Uses of Lactate And How To Determine Your Lactate Threshold
There are many things that occur during exercise that you should be aware of; your lactate threshold is no exception. The lactate threshold is one of the best ways to measure a person’s endurance performance. Many people who participate in exercise for long periods of time are curious to know what their lactate threshold is, when they can reach it, and how they can improve it.
Lactate, also known as lactic acid, is a metabolic byproduct that is produced during the breakdown of carbohydrates. During the process of making lactic acid, the cells make ATP which is what we use as energy for all chemical processes in the body. No oxygen is used in the formation of lactate so it’s said to be anaerobic. Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid doesn’t cause muscle soreness or muscle cramps. Lactic acid always gets blamed for your muscle soreness but this soreness is really brought on by muscle damage and tears in muscle tissue.
HOW DOES THE BODY USE LACTATE?
People that have heard the term lactate or lactic acid when it comes to exercise mostly associate it as a negative thing. It has been said to build up in the muscles, make your muscles “burn”, and cause muscle soreness after exercise. Well, this isn’t the absolute truth. Lactic acid is actually used a fuel for your muscles. It is necessary for exercise and is actually a really good indicator of your physical fitness level. Your body produces lactic acid when carbohydrates are broken down. Your muscles burn the lactate product in order to create energy. The body uses lactic acid very quickly so your body produces it at a very rapid pace in order to make sure the muscles have enough.
WHAT IS THE LACTATE THRESHOLD?
So now that you know all about what lactate is and how it’s produced in the body, it’s important to gain knowledge about the lactate threshold, also known as the anaerobic threshold. The lactate threshold is the rate during exercise at which the production of lactate exceeds the rate at which lactate is removed. During this, the amount of lactic acid that is in the blood begins to expand beyond a steady state level. If this happens, your muscles may have a hard time contracting properly which can definitely put a hold on your workout. This is where people may get confused about lactic acid causing muscle soreness and limiting a person from finishing their workout. Instead of a buildup of lactic acid causing a delay in a person’s workout, going beyond their body’s ability to create more lactate then is being used (the lactate threshold) is where you should be careful.
There are two types of muscles fibers that your body uses during any kind of physical activity: slow twitch muscle fibers and fast twitch muscle fibers. You utilize your slow twitch muscle fibers during more of slow, long exercises. Your fast twitch muscle fibers are used during short and fast exercises. A perfect example of this is runners. People who run long distance tend to have more slow-twitch muscle fibers than sprinters and vice versa. Sprinters usually have more fast-twitch muscle fibers than long distance runners. As you increase the intensity of your workout, your muscles begin to rely more on fast twitch muscle fibers. These fibers contract mainly by using carbohydrates as their fuel. So the faster, more intense your workout, the more your fast twitch muscle fibers are breaking down carbs, and the more lactic acid is produced.
DETERMINING YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD
Many people who are very dedicated to exercise such as athletes may have a particular interest in determining their own personal lactate threshold. The lactate threshold is not the same for any person. All people have a different level of lactate production due to their own body type and exercise level. It’s important to figure out your own personal threshold. The most accurate and reliable way to determine your anaerobic, or lactate, threshold is through blood samples that are taken during a graded exercise test by a professional such as your medical doctor. During this test, the person would participate in a workout where the intensity would increase over time. As you increase the intensity of exercise, a blood sample is taken. When the blood test shows an increase in lactic acid, you have reached your threshold. This laboratory setting may not be practical for everybody so there other ways to get an idea of where your lactate threshold is. You can do this just by measuring your breathing or measuring your ventilatory threshold. This is the point at which your rate of breathing begins to rapidly increase during a specific intensity during a workout. This is the point that correlates with the point of your lactate threshold from your blood samples.
LACTATE THRESHOLD DURING TRAINING
Many athletes attempt to improve their lactate threshold. When you are first starting out in
an exercise program your lactate threshold will most likely come towards the beginning of the workout. Experienced exercises may not reach their lactate threshold for as long as an hour after the start of a workout. It is very possible to improve your lactate threshold. Participating in cardiovascular exercises on a regular basis is the best way to improve the point at which you reach your lactate threshold. Increasing the time and intensity of cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, or swimming will show an improvement. If you are already an experienced exerciser, you may benefit more through interval training which goes beyond your lactate threshold. These interval training sessions are workouts done by performing short durations of very high intensity exercises and then brought down to a more steady state intensity. To really get the benefit of this interval training to improve your lactate threshold, make sure your high intensity interval goes beyond your lactate threshold. It’s important to only stay above for a couple of seconds. You shouldn’t be exercising beyond your lactate threshold for more than a few minutes, ever!