Faster Ironman? Keep lactate low.
Train to keep lactate levels low if you want to Improve your Ironman performance.
Resist Pushing the Pace
Constantly pushing the pace in training generates large amounts of lactate. This creates a problem because your carbohydrate demand will increase when lactate increases. On race day, you'll need to be efficient, and using a good percentage of fat at race intensity is the key to staying strong for your entire race.
How Lactate Works?
you start to move, and as you start to do activity, your lactate production starts to go up. Now for a while, at lower intensities, our body can handle that lactate production, and our body meets the demand of that lactate production, keeping it very low. As your wattage or intensity goes up, your lactate production accumulates.
Watch the First Jump in Lactate
The first jump in lactate is a sign that your body is tapping into a tiny tiny bit of your anaerobic metabolism. Now, I'm not saying that's an anaerobic effort, I'm just saying your body starts to demand other energy contributions that that intensity. And typically, that's a very, very low intensity. So often athletes are training beyond that, that point and a little bit above that.
Low Lactate = More Fat Burn
Now, when we're looking at Ironman and half Ironman performance it's about efficiency and really trying to optimize how much fat you can burn at race intensity. When you ride at an intensity that results in a higher amount of lactate, one thing in particular happens. Your body becomes more dependent on carbohydrates and your body is going to start to use a higher percentage of carbohydrates.
Now, why is this important?
This is important because if your goal is to teach your body to become more efficient, and you're always training beyond that point where your lactate starts to accumulate, you won't develop the efficiency needed. If you are constantly training above that, you're never teaching your body to tap into fat for its fuel source, and your body can never become very good at that. And then on race day, it's just more of the same. So it's important to train at the where your body is not producing large amounts of lactate.
Lactate is Individual
The intensity where lactate jumps is going to vary from person to person. Knowing this is a key training intensity. Once you have this identified, the easier it becomes to embrace the importance of easy rides. Aerobic rides and aerobic runs are important because we need to be at that intensity where we're not producing a ton of lactate, because our goal with our aerobic training is to improve our body's ability to use fat for fuel and be efficient. I'm not saying that you need to be extreme like fat adapted. But you do need good fat oxidation, especially at those sub-maximal intensities.
When is my first jump in lactate?
Typically, this is in your aerobic zones. The closer we can get this jump in lactate closer to your threshold, the better off you'll be. Anytime we can develop aerobic fitness and we improve our aerobic base, it's going to allow us to clear more of that lactate as we produce it, So the bottom line for you is keep your easy stuff easy. It should feel comfortable, it should feel easy. If you start pushing beyond that, you likely are accumulating more lactate.
The best way to know when your lactate levels jump is to get a lactate profile test. But in general, keep your easy, easy, stay aerobic and don't push the pace of intervals.
Where do intervals come in?
When we're doing intervals, obviously, we're producing larger amounts of lactate, depending on your physiology, you're going to produce and accumulate more. And this is okay because most of your intervals are fairly short. And as they get longer, what happens to the intensity? The intensity comes down. And so it's okay to be at that upper end because that targets a different, it's your upper aerobic which really focuses on your VO2 Max.
Yes, there's going to be a lot of, for some athletes, a lot of anaerobic contribution to that but we're working on like, you know, stroke volume and just really maximizing the strength of cardiac output. So anyway, the base of everything that we're doing is a lot of stuff is comfortable but when the intervals are there, go after them because that's also important and it's combination of the two. But anyway, just wanted to share that with you and remind you, keep the comfortable, comfortable or easy, and be disciplined in your training to hold back. I know it's tough, especially right now everybody is fired up to get into the training cycles, but just kind of keep that in control.
Efficiency plays a big role in your performance. Low lacate should be a goal of all athletes. Other ways you can improve efficiency is adjusting your bike cadence to your strengths. Here's a brief look at the oxygen cost of various cadences.