Blood Lactate Testing
Blood lactate concentrations can provide us with insights into your fitness and help us give you the most accurate training intensities.
What is Blood Lacate?
Lactate is a product of anaerobic glycolysis, an energy system that becomes more dominant as exercise intensity increases. Lactate is always being produced by your cells, but as you start working harder, the concentration of lactate in your blood will change.
Lactate is used by the body for energy and to help buffer changes in pH that occur, especially during higher intensity exercise. It is not the reason your muscles are fatiguing or you feel sore after exercise!
Why Do We Care About Blood Lactate?
Blood lactate concentration can be measured and has been used in research. Having these measurements helps us to follow recommended training practices and it also provides us with some insights into your fitness.
Blood lactate tests can help us to identify your "thresholds" which are used as targets during exercise. Mike believes that lactate tests are most beneficial to stop runners from running too fast when intensity is supposed to be low.
Is This Mandatory?
Absolutely not. It is useful information to have, but there are other tests that can estimate your lactate thresholds with accuracy. Direct measurement of blood lactate concentration gives us a different level of confidence when prescribing exercise, but that is not to say that we are not confident in the first place. We can make well informed decisions without blood lactate tests.
Can I run by feel?
Yes and in many instances this is actually preferred, but hang on a second. It is important to be calibrated with what you are feeling. What you may think is "easy" may actually be too hard. And what you may think is hard may not be hard enough. One of the most common mistakes to make is running too hard on easy runs; often times our "easy pace" is still a little bit too hard. Understanding what intensity to train at and when to do it is very important.
How Does It Work?
To get the most accurate data, we follow a specific protocol.
You will be sent pre-test instructions with recommendations on training and diet before you perform the test. We basically just want you fresh and not caffeinated.
You require a watch with a chest strap heart rate monitor. If you don't have one, we may be able to help. Wear shorts and t-shirt. and make sure you have a bottle of water handy. Your running shoes are also a must!
The test is performed on a treadmill (if you're a runner). We do a warm-up and then every 3-4 minutes the speed will increase. At the end of each 3-4 minute stage we take a blood sample and analyze it.
We use a small lancet that pokes the tip of your finger. It might hurt a little bit but it isn't too bad. For some people we only need to poke them one time with the lancet. For other people we need to poke them at the end of every stage.
The biggest risk of the test is falling on the treadmill. We make sure you are clipped into the treadmill safety the entire time and we review how to go on and off a moving treadmill.
We perform a health screen prior to the test to assess if the test is safe for you or not. Depending on your past medical history and medications, we may require a note from your doctor before we can do this test. By the end of the test you are going to be working at a very high intensity (close to your maximum heart rate).
We have a portable lactate meter that analyzes the blood sample we take from your finger. This instrument is validated and reliable, and we test it to ensure its accuracy.
If you have a treadmill, we can do the test at your own home. If you don't, Mike has a treadmill at his home where testing can take place.