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Decoding Lactate: How It Powers Runners and Boosts Performance

Decoding Lactate:

How It Powers Runners and Boosts Performance

Lactate, often associated with that burning sensation during intense workouts, is a fascinating substance with a significant impact on a runner's performance. In this blog post, we'll demystify lactate, explore how the runner's body uses it, and discover its effect on performance when it peaks. We'll also delve into strategies for leveraging lactate to become a faster and more efficient athlete, supported by insights from and

Unraveling Lactate: What Is It?

Lactate, or lactic acid, is a byproduct of the body's energy production system, particularly during high-intensity activities when oxygen availability becomes limited. Contrary to popular belief, it's not the villain behind muscle soreness; it's lactate itself, a milder compound. Lactate is generated when your muscles metabolize glucose without adequate oxygen.

(Source: Lactate What Is It, What Increases It, and More Osmosis)

How the Runner's Body Utilizes Lactate

Lactate isn't just a waste product; it serves essential functions in your body during exercise:

  1. Energy Source: Muscles use lactate as a quick and accessible energy source during high-intensity efforts when oxygen supply can't meet the demand.

  2. pH Regulation: Lactate helps maintain proper pH levels in your muscles, preventing excessive acidity that contributes to muscle fatigue.

The Lactate Threshold: A Key to Performance

The lactate threshold is a critical concept for runners. It represents the point at which lactate production exceeds the body's ability to clear it efficiently. Beyond this threshold, blood lactate levels rise exponentially, leading to fatigue.

Understanding your lactate threshold is essential because it determines your sustainable race pace.

Runners with a higher lactate threshold can maintain faster paces for longer durations, making it a key determinant of performance.

This example below - is one of my athletes. Notice her lactate stayed below 2 until she was running a 8 min/mile and faster with a heart rate below 160. As she uses this data (from her lactate test) in her training plan - the goal is to push that back and be able to have her heart rate below the 160 but her speed to at a 7:30-7:45 min/mile.

Training to Increase Lactate Threshold

To become a faster and more efficient runner, you can target your lactate threshold with strategic training for 20% of your training:

  1. Interval Training: Incorporate high-intensity intervals into your workouts to improve your lactate clearance and raise the threshold.

  2. Tempo Runs: Include tempo runs at or near your lactate threshold pace to acclimate your body to higher lactate levels and delay fatigue.

  3. Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your training sessions to challenge your lactate metabolism and boost the threshold.

  4. Rest and Recovery: Ensure adequate recovery between intense workouts to allow your body to adapt positively to the training stress.

By strategically integrating these training methods into your regimen, you can push your lactate threshold higher, delay fatigue, and ultimately become a faster and more efficient runner.

In conclusion, lactate is not the enemy; it's a valuable ally in your pursuit of running excellence. Understanding how your body uses lactate and how to train to improve your lactate threshold can make a significant difference in your performance on the road or trail. So, embrace the science behind lactate and let it propel you toward your running goals.

If you're interested in experiencing the benefits of lactate testing and personalized training plans, contact PR Performance Lab for more information. Additionally, you can explore further insights on the topic from the NSCA, ACSM, Research Gate, etc.

More of my post on Lactate HERE.

Schedule your Lactate Test HERE.


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