Baseline lactate in women | Uphill Athlete

Baseline lactate in women

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  • #37286


    I’ve been wondering about one thing for a while. Do we know if there are gender-related variations in baseline lactate levels? Like, does the baseline differ between men and women? (And in general, how much variation do we see in baseline levels, even if that’s just been measured in men?)

    I know that women’s HR can react differently to exercise than men because our heart and lungs are much smaller (so our hearts need to beat faster for a relative same intensity exercise than a man’s heart). Just curious if other “measurements” have a propensity to be quite different between men/women…


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    Anonymous on #37302

    I’m not sure about gender-specific lactate. I’ll ask Alison and Scott J. to comment.

    Heart size and stroke volume is a factor for everyone, I think. I’m not sure if that’s gender-specific either. I have much higher than average heart rates, so I assume that I have a smaller than average heart size.

    wildmoser.j on #37311

    Awesome Scott, thank you!

    Yes of course there are already individual differences regardless of gender. I would say that I have a really big heart (I only mean that literally, though……..) since my resting HR as measured by EKG was 39… But I don’t think I have the biggest lungs, though!

    Anonymous on #37382


    Thanks for writing in with your question. I do not know of any studies that have shown gender differences in heart rate response to exercise intensity or blood lactate differences.

    I have done lactate tests on dozens of athletes of both sex and my take a way is that there is more interpersonal variation than there is intergender (that’s probably not a real word but I think you know what I mean) variation. The variations in lactate levels among athletes are due to 1) their training state (level of aerobic adaptation) and 2) to muscle fiber type composition. Fast twitch dominate athletes tend to make more lactate than ST athletes but tolerate high levels lactate less well then ST/well aerobically conditioned athletes. The first of these factors (training) you can do something about. The second one you can’t affect much except over many years.

    Heart Rate:
    Once again there is a big interpersonal variation in both max HR and HR response to intensity. Certainly genetics play a role but there is not anything you can do about that (at least yet).
    I suspect that the a big data collection would not show a statistically significant difference between sexes. But, I don’t know. I am going off the many endurance athletes I and all the UA coaches have worked with and especially those that we have actual test data on.

    My suspicion is that while there are definitely some gender difference in our physiology most of them are due to different hormones present in men and women. Cellular respiration/aerobic metabolism is the same in both sexes of all mammals so the response to aerobic training and the relation ship of HR to intensity is affected by training.

    With a resting HR of 39 you’ve probably given a few doctors and nurses a scare:-)
    This could be due to genetics or training but probably some of each. It does indicate your stroke volume is very high.

    Physiologists say that our lungs are overbuilt and unless you have a lung disease you’re able to take in plenty of oxygen. The surface area of the lungs (alveoli) is about the area of a tennis court. The heart’s output is the biggest central limitation to aerobic power. The aerobic metabolic rate is the biggest limitation to endurance.

    While women’s hearts tend to be smaller on average women also tend to be smaller/lighter on average.

    I hope this helps,

    louise_atkin on #39796

    Hi – it’s really great to see a forum for women here so please keep up the initiative. I am just rereading your book TFTUA (and have bought myself a lactate monitor and will be going out testing later this week to help me identify my specific thresholds). I was also wondering if there was any difference in zone breadth etc for women generally and if things like the 10% rule for ADS would also apply in the same way. Would you recommend any additional resources for women to research on this topic of HR zones?

    A book that I read last year and have found to be really helpful for lots of women specific advice on endurance training is called “ROAR: How to match your food and fitness to your female physiology for optimum performance, great health and a strong, lean body for life”, by Dr Stacy T Simms.
    She details that women have “about 30% less cardiac output than men” due to smaller heart, heart volume and lung volume. Also a lower VO2 max of about 15-25% on average even for trained athletes. For untrained people there is more overlap in VO2 max across the genders.

    Another resource I’ve found is a free app called FITR woman, which is aimed at menstruating women to give advice on how to optimise training and nutrition through the menstrual cycle. It also explains how HR for women varies through the cycle.

    Observationally, my husband and I are climbing and training partners and I have circa 10-15bpm higher HR than him during all exercise, whilst at rest we are about the same. It will be fun to work out what our thresholds are and how much time I accidentally spending doing my recovery workouts in zone 2! oops!

    Thanks again for starting the female forum and also for all the other interesting information aimed at all of us,

    Anonymous on #39839

    Hi Louise. Of course there isn’t much research (yet) on female athletes, but anecdotally what I’ve gleaned from over a decade of my own data and that of athletes I’ve coached, is that the 10% rule still applies, and I haven’t seen too much difference in terms of zones. My husband has higher aerobic threshold and anaerobic threshold values, but the range is nearly identical to my own. ROAR is a great resource and I hope to see more books like it in the coming years.

    Thanks for sharing the app; I’ll have to take a look at it. I’d love for Training Peaks to add a metric for menstruation, if for no other reason that to keep track. I create my own, but I hope with more awareness around how it affects training (duh), there will be more ways to see the specifics and be able to plan around it.

    Keep the topics coming, and if you have any ideas, feel free to reach out to me at

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