Enhancing Lactate Threshold: A Key to Performance Improvement

Lactate threshold, known as LT2, MLSS, anaerobic lactate threshold, or OBLA, is a crucial performance metric for athletes in various endurance sports. However, achieving the highest lactate threshold alone does not guarantee being in top shape. Optimal performance requires a multifaceted approach, including mental strength, improved power-to-weight ratio, enhanced fat oxidation, and overall freshness. In addition to lactate threshold, two other important metrics for athletes are maximum oxygen uptake (V02max) and fractional utilization (FU) of V02max, indicating the percentage of V02max that can be utilized before crossing the lactate threshold.

Utilizing Blood Lactate Step Test

The blood lactate step test is a valuable tool for assessing these metrics, including lactate threshold (LT2). By establishing the link between LT2 power and V02max power, and calculating fractional utilization of V02max, it becomes possible to predict race performance. Fractional V02max, which can be sustained over long durations without fatigue-inducing by-products, such as hydrogen ions, water, heat, and CO2, is particularly useful for endurance events.

A blood lactate step test is very useful in that it helps to reveal many of the above metrics including LT2. We link LT2 power with V02max power and calculate your fractional utilisation of V02max. which is in other words, the percentage of the VO2max that can be utilised before the lactate threshold is crossed.
Methods for Enhancing Lactate Threshold
Improving lactate threshold requires a combination of threshold development training and specific methods targeting V02max and anaerobic development (glycolytic power). Two common training approaches for raising lactate threshold are lactate production workouts and lactate clearance workouts. Athletes should consider their VLamax, which represents their maximal lactate production capacity from the anaerobic energy system. Endurance athletes typically aim for a lower VLamax, emphasizing strong aerobic development, fat utilization, and reduced lactate production, while sprinters focus on higher VLamax for quick energy supply and high power output.

Aerobic Capacity and Tailoring Anaerobic Development

A well-developed aerobic energy support system is vital for sustained energy production from oxidized fat and efficient oxygen supply to the muscles. It also minimizes reliance on the anaerobic energy system, thereby reducing the production of metabolic by-products. Athletes must strike a balance by maximizing their aerobic capacity and tailoring anaerobic development (VLamax) to match the demands of their primary event. VLamax ranges from 0.2-1.0 mmol/L/sec, with lower values preferred for endurance athletes and higher values for sprinters.

Understanding the Impact of VLamax
In the scenario where two athletes have the same lactate threshold, FTP, and V02max but differ in VLamax, the athlete with a higher VLamax will oxidize more carbohydrates and produce more lactate.
Consequently, the athlete with a lower VLamax will be less likely to deplete glycogen first—a significant performance limitation in long endurance races such as marathons. While sprinters benefit from a powerful anaerobic development, marathon runners and long-distance triathletes prioritize a robust aerobic energy system.
Physiological Factors for Success
To excel in demanding events like the Tour de France, Ironman triathlons, or fast marathons, athletes require optimal physiological attributes tailored to the specific race characteristics.
These factors include a large V02max, superior endurance, muscular strength endurance, power development, exercise economy, high fat oxidation, and elevated lactate thresholds (LT1/2).
Therefore, it is crucial to identify an athlete’s physiological strengths and weaknesses to design a customized training program, as a one-size-fits-all approach rarely delivers the same results for every athlete.
Enhancing lactate threshold is a key aspect of improving athletic performance. However, achieving peak physical condition requires a comprehensive approach that considers various physiological factors.
By implementing specific training methods and understanding individual requirements, athletes can maximize their aerobic capacity, tailor anaerobic development, and optimize their performance potential. Building a customized training program based on an athlete’s unique strengths and limiters is essential for achieving the desired results.