Getting the physiology right part 2

In the first article I related a recent Newsletter article I received on testing. In part 2, I’ll correct a second portion of that article dealing with lactate threshold testing, and offer tips on finding a good test center.

Lactate Testing: Lactate Testing is an additional laboratory test to establish an athlete’s Lactate Threshold. Lactate threshold is defined as the point at which there is a switch from the predominance of using oxygen as one’s primary source of fuel to using anaerobic means (lactate). With this switch comes limited capacity to maintain pace. Under lactate threshold, one can hold pace for 40-60 minutes whereas above lactate threshold one can only sustain pace for 8-10 minutes. As endurance athletes, we want to identify this point and train to increase endurance under it as well as push it upward. Lactate threshold is trainable with the goal of moving it up and should be tested often to gauge progress. This is one of the major goals of endurance training.

Testing is an essential component of any triathlete’s training program as a tool to improve performance and accomplish one’s goals. Many of us rely on racing to gauge fitness, but unlike specific testing designs, races are not 100% equal in distances, terrain, or weather. Therefore, performing test sets throughout your season is essential. Use this testing to plan your season. If you are interested in getting tested…

This explanation again illustrates that either the author has virtually no understanding of physiology, lactate or lactate threshold (LT). LT is not the switch from oxygen to lactate. First, ATP is the ultimate source of energy in the body, being derived largely from fat or glucose (higher intensity). While lactate is a fuel source (derived from glucose), its not the anaerobic source. In fact, oxygen is used to make all this happen and is always present, but may not be directly involved. The term anaerobic is largely unused now in the field, but when it is, it is understood to mean that oxygen is still indirectly involved not absent. The rest of the explanation is largely correct, but again sets the reader up for a sales pitch, as the last sentence makes clear.

I fully expect, and agree that one should take advantage to sell themselves and sponsors, but as coaches and science interpreters we should not and do not need to fabricate things to sell our souls. Get the physiology right, or ask someone for help, otherwise you make us all look bad. BUt what should the athlete look for when it comes to testing? A degree in exercise science is a minimum. I can train ANYONE (and I have) to run a good test, but interpreting those results requires both education and experience, so a B.S. is unlikely enough; I do know some exceptions. So here are things to look for:
1. The head of testing/lab has either an M.S. or Ph.D. in exercise science AND is ACSM certified (NSCA CSCS is also acceptable). If the head honcho is a clinical exercise specialist or registered clinical exercise physiologist (RCEP), the ACSM’s highest level of certification, you’re in good hands. If the tester has an advanced degree and has competed in endurance sports, you’re probably in good hands too. The head of testing should be involved in the test interpretation.
2. The facility is clean (even if its a home office) and VO2 equipment is calibrated prior to each test. You should also ask if it directly measures BOTH oxygen and carbon dioxide, if it doesn’t find another lab; if they argue its not necessary or do not know, RUN AWAY! A side note on this, brand names to look for are PARVO ONEMAX, COSMED QUARK/K4 B2, or SENSORMEDICS; any of these systems cost upwards of $40,000 and are used across the world. Lactate testing can use handheld units or YSI equipment.
3. Do they have the equipment needed to test you? A good lab will have a power meter or good wind trainer, a treadmill and other equipment, or for lactate testing know how to utilize field testing (I have used a local track many times).
4. Ask if they have a specific testing plan and a detailed test report that isn’t fill with lots of jargon and non-sense. In regards to blood lactate testing, exercise stage lengths should be between 5 and 10 min long; this makes for a long test but is a must. If the tester says shorter is just as good they are not qualified to test and you should look elsewhere. Case in point, Inigo San Milan uses 10 min stages. VO2 max is not relevant to this testing, but you should still get a VO2 peak number, if you care.
5. Finally, shop around. Many good centers have package programs, which I recommend, because regular testing is important. Doing a one off test is generally a waste of money. Dedicate yourself to testing for good data, or just stick with non-invasive home testing; in a future post, I’ll list some good ideas.

If you would like help finding a good test center, please feel free to contact us!

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