A “high” baseline lactate concentration?

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  • #34566

    Hi everyone!

    Alright, yet another discussion about lactate…
    I’m in PT school and we did a lactate test today. It was just to see how the process goes, not to actually get some really reliable results.

    But needless to say, I volunteered to suffer!

    However we did it on the bike ergometer because that is easier to execute for therapists in training.

    Now, bike vs running is of course different and I came into this with sore legs, so at 275W I was TOAST and my rpm (pedal strokes) dropped right away.

    Unfortunately the HR monitor was being a real piece of *** and not working properly and my fellow students were struggling to draw blood for the lactate measurements so it has a bunch of holes in it.

    However what we observed were:
    My first measurement, so the baseline (after chill warm-up at 25W but a fast bike ride to school before that, with about 10-15min rest in between) was 2.2mmol/l at the ear. Isn’t that high already? Or are there significant genetic differences in baseline lactate levels, or differences based on gender?
    My highest reading was 14.1mmol/l, after cooling down for 5min at 75W after I was done.

    Around 175W my Borg Scale number jumped up and so did the lactate. 3.8mmol taken at the ear (but at the finger it said around 8mmol)

    Considering this was a very loosely strung test, I wasn’t fully rested and we did not have reliable HR, can I take anything from this or should I disregard it altogether? Mainly my lactate levels seem… interesting?

    Thanks for your input!

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    Anonymous on #34940

    First thoughts: you are probably very fast-twitch with an under-developed aerobic system. And you probably ate before the test, perhaps even several hours before. If you were at 14 mM five minutes after a ramp test, then your peak lactate is probably much higher.

    I used to have the same types of readings before my training volume was high enough to compensate for my FT bias. (My peak lactate after a sprint workout was 23. I would get similar readings to yours after ramp tests.)

    Between 500-600 hours per year of training volume, I could still hit peak lactates in the 20s. It took a training volume in the mid-700s before lactate was reduced to the teens (in a peak test, not a ramp test). At that point, my baseline lactates were at or below 1.0. (And really, peak lactate may not have been reduced, just more absorbed by the aerobic system.)

    In short, I suspect it’s normal for your physiology. (And I think most historical testing of endurance athletes is slow-twitch biased because that’s who’s drawn to the sports and most available for testing.) If you’re curious, do another test first thing in the morning before you eat (and before you get hungry). I suspect you’ll see a lower baseline.

    Anonymous on #34941

    While it does sound like your ‘test’ was more of a teaching moment for your classmates than an actual evaluation of your metabolic response to intensity I’d agree with Scott Semple on his general analysis.

    Hitting 14+ mMol/L with tired legs does indicate a FT athlete. I’ve never hit 12mMol/L even when I was young and fit. But I am a Slow Twitcher.

    Its great you can access that top end power. It’s a relatively easy, if slow, process to build an aerobic base. Whereas if you do not have the FT fibers needed to produce high lactates then you are doomed to being a slow twitch athlete. Not a bad thing if these ultra long events are what you dream of.

    The old track coach axiom is true: Sprinters are born, distance runners are made.

    You can turn a sprinter in to a distance runner if you have enough time and the runner has the patience. But you will never turn a distance runner into a sprinter. They just do not have the genetic material.

    Bear in mind that I ma using “running” and “runner’ here loosely.


    gfilip on #34984

    I too appear to have a high baseline lactate level, although I certainly don’t “feel” like I have FT dominance.

    I had a lactate panel completed at a university lab where while on a treadmill, the technician would draw 3 blood samples from my fingers and each sample was tested in its own lactate meter. I repeated this test at the same lab with the same crew after 5 months of base training. I did not eat anything before nor did I perform any exercise before the midday testing on both occasions. My baseline lactate from the first test was right around 3.0 mmol/L (early on in the treadmill test this came down to a lowest reading of 2.0 mmol/L at easy effort). Five months later the baseline was lower at 2.0 mmol/L, still a relatively high number (did not have a lower reading during the treadmill test, it just kept on increasing with effort). The baseline readings were done basically when I arrived at the lab; no warm-up, food, etc.

    In the 5 months between tests, I averaged 43 hours of training per month and also experimented with my diet, going from high carb around the time of the first test, to low-carb/keto for the last 2 months or so before the 2nd test. I think the change in diet had the biggest impact as the carb/fat usage from gas exchange readings shifted quite dramatically.

    Hope this is useful in some way.

    Anonymous on #35003

    @gfilip: Good job for getting your baseline lower. 3.0 is pretty high; that’s something we often see in HIIT folks (Crossfitters, etc). With more volume, you’ll be able to go lower than 2.0 as well.

    : Something else that I thought of is that your test was on the bike. Lactate readings cycling tend to be higher for a given heart rate because less muscle mass is available to take up excess lactate. If you did a similar test on a treadmill, your lactate at a give HR would likely be lower.

    rando_luke on #35202

    Just a question based on some thoughts about the initial query: would the site of the blood sample change the lactate measurement in a healthy person? As in ear versus finger stick or elsewhere? Just wondering others thoughts/observations as venous vs. arterial blood almost certainly differ in lactate levels, so would differing sites have that difference in levels?

    Anonymous on #35271

    Good question, but I haven’t seen it. During the same test, I’ve used the finger and ear lobe and didn’t see a difference.

    However, I’ve also been wondering if super-local exercises (like hangboarding) would show differences in local versus peripheral samples.

    wildmoser.j on #36695

    Sorry I am a little late to reply here – sorry about that!

    So first things first: I’m doing a treadmill lactate test next Tuesday – a really professional one this time and not one used as a teaching moment. And treadmill, not bike. I’ll give an update about my results after that 🙂

    Thanks for everyone’s input. One question I do have: what about gender differences? Could it be that female athletes (even endurance athletes) may have higher base lactate levels? I am wondering if there has been any serious research done about this.

    I certainly do not feel like an FT athlete, either. Throughout my life I have always been super slow at sprints but I’ve always had a bit more endurance. But I have been a “couch potato” until not too long ago – extremely unfit (although not overweight or anything, just not into moving, except downhill skiing, whatsoever) until, say, about 4-5 years ago. But mountain running and seriously getting into ski-touring would have been 2-3 years ago. It certainly can be that I am still “catching up” on the training effects of slow, aerobic base training and that I need a few more years of lots of aerobic activity to really get super efficient in that sense.

    I’m still super slow at sprints at this time, too.

    I certainly hope that I am not too aerobically deficient as slow and steady is my favourite kind of running – when I can still breathe through the nose and talk. But Scott Semple, you mentioned still having high lactate concentrations “because” of overall training amount (hours per year). I am certainly doing more and more but I think for last year I have hit, overall, 450 hours or so, max 500. So maybe it could also be that with a steady increase in total hours, it should get better, even if I have, to this date, already trained mostly below my AeT.

    But again, after next week I’ll have better data available. Pretty excited about that!


    Anonymous on #36721

    But Scott Semple, you mentioned still having high lactate concentrations “because” of overall training amount (hours per year).

    Sorry for the confusion. When my volume was in the 500s is when I had peak lactate in the 20s. When my volume rose into the 700s, peak lactate was in the teens.

    My guess is that I was probably producing as much lactate–I was faster overall–but with a stronger aerobic system, more lactate was reabsorbed. So there was less leftover to make its way into my bloodstream.

    Anonymous on #36722

    Also, speed is not an indicator of fast or slow twitch. For example, I coach someone who is insanely fast and very, very slow twitch.

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