Is Lactate Threshold Testing Worth Your Time

When LT Testing (LTT) started in Europe in the 70’s and 80’s, it was an inexpensive means to determine some effect of training and the ability of the athlete to go for an extended period. In short, unless you are riding in the Tour de France, LTT, as espoused by The Method Difference and others is probably not worth your time. There are better ways.

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LTT measures lactate in the blood, a by-product of metabolism. As the intensity of exercise increases, the body uses more and more carbohydrates, and a resulting bi-product is blood lactate. At very low levels of endurance performance, the body can get rid of this compound. However, at some point, depending upon fitness level, the body produces more than it can clear and recycle. That point is typically called Lactate Threshold. Scientifically, there are two points LT1 and LT2. LT1 is where it starts to rise a little faster in response to the intensity, and LT2 is where it rises disproportionately to intensity. That point, when measured with gas exchange equipment is Anaerobic Threshold.

 

LTT is useful for determining a steady-state pace you where you can perform for an extended period, like in a triathlon. Beyond that, it doesn’t tell you anything about fitness levels, anaerobic abilities, heart rate zones or the like. Moreover, since LTT requires small increments of intensity every 3-5 minutes, these tests ideally should be 40-45 minutes. Quite a bit of trouble to give you one point in your performance. Also, there are nine scientifically accepted methods of determining this balance point, and they are all slightly different with varying results.

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Carl Wassernan, at the UCLA Medical School, demonstrated in various research studies that gas exchange testing could find this same point within 1-2% of LTT. So for all practical purposes, that is about the same number. Because most fitness enthusiasts and power athletes are concerned with their abilities above a steady pace, gas exchange testing gives a massive amount of useful data for just a 13-minute test. In short, it tells you the ratio of cardio to interval training that is best for you. Other helpful data points are precise heart rate zones all the way from warm up to a 20-second maximal sprint. So, you know how to warm up, burn body fat and sprint more effectively. If you are a fitness enthusiast or power athlete, VO2 makes more sense because of all the application points. If you are a competitive cyclist riding at pro or near pro levels, both tests make sense.

 

CCHSS has unparalleled experience in metabolic testing. We have performed more than 12,600 VO2 profiles, more than anyone in Colorado or the Rocky Mountain area.

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