What is Lactate Profile Testing?

What is lactate profile testing and why is it important?


A lactate profile test is a progressive exercise test conducted to determine your lactate threshold. In particular, we identify the power output (cycling) or speed (running) and the associated heart rate where you produce more lactate than your body can reuse and recycle. This lactate threshold value is very highly related to the highest pace/power that you can sustain for 30-60 minutes.

One of the major benefits of lactate threshold testing comes from comparing the results over time. An athlete’s initial lactate threshold test can provide a good indicator of current fitness level and provide a good starting point for training. Regular lactate testing can provide the athlete and the coach with solid evidence of improvement throughout the training season.

The science behind lactate profile.

Your body utilizes three different energy systems to produce ATP (energy). The three different systems are the ATP-CP system (short/explosive), the glycolytic system (high intensity), and the oxidative (aerobic) system (low to moderate intensity). There is a nearly inverse relationship between the rate of energy production from these systems and how long you can activate that pathway. The ATP-CP system produces energy the quickest, but is exhausted within seconds. The oxidative system produces energy at relative low rates compared to the ATP-PC system, but can be sustained for hours. When your body demands energy faster than the oxidative energy system can produce it, the glycolytic system kicks in. The glycolytic system is faster than the oxidative system, but it produces higher amounts of lactate as byproduct. Your body must clear the lactate from the blood and muscles and process it back as a useable fuel. Lactate threshold is the point at which production of lactate outpaces the clearing process.

Optimizing your training…

Training above your lactate threshold enhances your body’s ability to continue to work above the saturation point for short periods of time. This kind of training is very stressful and will take longer to recover from than performing training just below your lactate threshold. Training just below your lactate threshold can enhance your body’s capacity to clear lactate more quickly. General endurance training performed where lactate levels are low and stable will help you produce less lactate at a given intensity and allow you to recover from your training sessions and build fitness faster. Knowing precisely where this lactate breakpoint occurs for you helps you perform more effective training.  Lactate threshold testing can be used to give guidance for pacing strategies for long distance endurance efforts as well. We have performed lactate profile testing within a week of major competition like a 40K TT, marathon, or Ironman distance triathlon to help our clients pace appropriately based on their physiology.

The lactate profile test involves several blood samples taken from your finger at the end of each 3-4 minute long stage that starts easy, and progressively increases to a high intensity effort, but not maximal effort. The testing can be done on a treadmill or bicycle on a Wahoo KICKR so we can monitor your power accurately.

Looking to get your lactate threshold testing done and get more effective with your training?

Schedule a session at APEX Coaching Hub today!

APEX Founder Neal Henderson performing lactate profile test with Rohan Dennis in 2015 just after his overall victory at the USA Pro Challenge.

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