Point of Care : Lactate testing for athletes


Lactate testing for athletes

During high-intensity exercise, the body produces lactate faster than it can be metabolised and removed from the blood stream. This leads to accumulation of lactate in the bloodstream.


Up to a certain threshold, the body can clear lactate at a rate at which, although there is an elevated concentration of lactate in the blood, the concentration does not impede muscle function.

Higher intensity exercise will lead to this threshold being passed, such that lactate production exceeds lactate clearance. The biochemical processes associated with increased lactate places muscle cells under stress. It is therefore important to determine the lactate threshold at which training is most effective.

A lactate analyser is therefore useful in fitness training and cardiovascular training, to help increase endurance without overtraining.

Lactate is a source of energy and is metabolised by muscle cells. The more efficiently lactate is metabolised the lower the blood lactate concentration will be during exercise.  Additionally, excess lactate will be cleared from the circulation more rapidly during the post-exercise period.


Lac [blood] = Lac [produced] ­ Lac [eliminated]


Endurance athletes should aim to achieve an elevated lactate equilibrium - a balance between the production and breakdown of lactate.


For training to achieve positive results and improve performance, it is therefore recommended to exercise at just below the anaerobic threshold.

Exercising at higher-intensity levels will result in exceeding the anaerobic threshold and cause a rapid increase in blood lactate concentration. This threshold varies from person to person, and an individual's threshold can be determined using a step test. In a step test, the intensity of training gradually increases at defined intervals, e.g. on a treadmill or exercise bike or in a field test. The blood lactate concentration is measured at the end of each interval and plotted against the load value on a chart. The resulting curve indicates the threshold value. The greater the intensity of the athlete’s exercise at their anaerobic threshold indicates a fitter athlete. 


ekfg1If a training programme is designed so that exercise occurs in the anaerobic threshold range, it can have a positive impact on the metabolism, increase muscle cell contractions, improve muscle cell repair, increase blood capillaries and improve cardiac function. The body then produces energy more efficiently, even when exercising at higher levels of intensity.


Did you know?

Normal lactate levels are the same for both dogs and humans.  Elevated lactate levels in clinical situations in both man and dogs indicates underlying pathology that requires further investigation.

Lactate  is useful tool in treatment decision making

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