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Blood Lactate Testing

Steve can provide blood lactate testing at his home lab/gym or on local roads, along with a follow-up consultation on training methods and nutrition.  This service is available to his coached athletes and also self-coached athletes who do not require full coaching services. 

What is Blood Lactate testing?

Blood lactate testing gives an understanding of your body's physiology, which in turn allows for the training prescription to be scientifically focused to achieve your goals and objectives faster and more effectively.

For cyclists, this involves various testing protocols that are carried out on a turbo trainer or out on the roads, in conjunction with testing a series of pinpricks of blood from the rider’s finger or earlobe. (Or for triathletes during running and swimming as well) Lactate levels in these drops of blood are measured using a portable blood lactate tester to give instant results which can then be plotted against power and heart rate to give a deep understanding of how an athlete is fuelling their effort at different intensities.

What does a Blood Lactate test involve?

Submaximal and maximal tests are carried out on the rider's own bike, ideally with their power meter.  Alternately tests can be conducted on Steve's Wattbike Pro if the rider does not have a power meter.

For runners and triathletes, testing can be carried out on a local 400m running track.

Why is Lactate Testing so useful?

Lactate testing is beneficial because:

  • It provides a profile of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning levels that indicates the type of training to prescribe

  • Test results over time track changes in this profile

  • Results show the precise training intensities and volume that an athlete can withstand to increase aerobic capacity

  • It provides an ongoing check on the training of the athlete to ensure that the workouts are within the desired intensity range.

Lactate Testing Measures both the Aerobic and Anaerobic Systems

  • Lactate is produced by the anaerobic energy system (also called the glycolytic system)

  • Lactate is consumed by the aerobic system

  • Testing will, therefore, measure the development of each energy system

  • It provides information on the rider’s physiological profile and how efficient they are at burning fats and carbohydrates

  • It also provides insights into the strength of the anaerobic system and how it compares to the aerobic system by measuring the rider's VLamax (see paragraph below for an explanation of this)

Representaion of Blood Lactate Dynamics

Fig-1  The above chart is a representation of how blood lactate dynamics vary hugely in different types of cyclists, from novice to world tour rider.

  • Approximately 4 mmol.L¯¹ of blood lactate in most cyclists is the amount of lactate in the blood that can be sustained at Functional Threshold Power or maximum lactate steady state MLSS

  • For some athletes, the key to unlocking performance improvements is to increase the aerobic engine and a great way of doing that is by training at sub-maximal intensities, just below the 2 mmol.L¯¹ of blood lactate level

  • Training above a blood lactate level of 2 mmol.L¯¹ will require more recovery from the session and so less endurance training can be carried out in a sustainable way

  • Training above a blood lactate level of 4 mmol.L¯¹ of blood lactate will require carbohydrates to be burned as the primary fuel.  At this level, even more recovery time is required or burnout of the athlete can occur

In masters athletes, there is often a compromised ability to burn fat (due to adverse metabolic conditions building up over the decades) and increased amounts of fat are stored around the waist.  This can be due, at least in part, to an excess of training above the 4 mmol.L¯¹ of blood lactate and not enough below this level.  

The good news however is that the above conditions can be reversed with appropriate training and correct nutritional interventions.  Read about nutrition coaching HERE and my blog post on HERE for more information. 

What is VLAmax?

  • VLamax is the maximum production rate of lactate in your muscles

  • This is one of the blood lactate tests carried out and it is a good way to measure an athlete's anaerobic power

  • Identifying an athlete's VLamax is vital to enable the correct choice of training to achieve specific goals and objectives faster and more effectively

For a deeper understanding here is a link to a page on INSCYD, a website developed by Sebastian Weber, who has been the head coach of top-level professional cycling teams for more than 10 years.  The methods he applies to his coaching have helped his athletes win numerous victories at the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta, as well as multiple World Championships and Olympic medals.  The importance of VLamax video

Read Steve's blog post for more details (LINK).

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