Lactate Testing, what it is and how it's done
want to get faster and last longer.
want to lose fat and get fit. We all know exercise is part
of the equation; but how do we most accurately determine the
right exercise time and intensity for each of us?
Lactate values help determine the correct training intensity
to increase power and endurance, and lactate values do this
more accurately than heart rate alone. It's the corresponding
lactate values that indicate what heart rate and speed or
power you should exercise at. Heart rate formulas that use
your age to calculate heart rate zones are not accurate.
is made up of 3 carbon, 6 hydrogen, and 3 oxygen atoms. Your
muscles always produce lactate, even at rest. Resting blood
lactate values are about 0.8 - 1.5 mmol/L. Lactate increases
incrementally with exercise intensity. When you achieve a
certain intensity where lactate increases exponentially you
are crossing the lactate threshold ("LT"), which
on average occurs at 4.0 mmol/L of lactate. See lactate curve
onset is rapid above the LT, but efforts just below the LT
can be sustained for hours by well trained athletes. To increase
how long you can maintain your highest output in endurance
events, you must increase your power at LT and strive to raise
your LT to your highest genetic potential.
sterilized needle pokes the finger
small micro sample of blood
takes a sample
in 60 seconds. This photo shows a very high result
of 11.3 after a bike race
untrained persons LT is between 50% and 60% percent of their
max heart rate, and in a trained individual is between 70%
and 85% of max heart rate. The same person at the same age
can have very different lactate thresholds, depending on how
"trained" they are. Heart rate formulas don't account
for this variable, and can't monitor the gradual increase
in LT over months or years of exercise. If you're just starting
exercise, 60% of your max heart rate may be too intensive,
if you're already fairly fit 75% - 80% might not be intensive
enough. How could you know where you're at without measuring?
power at LT and shifting your LT to a higher percentage of
your maximum output is the most important factor for increasing
performance whether you are an endurance athlete or simply
looking to get more fit. If you can't measure your LT, you'll
waist a lot of exercise time trying to "ballpark"
it. Too much training at or above the LT results in overtraining,
training too far below the LT will not improve LT performance.
the lab. Cris LaBossiere taking a blood lactate sample
during a Vo2 max test.
in the field. Cris LaBossiere taking a sample from an
athlete during their post race cool down.
testing is used to determine not only the lactate threshold,
but also the correct intensity for base, recovery, and intense
either end of the extremes of exercise intensity, the result
is the same: lot's of exercise but poor or inconsistent results.
Lactate testing allows you to get the most out of your exercise
testing is used all over the world by researchers and athletic
coaches. It is currently the gold standard for determining
exercise intensity zones and a significant tool for determining
whether or not training is producing the desired physiological
Rhino Fitness, we use the Lactate Pro lactate analyzer along
with heart rate and power to determine the correct exercise
intensity for general fitness, and for training our champion
is a classic lactate curve comparison depicting blood lactate
levels during a test where exercise intensity is increased
in fixed stages. Comparing repeated tests as fitness increases
will show a lower lactate for a given intensity. This is a
result of both producing less lactate and clearing lactate
faster at any given intensity due to adaptations primarily
in the muscles mitochondria, capillaries, lactate transporters,
and the liver. Heart rate will generally decrease for a given
intensity as you become more fit, but using the same heart
rate zones as your fitness increases will sell you short as
heart rate will not account for the changes in metabolism
that are indicated with lactate testing.
starting an exercise program will experience a greater degree
of change in lactate levels at a given intensity than those
who are well trained, requiring more frequent updates to heart
rate zones. So contrary to popular belief, frequent lactate
sampling is just as important for beginners as it is for athletes.
testing is not "new". Physiologists have been measuring
lactate in exercising humans for decades, and the lactate
molecule was first isolated in 1789. The advent of portable
analyzers has made lactate testing more accessible, so more
people are using it now compared to 10 years ago. Using the
search term "lactate threshold" (include quotes)
provides over 730 studies dating back to 1979 - and that's
only one search term with the word lactate in one database.
the scientific data supporting lactate testing for exercise
purposes, many trainers don't know about it, or deny its significance.
These trainers use "belief based" not "evidence
based" concepts to train, meaning they believe what they
say, but can't support what they say with scientific evidence.
have been getting fitness results without measuring lactate,
so what's the point?" It's a common position to stay
stuck in the past when denying modern advancements. It's true
great champions were developed without lactate testing. Now
great champions are developed with lactate testing, with less
wasted training time.
fact is, lactate testing allows for a more accurate assessment,
and therefore more accurate prescription of exercise.
does not cause a burning sensation in muscles.
