A Healthier U


By Blake Densley

Contrary to what you think, that lactic acid or lactate burn you may have been experiencing on that hard bike ride or run  is not due to lactate. What is lactate you ask? In the exercising body, proteins in the muscle generate lactate as a means to neutralize the increase in hydrogen protons as a result of energy use. In simplistic terms, it’s actually the use of energy that lowers the pH in the body and results in that burning and discomfort when working hard and lactate production is there to try and buffer these effects (Robergs, Ghiasvand, & Parker, 2004).

Lactate threshold training has long been a useful tool in the belts of coaches and trainers in the endurance world, and can be useful in improving performance in anyone. It is the goal of this article to try and shed light on the lactate threshold and its usefulness.

The lactate threshold is the point at which the accumulation of lactate, and therefore, the decrease in pH is too great to neutralize and clear out. The body can no longer clear lactate and buffer the pH, and exercise becomes significantly more strenuous. The threshold is the point at which the body’s ability to use aerobic sources of energy production cannot sustain the intensity of exercise, and so additional sources of energy from anaerobic sources kick in. The threshold is accompanied by an abrupt increase in blood lactate concentrations.

Lactate threshold is argued to be the most important determinant of success in endurance athletes. Why? Well, because this point of no return can be changed. Say runner one has a lactate threshold at a point that allow him to run at a pace of 6:30 miles for a marathon. This means in theory that he can maintain this pace for the duration of the race. It may not be comfortable, but he sits right under his threshold at this pace. Now let’s say that a second runner can maintain a 6:28 mile pace right below his lactate threshold. Who wins? Runner 2. If runner one can try and improve his lactate threshold, he will potentially be able to match that 6:28 pace, or better it, and win on the next race. How can he do it?

A mix of high volume training, maximal steady- state training, and high intensity intervals has been shown to be effective in improving the lactate threshold (Roberts and Robergs, 1997). Initially it is recommended to increase the training volume, meaning total time exercising at a lower intensity. This is low and slow pace work (say increasing from 100 minutes to 200 minutes over four weeks). Maximal steady state workouts after the increase of volume has been established should take up about 10 percent of the training volume. So 10 percent of 200 minutes is 20 minutes. These are tempo runs right at the lactate threshold which should feel somewhat hard or hard. Finally, incorporating interval training above the lactate threshold for another 10 percent (20 minutes in this case) of the weekly volume is an important inclusion in a weekly training plan. Interval training is well above the threshold and is considered very hard to all out. A 10 percent of volume workout could look like four minutes of hard running followed by four minutes of walking or very light running. This would be repeated four or five times to a total of 20 minutes of high intensity intervals. Inclusion of these types of workouts into your training can be a huge boost in clipping off those other runners or cyclists in a race.

Feeling confident? If you are interested in knowing where your lactate threshold sits, you’re in luck. PEAK Health and Fitness is happy to run this performance test for you.

Robergs, R. A., Ghiasvand, F., Parker, D. (2004). Biochemsitry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 287: R502-R516.

Robergs, R.A., & Roberts, S. (1997). Exercise Physiology: Exercise, performance, and clinical applications. St Louis, MO: Mosby.



convenience_storeYou’re on the road, in the middle of nowhere, and you’re hungry. Or maybe you are filling up your car’s gas tank and realize that your blood sugar is a little low. There are lots of instances when a convenience store is the closest — or only— option for a quick bite or snack. Once you get inside the sugary drinks, well stocked candy aisle, and rows and rows of chips may be tempting, but there are healthy options available as well. Here’s  are five good picks from Susan Saffel-Shrier, M.S., R.D., a registered dietician with University of Utah Health Care.

Read the full story here.

For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.