During intense exercise, the body produces more lactate than it can break down and remove from the bloodstream. This leads to accumulation of lactate in the bloodstream.
Up to a certain threshold, the body can break down lactate at a rate where there is an increased concentration of lactate in the blood, but this concentration does not impede muscle function.
Higher intensity will cause this threshold to be exceeded so that lactate production exceeds lactate breakdown. The biochemical processes associated with increased lactate place muscle cells under stress. It is therefore important to determine the lactate threshold at which training is most effective.
An exercise test with lactate measurement is therefore useful to gain insight into cardiovascular training and to determine the right intensity to increase endurance without overtraining.
Lactate is an energy source and is metabolized by muscle cells. The more efficiently lactate is metabolized, the lower the blood lactate concentration will be during exercise. In addition, excess lactate is removed from the circulation more quickly during the post-workout period.
Lac [blood] = Lac [produced] Lac [decomposed]
Endurance athletes should aim for an elevated lactate threshold – a balance between lactate production and breakdown. Therefore, for training to achieve positive results and improve performance, it is recommended to exercise just below the anaerobic threshold.
Exercising at higher intensity levels will result in the anaerobic threshold being exceeded and cause a rapid increase in blood lactate concentration. This threshold varies from person to person and an individual’s threshold can be determined using an exercise test. In an exercise test, the walking speed gradually increases at defined intervals, eg on a treadmill or exercise bike or in a field test. The blood lactate concentration is measured at the end of each interval and plotted against the load value on a graph. The resulting curve indicates the threshold value. The greater the intensity of the athlete’s exercise at their anaerobic threshold indicates a fitter athlete.
If an exercise program is designed so that exercise takes place in the anaerobic threshold range, it can have a positive effect on metabolism, increase muscle contractions, improve muscle cell repair, increase blood capillaries and improve heart function. The body then produces energy more efficiently, even at higher intensity levels.
Would you also like to find out what your lactate threshold is? The HardloopSchool also conducts exercise tests. Contact us for more information.