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Ever wondered why you feel “burning” sensation during a marathon or after a 5 km run. What it is all about? Why you feel your legs heavy after a long trek? You know, the burning sensation and heaviness you experience halfway through or just before the finish line of a race is due to the production of lactic threshold because of lactic acid.
You’d be able to finish strongly at the end of every race if you know or could learn how to handle this situation. At least you’re not alone in the agonizing last stretch, runners frequently experience that scorching sensation. But if you train the right way, it is largely preventable.
Several precise adjustments you can make in the training regimen which will postpone the aching burn, ultimately enabling you to run farther and faster. The secret to run efficiently rests in your body’s generation of lactic acid and your capacity to train your lactate threshold. In this blog, we will talk about lactic acid and how can you increase your lactate threshold.
What is Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is a natural byproduct of the body. When you exercise, your body uses oxygen as its primary source of energy because your muscles need a lot of energy (known as aerobic energy). However, during demanding workouts, your body may not always be able to generate enough energy from oxygen alone. This is where lactic acid comes into play.
Here is the theory of using lactic acid as fuel without being too scholarly or specific.
Imagine that after some time of jogging, your aerobic capacity has been exhausted.
Your body will create lactate to meet the needs of vigorous activity (otherwise known as anaerobic energy). Oxygen is not needed for the conversion process when lactate is used as a fuel. Unfortunately, because your body frequently makes more lactate than it can utilize, the excess lactate gets accumulated in your bloodstream.
Your blood becomes more acidic as a result of the excess lactate, which makes it more difficult for your muscle fibers to contract properly. As a result, you’re more likely to experience running-related muscular exhaustion, leading to a burning sensation. This is disheartening since your body was simply trying to assist you but sometimes, it just tries too hard.
So, by exercising your lactate threshold, you can avoid lactic acid buildup by resisting your body’s “good intentions” to do so.
The production and removal of lactate in your blood are balanced during rest and steady-state exercise. During this time, lactate can be used as fuel by the liver, heart, and muscles. It can be easily absorbed during a moderate activity but during high-intensity exercise, lactate is created more quickly than the body can take it in.
During intense, all-out exertion, there is a point known as the lactate threshold at which lactate accumulates in the bloodstream more quickly than the body can eliminate it.
A small pH drop indicates the lactate threshold anywhere between 7.4 to about 7.2. This decline is believed to result in tiredness and which can lower performance. The maximal lactate steady state is defined as the highest workload that can be maintained for a longer period without continued blood lactate accumulation.
With a higher lactate threshold, an athlete should be able to tolerate at a higher level for a longer duration. As a result, many people think that using LT criteria to forecast athletic performance during high-intensity endurance sports is a brilliant idea.
How to measure Lactic Threshold – Lactate Threshold Test
Similar to VO2 max testing, lactic threshold tests are carried out in the lab on a treadmill or an exercise bike. Intensity increases incrementally during roughly four to five minutes of exercise. After each cycle, finger sticks are used to collect blood samples.
The Blood lactate concentration is frequently tested along with heart rate, output power, and VO2.
This procedure keeps going until the blood lactate concentration noticeably rises. The lactic threshold occurs at a percentage of athletes’ VO2 max based on their training status. Athletes and coaches analyze the power output (often in watts/kg) at the lactate threshold to create and design training programs
According to certain studies, eating carbohydrates may affect the lactic threshold. For instance, one study discovered that a low-carbohydrate diet may cause the lactic threshold to shift toward higher workloads. A low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet has been shown to raise the lactic threshold in off-road cyclists. There isn’t any proof that this leads to improved performance, though.
Estimation of Lactic Threshold
A 30-minute time trial at a steady pace is a straightforward technique. Anyone who isn’t in excellent form shouldn’t attempt this test because it is best suited to seasoned athletes. The objective is to exercise at your maximum sustained effort while keeping an eye on your heart rate.
- Spend 15 minutes warming up.
- Start working out and increase your intensity gradually throughout the first 10 minutes.
- For the following 20 minutes, tally your heart rate every minute.
- Become calm.
How to increase Lactic Threshold
With practice, athletes can endure longer bouts of higher-intensity exercise. Athletes who compete in endurance events like half and full marathons, mini or full triathlons, and duathlons may want to raise their lactic threshold via nutrition, training, and recovery.
You can assess the effectiveness of your efforts by measuring and monitoring your lactic threshold. You may continue to adapt and advance by being aware of your benchmark and then developing a strategy on how to advance your training.
Lactate threshold training
Lactate threshold training is the increase in exercise intensity so you train at or just above your LT heart rate. Both steady-state and interval training are acceptable for this exercise. It may be most effective to combine interval, high-intensity, and continuous steady-state training. Your current level of fitness and workout goals should determine how long you exercise. For instance:
- Sample LT interval training program: Perform three to five 10-minute high-effort intervals twice a week at heart rates between 95% and 105% of your LT, with three minutes of recovery in between each interval.
- Plan a 20 to 30-minute workout at a high intensity (95% to 105% of your LT heart rate) twice per week as part of your continuous LT training.
To advance, up your weekly exercise volume by 10% to 20%, and to determine whether your training activities are effective, keep note of your development and retest every few months. If not, you may have to make adjustments by increasing the frequency, time, or intensity.
For optimized performance without overtraining, recovery is essential. You should space out your active training days with rest days or light work days. Recovery exercises like mobility work, stretching, foam rolling, massage, or other techniques could also help. Always make sure you receive adequate sleep each night because it will be essential to your performance and recovery.
Nutrition plays a significant role in both performance and recuperation. You must be able to exercise at a high level without depleting your glycogen reserves if you want to improve your LT during training and competition. This necessitates careful nutritional preparation for both the meal before and after the exercise.
Misconception About Lactic Acid
One of the biggest misconceptions about lactic acid is that it causes muscle fatigue and soreness after exercise. Instead of causing muscle tiredness, lactate helps to postpone it. Your muscles become depolarized and lose power after long runs. Lactate buildup in muscular tissue aids in partially offsetting the impact of depolarization.
After about 30 to 40 minutes of working out, the lactate is eliminated with the majority being recycled and converted to energy. Inflammation brought on by microtrauma to the muscles and connective tissues is what causes delayed onset muscle soreness. Most forms of exercise can cause some soreness and you feel pain after a day or two after a challenging workout.