Lactate Threshold Testing

What is the Lactate Threshold?

The lactate threshold is the point at which, during incremental exercise, lactate builds up in the blood stream at a level that is higher than resting values. The lactate threshold is a good predictor of submaximal fitness (e.g. what exercise pace can maintained over a prolonged period of time without fatigue). Athletes typically reach lactate threshold at a higher percentage of VO2max.

Lactate threshold (LT) training is a popular method of improving endurance performance. Recreational and serious athletes may use their lactate threshold to determine how to train and what sort of a pace they can maintain during endurance sports.

Measuring Lactate Threshold

In the lab, we measure lactate threshold by drawing blood at intervals during an incremental exercise test. This test is performed in a similar manner to VO2 Max testing and uses either a treadmill or stationary bike. The exercise intensity is increased in periods of about 3 minutes and blood samples are taken at the end of each period.

Lactate Threshold Values

VO2 max measurement with subject on a treadmill

  • The average person reaches their lactate threshold at ~50-60 percent of their VO2 max
  • Recreational athletes reach their lactate threshold at 65-80 percent their VO2 max
  • Elite endurance athletes reach their lactate threshold at 85-95 percent their VO2 max