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Training Misconception Around Lactate Threshold

A typical training mistake that many athletes and coaches do is training at “lactate threshold” in order to improve lactate clearance capacity. This is not correct as we know that during exercise lactate is mainly produced by glycolytic fibers (fast twitch) which are the ones recruited at “lactate threshold”. However, lactate is mainly cleared by adjacent slow twitch fibers that have a very high mitochondrial capacity and a much higher amount of mLDH enzymes and MCT-1 transporters. Therefore to improve lactate clearance capacity, and although totally counterintuitive, it is key to train those slow twitch muscle fibers to stimulate mitochondrial growth and function as well as increase MCT-1 and mLDH. Training at lactate threshold is essential to improve glycolytic fibers and their machinery (your “Turbo”). In addition this training will upregulate the number and function of glycolytic enzymes as well as to increase the number of MCT-4 transporters necessary to transport lactate away from fast twitch fibers to then be cleared by slow twitch fibers. Spending too much time at lactate threshold is very tasking as well, as it is a high effort and can lead to overtraining which is something I constantly observe new clients. Many athletes and coaches have this misconception and make this mistake leading to overtraining and not improving lactate clearance capacity. Implementing the same testing protocols used by many world tour cycling teams (INSCYD) I measure lactate, fat and carbohydrate metabolism during all exercise intensities to study the whole metabolic and physiological response to exercise which allows us to predict performance as well as to define individual training zones quite clearly, in particular Zone 2 (Z2) which with numerous endurance coaches test results and my own experience, has shown to be the training zone eliciting the best results to improve lactate clearance capacity.

“Zone 2 (Z2) has shown to be the training zone eliciting the best results to improve lactate clearance capacity.”

So many athletes come to me without knowing these concepts and train too much at “lactate threshold” and by identifying their specific training zones we turn their training programs completely upside and we constantly see very important improvements in their lactate clearance capacity and performance while at the same time we significantly decrease the cases of overtraining.

To conclude, lactate threshold remains as the most used training term worldwide and yet there is no consensus of what exactly it represents. There is too much confusion not just regarding what lactate threshold is but also what lactate per se is and what its role and importance in exercise and metabolism is. I believe it is time for the “lactate threshold” concept to evolve and be named and defined differently so athletes and coaches can use it in a more meaningful and understandable manner in order to describe that “magic” exercise intensity that can only be sustained for a specific amount of time which is crucial for performance and success.

In conjunction with the INSCYD performance analysis software, we take into account, and connect to one another, the most important metrics for training purposes:

VO2max – maximum aerobic capacity

VLamax – maximum glycolytic (anaerobic) capacity

Anaerobic threshold and how it is composed

Accumulation of Lactate and how quick you can recover from it

Fat combustion rate and FatMax

Carbohydrate combustion during training & racing

Economy – how much energy you need at a given speed.

Each of the above metrics is measured by INSCYD and is critical for your performance. Remember: each sport performance is predictable and can be broken down into these fundamental elements. Get in touch today and book your consultation and test session.

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