Lactate is not a waste product it's a fuel source; nearly
4/5 of lactate produced is used again as fuel.
production does not cause muscles to become acidic, it helps
prevent muscle acidosis by transporting positive hydrogen
ions (thought to be the primary cause of muscle acidity)
out of the muscles.
production does not cause muscle fatigue, it helps prevent
it by reducing muscle acidity.
therapy cannot "clear" lactic acid. Also, we don't
know everything about lactate and exercise. As with all
science, what is believed to be accurate today may be further
confirmed or superseded by a better understanding tomorrow.
are many terms used in the jargon for lactate testing and
training; OBLA (onset of blood lactate accumulation), Lactate
Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, Aerobic Threshold, Lactate
Steady State, and Maximum Lactate Steady State, are the most
popular. Disagreements surrounding what the appropriate use
and definitions of these terms are more academic in nature
and don't effect the practical application of lactate testing.
lactate is lower for a given intensity, a metabolic adaptation
has occurred. This helps us determine whether someone is faster
because they are simply pushing harder, or if they are faster
because they are more fit, and specifically what type of fitness
adaptations are occurring - an important determination to
make when prescribing exercise.
lactate testing used to be reserved for top athletes due to
high cost and limited availability. The Lactate Pro by Arkray
Japan was the first analyzer to receive FDA approval, and
quickly became the standard portable lactate analyzer world
wide for athletic training and research. Other lactate analyzers
are also available (Accusport, Accutrend, Lactate Scout, Lactate
Plus). Technology has miniaturized and brought the cost of
lactate testing down to the mass market level.
lactate testing is important
Blood lactate levels provide a clinically accurate measurement
of adaptation to exercise. This is important because measuring
results allows us to separate training strategies that provide
greater results from those that provide lesser results.
Rhino Fitness we believe that blood lactate testing benefits
everyone, not just high performance athletes. Lactate testing
is not "athlete" testing, it's human testing.
you're human and you exercise, you can benefit from lactate
testing. Confused about all the conflicting claims of what
intensity to exercise at? Lactate testing will provide clear
evidence of what heart rate corresponds with your individual
training zones. More importantly, lactate testing can track
adaptation indicating the critical moment for updating your
rate formulas simply
don't work. Blood lactate testing is currently the easiest,
cheapest, and most accurate method of determining an individuals
personal heart rate zones.
graph below- taken from this Rhino
Fitness article, shows how lactate and heart rate levels
change as a person becomes more fit. A heart rate level that
represents a high intensity when unfit, will represent a low
intensity after a person increases their fitness. At a certain
level of fitness development these adaptations begin to level
out, but a person is still able to increase how fast they
can go for the same heart rate and lactate. Without accurate
measuring and the expertise to interpret these measurements,
no person could accurately "guess" at what exact
point an individuals exercise plan needs amending. But guessing
is the only option if one does not measure. - Is your trainer
measuring or guessing?
no popular training plans take these adaptations into consideration.
I have never seen any of the "20 minutes 3X per week"
promoters, spin classes, aerobics classes, group training
classes, or personal trainers ever consider these physiological
facts - despite all their hyped claims and boasting that their
special "certification" has prepared them to train
people. Some running clubs, fitness centres, rehab centres
are starting to use lactate testing - finally.
as more people in the fitness industry become more ethics
and results orientated instead of merely fad and income centered,
we will see more of the public having access to real exercise
advice instead of the fabricated fodder that is so popular
Year Old Male, Exercises Daily; Rhino Fitness Client:
at these dramatic - but normal - changes. In order to keep
up with this persons increase in fitness, intensity (calories
per hour) and heart rate had to be frequently amended in the
early stages, but less frequently in later stages. Look at
the large change in energy expenditure and comparatively smaller
change in heart rate over the first few months. After one
year of regular exercise this person could burn off 48% more
calories in hour than when they started, and have it feel
person can easily exercise at 1000 calories per hour - nearly
100% harder than when they started. Have you ever heard of
an exercise plan being followed so closely? No? Have you seen
the typical 4 to 8 week "training plans" that have
arbitrary increases in intensity such 10% increase every week?
Sure - they don't require expertise, time, or measuring to
make. Just hand out the same program to you that was handed
out to the last person. It's a great way to make money, not
such a great way to improve your fitness. Make your money
work for you - hire a trainer that can do a legitimate assessment
of your fitness and provide an updated plan according how
Year old female making the switch from sedentary to regular
these variables over time allows for an objective analyses
of how a person is responding to exercise and helps guide
the coaches decision on how to update an exercise program.
a trainer does not possess tools of the trade such as heart
rate monitors and lactate analyzers (at least a heart rate
monitor that downloads to computer), it would be like an auto
mechanic not owning a wrench; they literally cannot do their
job to modern standards and should not be practicing in the
trade. There is an exception, a trainer can refer you to a
testing facility, then use the results to properly advise
you. Whatever the case, if you are paying for training you
ought to be paying for professional assessment, not just regurgitation
of rehearsed enthusiastic words and recycled cookie cutter
heart rate charts and programs.
