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What is Lactate Threshold?

Lactate Threshold refers to the intensity of exercise at which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood at a faster rate than it can be removed. It's a critical point that can be considered a marker for endurance performance.

During low to moderate exercise, your body can efficiently clear lactate from the blood and convert it back into energy. However, as exercise intensity increases, lactate production outpaces your body's ability to remove it, leading to a rise in blood lactate levels. This threshold is often associated with muscle fatigue and a decrease in performance.

Understanding and training at or near the lactate threshold can help athletes improve their endurance and delay fatigue. It's a common focus in training programs for runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes. By training at this intensity, athletes can increase their body's ability to process lactate, and enhance  performance in longer events.

How do I work out my lactate threshold?

There are a few ways that you can estimate your lactate threshold - some more precise than others. Unsurprisingly, the more precise methods usually come with a price tag. 

  1. Laboratory Testing: You may undergo a graded exercise test in a laboratory setting, for example on a treadmill or stationery bike. You will start exercising at a low intensity, and the intensity is gradually increased. Your blood samples will be taken at regular intervals to measure lactate levels, and the point at which lactate begins to rise more sharply is identified as the lactate threshold.

  2. Field Testing: Some coaches and athletes may use field tests, such as time trials or specific workouts, to estimate lactate threshold. By monitoring heart rate, perceived exertion, and pace or power output, they can identify the intensity at which the athlete transitions from comfortable to more laboured exercise.

  3. Heart Rate Monitoring: Some athletes use heart rate monitors to estimate their lactate threshold. By identifying the heart rate at which exercise becomes noticeably more challenging, they can estimate the intensity corresponding to their lactate threshold.

  4. Using Wearable Tech: Various wearable devices and fitness apps are designed to estimate lactate threshold based on workout data. While not as precise as laboratory testing, they can provide an approximation.

Understanding lactate threshold may help you to tailor your training to improve endurance and performance. By training at or near this intensity, you can enhance your body's ability to process lactate, adapt to higher levels of exercise stress, and ultimately perform better in competition.

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