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From Wikipedia:

Lactate inflection point (a.k.a. Lactate Threshold), is the exercise intensity at which the blood concentration of lactate and/or lactic acid begins to exponentially increase. Often expressed as 85% of maximum heart rate or 75% of maximum oxygen intake. When exercising at or below the LT, any lactate produced by the muscles is removed by the body without it building up.

With a view to improving cycling/running times when working at that lactate threshold point, could specific training help improve my lactate threshold over time? If so, what type of training would be best suited?

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    I was taught to do interval runs (like 8 * 800m with 1minute rest in between) to increase lactate threshold. But then again I've been taught many (often faulty/outdated) things. I'm looking forward to some decent answers here! – User999999 Sep 14 '16 at 8:41
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    I'd reference to Arthur Lydiard book as a first starting point, lactate threshold improvement is being done by training at the edge of aerobic/anaerobic threshold, and the running is really good for that type of training. Skiing is also great The skiing background definitely helped me....Road racing is much different than running ultras in the mountains, and I think skiing prepared me for that. - Scott Jurek. – Anatoly Oct 17 '16 at 19:51
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First of all we have to look at what you need in terms of real conditional capacities.

Lactate thresholds have been used to asses one's endurance capacities related to many sports such as cycling, running or swimming. What you are asking is basically if you can improve the delay in onset of lactate accumulation that is correlated ( not cause ) with the aerobic-to-anaerobic energy system transition.

Problems of the thresholds

We must understand first of all what we are referring to when we talk about LT ( Lactate Threshold ). For exemple, your wikipedia extract is not precise in describing effectively what Lactate Threshold is or are.

85% of %HRmax and 75% of VO2max are still only general measures that are based on general indications aswell; these measures have been shown to coincide with the anaerobic thresold in some, but not all individuals (expecially adv. athletes ) and I'm not going to take these indicators in consideration.

To focus only on LT, there are two thresholds.

The first one is called Aerobic Threshold (AT), and the second one is called Anaerobic Threshold (ANT) ; even for the AT there is a general observation that put it in correlation with the 50% of VO2max.

The AT is considered the upper limit of the exclusive aerobic mechanism usage ( this doesnt mean that glycolysis does not occur ), while ANT is considered the upper limit after which the anaerobic system become more and more consistent and the body relies more on a glycolitic/fast type metabolism.

So what we want is to consider ANT to answer your question.

Yes you can improve your ANT

There are several protocols of training for improving ANT. On top of that a big body of research over the years has accumulated work that shows how the ANT can be found at different lactate concentration in blood ( ranging from 2 up to 10 mmol/L )[1-2].

This however do not correlate with performance. When you improve your ANT you actually have a shift of this limit upward thowards the exerted power ( it means you can exert more power and sustain more intense workload without the accumulation of further lactate.

This happens because you have improved your aerobic capabilities, but I won't get in depth in this argument just because it would lead to an enormous Off Topic.

How to improve your Lactate Threshold (ANT)

It largely depends on your sport but the key thing you have to keep in mind is that you must target what you need.

You can perform in two different ways.

  • Training your CVS ( cardio vascular system ) or Central Training: This is done by putting volume in the equation; just accumulate volume following a linear fashion periodization ( high volume that will decrease over time ) and at an intensity slightly lower than ANT. You can actually also follow a Non Linear periodization style, but this is really up yo tou. The key is to actually accumulate volume that will lead to central adaptation of your CVS at a slightly lower intensity than your ANT.
  • Training your muscles enzymatic capacity and overall buffer capacity or Pheripheral Training: this part of the training will lead your body to broader adaptation in your muscles. You will build more oxydative enzymes like SDH ( succinate de-hydrogenase ), crucial in oxydative metabolism. You will develop more capillaries and more mitochondria in the muscle. This is just a brief sum of the anatomical adaptations. This type of training is performed at slightly over the ANT for prolonged periods of times.

So basically this is it. Periodization advices could be given more in depth if your objective was more specific and in relation to a known sport.

How to asses ANT

There are plenty of tests to asses the ANT. The main problem here is actually the sport in which you perform. For cycling you want to use a cyclo-ergometer, but for running there are plenty of field tests.

Take in consideration that you want to asses the correlation with speed/power and the time it takes to reach exhaustion.

Here some good indication on some tests.

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Training at or just below the lactate threshold is the main way to improve it. Well, at least the most direct. The lactate threhold pace is approximately a race pace that can be held for one hour. Considering this, Tempo Runs which are hard fast efforts lasting 20 to 40 minutes will train your body to run while producing and tolerating more lactate than can be cleared up. Steady State Runs are Med-Hard efforts that are run just a bit slower than the lactate threshold pace for 45 to 90 mins. This trains your body to run close to the lactate threshold pace withour crossing it and trains it to efficiently clear up lactate acid.

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