Lactate Testing

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Sports is big today especially here in the Philippines. Aside from the mainstream sports like basketball and football, running, cycling, and triathlons have gained popularity over the past couple decades. Other sports such as Crossfit, obstacle course racing, and open water swimming started to establish a solid base. With the landscape becoming ever more competitive, more and more athletes want to perform better, make the most out of their training, or even just want to make their training more efficient and effective. The answer is simple, data is king. The more you know and understand, the better you can perform. Lactate testing is meant to help you understand your body’s current state so you can improve it faster and maximize your potential sooner. What is Lactate Testing?

While generally being associated to endurance athletes, other sports and events can also greatly benefit from this approach. Unknown to most, there are different ways to administer a lactate test. It would depend on the goals and sport in mind. The simplest and generally most useful way of administering a lactate test is by measuring lactate values across different intensities. Blood lactate samples are taken in predefined intervals as the work rate increases. The goal is to see how the body responds to changes in intensity. This is achieved by gathering data points and graphing them versus a metric such as speed or power. In doing so, an athlete’s lactate curve can be defined. The lactate curve is useful because it helps us identify biological markers such as one’s aerobic (endurance) and anaerobic (speed) thresholds. While there are multiple ways of defining “lactate threshold” this is the most common way it is understood. These thresholds give us an idea what intensities an athlete can sustain for particular durations, and more importantly, how they can further improve these values. What can you get out of Lactate Testing?

Lactate testing is arguably one of the most important performance tests athletes can take for a number of reasons. Take note, this is often confused with lactate threshold testing but as discussed earlier, the latter is only a subset of the former.

There are 3 main ways an athlete can benefit from lactate testing:

  1. Lactate testing helps determine your red line. For lack of a better term, you could think of this as the upper limit that you could sustain. Going above this value marks the point of diminishing returns (i.e. your threshold). In terms of going above your limit/threshold, a little goes a long way. While being important, repeatedly exceeding this in training can have detrimental effects such as overtraining and overfatigue. In competition and races, going above this value can make or break your performance. Too early, and you’ll struggle the rest of the way. Too late, and you might miss out on a win or a personal record.
  2. Lactate testing gives you your zones. Zone training is a sometimes misunderstood among endurance athletes and, is more often than not. entirely new for those coming from other sports. The best part of zone training is that it allows you to simplify training. Think of it this way, each zone has a corresponding effect or purpose. The goal of this test is to understand what values correspond with these zones. In doing so, we can design a program that will help you maximize results. For example, if your goal is to build endurance and to recover faster, focusing on Zone 2 should be the priority. Short distance speed and power on the other hand might be better associated with higher intensities such as zone 4. Ultimately, we need to properly identify what these zones are so we don’t waste time with botched or improperly executed workouts.
  3. Lactate testing helps you determine your plan of attack. In any sport, knowing your game plan isn’t enough, understanding so you can execute better is key. We need to know what type of  training will work best for you. Whether it be addressing your weaknesses, maintaining your strengths, or following through on a particular goal, lactate testing can help immensely. Without proper knowledge, you won’t be able to maximize the time you spend training. On the other hand, in competitions, you need to know hard you need to push and when to do it. On top of this, understanding how to recover is also important. By knowing what your body is capable of, you can be more confident, assertive, and have better control of any situation.

Why do you need all this to perform better? The main reason is time. Lactate testing makes training more focused and targeted, sessions become more effective and efficient. You can achieve your goals with less time and effort. This means you can dedicate time to other things such as recovery, skills development, strength, even work and family. Gone are the days when the sole metric for success is volume. To be successful in today’s landscape, you need to not only work hard but train smart as well. Having an intelligent, data-driven, and scientific approach is key to your success.

For example, say you want to break your personal record for a 10km race. How do you know if your main limiter is endurance (i.e. holding a particular pace) or speed (going fast enough to reach a certain pace). You can be underdeveloped aerobically and fade or have a weak anaerobic system and underperform. In the case of the former, all the speedwork in the world will not address your limiter. In fact, this will further diminish your aerobic development. As for the latter, adding more volume will not be the solution and would even be detrimental. To perform better, you need to push harder and stay fresh for these sessions. Imagine all the work you wasted by having the wrong approach. That’s why understanding your body is a prerequisite to success. Aside from this, lactate testing will also help you understand how hard you need to push or how easy you need to go. Think of it as a way of hacking your body so it can maximize its performance. If you’re located in the Philippines (or wish to visit) and want to book a test or inquire, you can contact us here:

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