When it comes to training, knowing the level of lactate is of the utmost importance if you are looking to improve your performance. Lactate is the new maximum heart rate.
For a long time, everyone focused their training around the maximum heart rate. We now know that the lactate threshold is much more important. When you raise your LT, you can produce more power at a comfortable heart rate, and that makes you a better cyclist for every situation.
Although the maximum heart rate is a useful reference point to determine how intense your training should be, it is not as effective as the lactate threshold , the limit between the work of high and low intensity, or approximately the effort experienced in a flat terrain during 30 minutes of time trial.
The lactate threshold is a better baseline than the maximum heart rate for determining training zones, because two cyclists with the same maximum heart rate may have very variable lactate thresholds due to genetic or training differences.
What about sedentary people?
Sedentary people can have lactate thresholds as low as 50% of maximum heart rate, while elite athletes can maintain between 90 and 95% for one hour.
Here is everything you need to know about the lactate threshold, including how to raise yours to improve your workouts. But let's start with the most basic.
What is the lactate threshold?
Lactate, the buffering agent in your body, neutralizes the acid that builds up in your legs and makes you burn during an intense effort. The more intense you are pedaling, the faster the lactic acid will accumulate.
Eventually, your muscles generate more acid than you can neutralize and your burning muscles force you to relax. The point at which you begin to accumulate acid faster than you can dissipate it is your LT or, in terms of driving, the fastest pace you can maintain for 30 minutes without feeling that your legs are on fire.
How can I know my lactate threshold?
Most likely you will not meet professionals in a laboratory, where they pedal against increasing resistance as doctors take blood samples to measure the increase in lactate levels. But you can find your LT with a time trial.
- Make a map of a route of 10 kilometers that you can travel without stopping.
- Connect your cardiac monitor
- Hot for 20 minutes
- Travel the route at the fastest pace you can sustain.
- Recover during 10-20 minutes (return to the beginning of your route at an easy pace).
- Repeat the test.
Your LT is approximately the average heart rate of the two efforts. (More precisely, it is the 103 percent of that figure). Write down your times and averages; Repeat the test in eight weeks to see your progress.
How to determine your blood lactate level
While there are numerous ways to determine the level of lactate in blood, the most reliable is in a laboratory.
1. At the laboratory
Many trainers and gyms offer lactate threshold tests for around 150 euros. The hard test from 30 to 40 minutes. While using a heart rate monitor, you will start pedaling easily on a stationary bike set for a specific power. Every few minutes, resistance increases until it can no longer continue.
With each increase, the technician pricks the finger in search of a drop of blood, which then a machine analyzes in search of lactate or lactic acid, the main marker of muscle fatigue. All data is recorded through a desktop computer, which charts the graph of your results.
2. The 30 time trial minutes
However, most cyclists do not have access to laboratory facilities to determine their lactate threshold. However, you can still find yours with a simple 30 minutes trial that is best done outdoors on a flat road. The average heart rate you can maintain during the trip is a good working approximation of your lactate threshold.
3. An indoor test at home
You can also find your lactate threshold at home with this indoor exercise test. First, calculate a range of 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. So, for example, if your maximum heart rate is 180 lpm, 80 percent is 144 lpm and 90 percent is 162. The lactate threshold of most cyclists will be somewhere between these two numbers, depending on the conditioning.
Once you have estimated your lactate threshold range, perform an indoor test to find what resistance or equipment keeps you in your lactate threshold range while pedaling at a constant speed of 90 rpm. (You will need a cadence function on your power meter or bicycle computer, your heart rate monitor and a friend). Warm up well and then keep 90 rpm on your chosen equipment. Peer through 15 minutes and have your assistant record your heart rate every minute. If you have chosen a gear that is too high (your heart rate increases and you gasp for breath), stop, slow down and perform another test on a different day using a lower gear.
When you complete a test during which you are pedaling at the highest speed that allows your heart rate to remain fairly level during the 15 minutes test, keep in mind that your heart rate will be very close to your lactate threshold. But remember not to go too easy: you are trying to find the highest heart rate you can maintain for 15 minutes, so your breathing should be moderately difficult.