Why Lactate Profile Testing?

The Lactate Profile Test and Why It’s Important

In this article, we’ll explain what a lactate profile test is actually measuring. You’ll also learn, based on your lactate profile, how you can optimize your training, or even your racing.

Although APEX no longer offers sports science testing directly, our coaches often have their athletes tested so that they have this instrumental data. A lactate profile test is a progressive exercise test conducted to determine your lactate threshold. In particular, what’s identified is 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. For example, an athlete’s initial lactate test is an indicator of current fitness and provides a starting point for training. Then, moving forward through training season, regular lactate testing provides the athlete and the coach with solid evidence of improvement.

What’s the science behind lactate profile?

To begin, 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). Notably, there is a nearly inverse relationship between the rate of energy production and how long you can activate that pathway. The ATP-CP system produces energy the quickest, but is exhausted within seconds- Sprinting anybody!? The oxidative system produces energy at relative low rates compared to the ATP-PC system, but can be sustained for hours- Hello endurance! However, 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 produces higher amounts of lactate as byproduct. Next, your body must clear the lactate from the blood and muscles and process it back as a useable fuel. In the end, lactate threshold is the point at which production of lactate outpaces the clearing process.

So, how do I optimizing my training?

Training above your lactate threshold enhances your body’s ability to continue to work above the saturation point for short periods of time. However, this kind of training is very stressful and will take longer to recover from than performing training just below your lactate threshold. In contrast, training just below your lactate threshold can enhance your body’s capacity to clear lactate more quickly. So, perform general endurance training where lactate levels are low and stable, and this will help you produce less lactate at a given intensity. In addition, this will allow you to recover from your training sessions and build fitness faster.

To sum it up, knowing precisely where this lactate breakpoint occurs for you helps you perform more effective training.  Use lactate threshold testing to give guidance for pacing strategies for long distance endurance efforts as well. Additionally, we can perform lactate profile testing within a week of major competition like a 40K TT, marathon, or Ironman distance triathlon. This helps our clients pace appropriately based on their physiology.

The lactate profile test involves several blood samples taken from your finger. The samples are taken at the end of each 3-4 minute long stage. The stages start easy, and progressively increases to a high intensity effort, but not maximal effort. You can do your testing running on a treadmill or spinning on a bicycle. Your bicycle will be mounted on a Wahoo KICKR so we can monitor your power with complete accuracy.

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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