a trainer never measures with clinical accuracy, they can
get away with saying anything they want and remain confident
that their claims will never be put to the test. As long as
they use the right key words and make you feel excited about
exercise - you will be so enthralled with the "program"
and how it "makes you sweat" that you will be continually
diverted from ever seeing real evidence that you are being
you've seen in graphs in this article, the relationship of
heart rate and lactate change as you get more fit. So exercising
at the same heart rate does not mean you are training at the
same aerobic or anaerobic level. Ongoing
lactate testing lets you know if you are keeping the fitness,
becoming fatigued, or losing the fitness, more precisely than
with heart rate measurements alone.
most important attribute of measuring blood lactate is that
something physiological is actually measured. Exercise
advice is typically dished out with Barnum and Bailey flash
and hokus pokus with nothing more than snake oil prescriptions.
It's important to stop relying on and supporting these unscrupulous
get sucked in by the often goofy comments and claims made
by many aerobics instructors, spin class instructors, and
personal trainers. When was the last time they actually measured
what was happening to their students? Use professional coaching,
don't leave your fitness needs to amateurs.
individuals lactate threshold occurs at a heart rate of 155
and lactate of 5.0 mmol/l. Note the exponential increase in
lactate after this point. Note at the low end a large change
in heart rate corresponds in a small change in lactate, and
as the lactate threshold is approached and surpassed, a small
change in heart rate corresponds in a large change in lactate.
These values correlate well will a shift from carbohydrates
and fats for fuel to carbohydrates only; from predominantly
aerobic to predominantly anaerobic; from low power output
to high power output; and from time to fatigue being long
to time to fatigue being short.
Use coaches that use lactate and heart rate measuring and
you stand a better chance of the getting advice you need.
testing is important now because it works and is widely available.
In the future more important measurements will be common as
testing devices are simplified and made cost effective. Look
for hormone, enzyme, and brain wave response measurements
to become more common in the future.
Winnipeg or Vancouver? Call or email us to book an appointment
for lactate testing. Use our remote
coaching service and get trained via email from anywhere
in the world.
Fitness Rates and
us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Call us at 204 227 9967
You can buy the Lactate Pro on line at Woodcock
Cycle, or visit them in person at 433 St Mary's Rd. in
Winnipeg, or call at 204 253 5896 toll free 866 211 5795.
uses lactate testing? Virtually every major training facility
in the world.
of Lactate Pro users courtesy of FACT
Canada, North American distributor of the Arkray Lactate
Pro LT-1710 portable blood lactate analyzer.
National Cross Country Ski Teams
Canadian Olympic Kayak Team
USA Skiing - Downhill and Cross-Country
US Biathlon Teams
US National Canoe and Kayak Team
US Olympic Training Center, California
US Olympic Training Center, Lake Placid, New York
Adidas National Running Team (Canada)
UC Davis Medical Center - Sports Medicine
Sports Medicine Institute, Intl - California
Mt. Sinai Hospital, School of Medicine, New York
Canadian Space Agency
Canadian Forces Base, Kingston
Canadian Forces Valcartier, Biathlon
United States Air Force
US Naval Academy Aquatic Club
Pacific Sport National Sport Centre - Vancouver
Pacific Sport National Cycling Centre - Victoria
Pacific Sport National Triathlon Training Centre - home of
Canada's elite triathletes such as Olympic Gold Medalist Simon
Wall Aquatic Center at Northern Arizona University
Total Performance Institute, Colorado
Ironman Institute (www.IronmanInstitute.com)
Whittom & Boucher - Sports Performance Technologies, Quebec
Pointe-Claire Club de Canoe, Quebec
Green Mountain Valley Ski Academy, Vermont
Stratton Mountain School, Vermont
Michigan State University
University of Scranton, Pennsylvania
Hope College, Michigan
University of Miami
University of Southern Mississippi
Pepperdine University, California
Marquette University, Wisconsin
University of Vermont
Meredith College, North Carolina
Truman State University, Missouri
St. Lawrence University, New York
University of Indianapolis
University of Texas
Arizona State University
University of Quebec
University of Montreal
University of Prince Edward Island
University of New Brunswick, Aquaculture Research
Concordia University, Montreal
University of British Columbia
University of Calgary, Alberta
University of Manitoba
University of Waterloo, Ontario
Laurentian University, Ontario
Geoff Kabush, Ryder Hesjedal
- Pro Mountain Bikers (Geoff was 9th and the top North American
at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Ryder was Silver Medalist
at the 2003 World Championship)
Lidia Simon - Silver medal in the Women's Marathon at the
2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Rhino Fitness Winnipeg, Manitoba
2003-2007 Rhino Fitness
photo's © copyright Zena Kavanagh 2004