During all exercise intensities, the body produces a substance called lactic acid or lactate. During light and moderate-intensity exercise, the blood concentration of lactic acid remains low. The body is able to absorb lactic acid faster than the muscle cells are producing it. However, as exercise intensity increases, there is a point at which lactic acid removal fails to keep up with the rate of lactate production. This point is referred to as the lactate threshold. Lactate threshold serves as a very useful measure for athletes as it provides a barometer of the optimal intensity at which to train.
Physicians of Sports and Exercise Medicine at Albany Med can help athletes achieve increased performance and endurance in aerobic exercise by examining lactate threshold. Typically performed in the laboratory by an exercise physiologist, the lactate threshold test determines the level of exercise intensity at which the body begins to produce lactate at a greater rate than it can be removed. Blood samples are taken (by a simple finger prick) after each stage of the workout to determine blood lactate concentration.
Knowing one’s lactate threshold can help an athlete train his or her body to produce less lactate and remove lactate more efficiently – thereby improving the efficiency of the energy system over time. Individuals interested in receiving this service should be advised that it carries a fee not covered by health insurance.