Lactate Testing – What to do and how to use the Results
I don’t know if it’s just my Twitter feed, but the amount of talk about lactate testing and lactate-based training seems to have increased a lot in recent months.
As a strong believer in large amounts of Z1 training (3 zone model), I am used to being disciplined with my intensity; I love my Z1 rides!! However, I also love intervals!! I love working hard; I love the feeling you get while fighting to keep the power/intensity where you want it as the fatigue starts to bite.
However, having used HR zones based on information from Stephen Seiler very successfully, a pretty nasty bout of Covid seemed to shift my zones A LOT!! Suddenly I had to train with a very low HR to get the desired RPE.
I’d actually had my suspicions that my Z1 HR was a little too high and had started lowering my Z1 ride intensity for a few months before Covid…however, post-Covid, it was time to test.
How to Complete a Lactate Test
Having done a Sports Science degree, I was pretty familiar with the basics (I actually did my dissertation on lactate testing for rowers).
The likelihood is that you will go somewhere to get yourself tested, so you don’t need to worry too much about equipment and things, but all that is needed includes:
- Lactate Measuring Device
- Lactate Test Strips
- Lancets and Finger Prick Device
- Alcohol Wipes
- Rubber Gloves
- Clean gauze
When it comes to recording the results, it can all be done post-test. The lactate meter will store the results, and the HR can be looked at from the ride file.
What Protocol Should You Use?
Though if you go to a lab/coach to get yourself tested they will likely have a protocol they use, it’s worth discussing the protocol as the step length really does matter.
This really does matter! It’s not uncommon to see 3-minute steps; however, for lactate testing, this is likely to be a bit short. It’s possible with steps this short that you won’t quite have reached a ‘steady state’, and so results may look better than they really are, and your zones will be set too high…this is a disaster for your training, as we all know if we’ve set our FTP too high…IT IS BAD!!
Personally, if someone else is doing the testing, I think 5 minutes is not a bad step length. You should be pretty steady at each power by 5 minutes and it means you can still do quite a lot of steps to get a good spread of results.
If you are testing yourself, I’d go slightly longer. It just gives you a bit of extra time to sort things out and takes the pressure off.
P.S. If you are testing yourself, you need to be very organised and have a good system to make sure you get good data.
The next thing to think about is where you start the test and how big the steps are. You can judge the starting point if you know the rider. You want a good 3-4 steps before LT1 if you can no one will get too fatigued from riding an extra low-intensity step! For example, I started at 100 Watts and got 5 tests done before LT1.
The ramp rate I use is 20 watts. It’s close enough that you shouldn’t miss anything and far enough apart that you will be working hard soon enough and fatigue from the length of the overall test isn’t a factor.
Like I said above, you want a good routine so you can test quickly and get a good clean sample for the best results. Here’s what I do:
- Insert the test strip into the machine
- Clean the area with the alcohol wipe
- Prick the finger/earlobe (I use a finger)
- Wipe away the first drop with the gauze
- Take the sample from the send drop
- Use the gauze to stop the bleeding