to progressively improve speed and distance without overtaxing the body. This usually translates to two or three quick runs during the week and a longer run on the weekend that becomes longer as the weeks go by for the recreational runner. Running at an easy-to-maintain pace can help you develop endurance—the capacity to work out for extended periods of time at that speed.

Plans for training will also include a speed component designed to cut down on the amount of time needed to complete a certain distance. These speed elements should be a combination of speed-specific sets (e.g., 500m with 2 min rest at easy jog 4 times; repeat next week and see if times have improved; if so, add another set or increase the distance and shorten the recovery period) and interval sessions during your longer run (e.g., by increasing your pace during the last minute of each mile). The tempo of these speed exercises ought to be moderate to fairly difficult.

In what way is lactate threshold related to this kind of training? Generally, lengthy runs at a sustainable pace will be at a normal lactate level. By pushing your body above the lactate threshold, speed work improves your body’s ability to remove lactate from your muscles.

True lactate threshold training is the most effective technique to raise your lactate threshold. A speed that is extremely near to your individual lactate threshold is what is meant to be achieved during true lactate threshold workouts; this is usually a moderate to moderately challenging tempo. That intensity level is attained at or slightly slower than the 10K race pace for the great majority of runners.

So why not consistently workout at that speed? It would be extremely tough and foolish to continually exercise at a speed that hard, as your lactate pace is rather high. For this reason, the best strategy to raise your lactate threshold is to combine lengthy runs, which improve endurance, with speed practice, which increases stamina, but at different speeds.

How then do I go about doing a lactate threshold test?

These examinations, which are commonly referred to as step tests, include increasing the exercise effort’s intensity across two, three, or more steps.

You will require a portable lactate meter, lactate sensors, lancets for blood collection, a predetermined running distance, and a method for pace management in order to monitor your lactate threshold. It’s best to have a willing helper around to draw a blood sample and record the findings; doing the tests by yourself might be challenging!

The test’s pace is the crucial element. For the length of the exam, the paces must be gradual yet steady. For this kind of test, a watch with a pace feature comes in handy, or you may utilize a treadmill with a speed control.

After obtaining your findings, you must analyze the information. The portable blood lactate meter comes with software that will automatically gather data from your meter and plot the findings.

Your lactate threshold is likely hit at the second or third increase in pace, as indicated by this early data. You may use this as a benchmark to set and surpass during your speed workouts. Proceed with your training regimen, adjusting your speed workouts based on the pace data.

Repeat the step test six to eight weeks later at the same pace to monitor your development. Then, compare the findings. Plotted data should demonstrate a shift in the threshold to the right, signifying an increase in blood lactate threshold and the ability to run faster without building up lactate.

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