Recently, I had done a FaCT Lactate Balance Point test with the jack-of-all-trades, Rick Choy. I was initially concerned at first, because I had a very specific protocol that I required. I had been in discussions with the creator of the FaCT LBP test: Juerg Feldmann. He had examined some previous tests done by a previous company that was in midtown Toronto; I won’t name this company, but, it is a company that purportedly specialized in everything relating to endurance exercise. Basically, those tests done by this other company were junk – you could not infer fitness or training zones from those tests, because this other company “missed” the lactate balance point completely in the testing.
Let’s start off with some basic physiology.
WHAT IS LACTATE BALANCE POINT?
This is a term created by Juerg Feldmann and Herb Chlebek. The most basic definition for LBP is the point (usually referenced to a heart rate value, power value, or speed/pace) where the body shifts from producing ATP via oxygen dependent metabolic pathways to oxygen independent metabolic pathways due to an increase in intensity in exercise. This is the point that is characterized with lactate being produced in the working muscles and is moved into the blood stream due to the fact that the working muscle cannot reuse all the lactate produced in the cell for its own energy production.
So the LBP is an indication that there is a limitation in one of the three major physiological systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular) so that the ATP demand in the locomotor muscles requires energy delivery with a higher energy flux (faster), and in the short term, under this high ATP demand, the O2 independent delivery system is preferred.
WHY NOT “LACTATE THRESHOLD”?
This has been the method used for many years by a lot of coaches, physiologists, scientists, and professors. It is still being used today, but hopefully for not much longer.
Basically what the lactate threshold says is that this is the point where the body starts to produce too much lactic acid, which shuts the muscles down. They use a number of 3-4mmol/L of lactic as the number for this. Basically the idea is that above this is anaerobic and below is aerobic.
Lactate threshold has been traditionally defined a point at which lactate equals a value of 3-4 mmol/L. Or, if you perform a traditional lactate step-test, you will see two points of deflection in the curve. The second of which is called anaerobic or lactate threshold. However, if you shorten the step length (time at which lactate was collected and analyzed), the curve no longer has kinks, and increasingly, the points of deflection disappear. As a result, the notion of lactate threshold as defined by deflections on the curve disappear (see attached image #1).
LBP – FURTHER DEFINED
One of the historical myths about lactate is that it caused soreness in athletes post-workout. We now know that lactate is a fuel that is consumed by the body’s working muscles. Assuming exercise is performed above LBP for a period of time, the body will be flush with lactate. At a point above LBP, the body will be producing more lactate than its working muscles can consume. At a point below LBP, the body will be producing less lactate than its working muscles can consume. Hence, at LBP exactly, the body is exercising in a true steady state.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH RICK CHOY
Basically, the test to determine LBP in practice is quite difficult, despite the fact that it’s easy to define on paper. This test is a very specialized test that requires consummate knowledge of the athlete’s reaction to the increased workload, and the ability of the tester to change parameters on the fly. My experience with Rick Choy was just that – he was able to elicit a true LBP value in comparison to many of my recent race results. The usefulness of the LBP to coaches is invaluable. And that’s why it’s important to find someone who knows what he’s doing.
I sent the LBP test results back to Juerg, and to Andrew Sellars, who runs the FaCT certification courses, and here were the comments:
– “Now this is a very nice, what we call FaCT HL field tests. ” (HL being HR and lactate dynamic)– “It reminds be back to the big camps we did in Spain and Sardinia. We had to solve the problem to test over 100 runners in 2 days to match them into different intensity groups for the training camp.
The above test is a great and nice example for this type of testing. “
– “Summary: Great test and great version for anybody for a field test. “
– “Rick has enquired about attending a Level I Course the next time we come to Toronto, and we will certainly ensure he is invited. His understanding of the basics of the test seem very solid, and certainly more thoughtful than those who tested you at _____________.”
– “You are absolutely right about the need for individualization of the LBP test, and it does sound like Rick has a good sense of the fundamentals behind the test.”
In the Toronto region, we are blessed to have such a knowledgeable individual as Rick. His experience and his willingness to understand the athlete was his best characteristics. We at Running Free or La Bicicletta know him as the Aquaman distributor or the FIST bike fitter, but he is so much more than that!
As a coach of masters race walker, I found this article very interesting and would like to know more about it. Is is a field test or a lab test? Obviously, the tester has to know what he/she is doing but I wonder if a coach, such as myself could learn how to to administer it or if there might be a simpliied format. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
This test does not have a specific protocol, and can be done in the field or in a controlled environment. The controlled environment is easier for inexperienced athletes, as you can control the pace/power output/intensity. However, for more experienced athletes, you can do this on a track (run or bike), rink (skate), measured course (ski), or even an endless pool (swim). The only requirements are:
1) Understanding of the lactate balance point concept (you can do this through reading the forum threads on http://www.fact-canada.com). You’ll also need a Lactate Pro meter, which is sold by the same company.
2) Ability to get the athlete to run/bike/swim/row/skate etc to a non-steady state intensity, preferably to maximal intensity that he/she can sustain. At that point, ATP production becomes completely oxygen independent and as a result, lactate is a byproduct of this form of metabolism.
3) Ability to perform the recovery portion of the test, following #2 above, to let the athlete re-consume the lactate his body is producing as a source of energy, and to find the point at which the lactate being shuttled out of the cells equals the amount of lactate being re-consumed.
The hardest part of the test is #3. That is because every athlete’s reaction and recovery to the ramp-up is very individual. Some athletes are able to clear lactate REALLY quickly, and some take forever to do so. You can’t let the lactate levels drop completely, and on the recovery portion, the speed is gradually increased again until the lactate starts to increase in the blood.
Anyway, a lot of companies, including a well known mid-town clinic specializing in running and triathlons, botch step #3 because they do not understand the concept of LBP. So I encourage you to follow the threads in the FaCT Canada forum to understand what LBP is, because they disown most, if not all the traditional theories on exercise performance. Rick Choy, meanwhile, does an EXCELLENT job of administering this test. The creator of the test even specifically complimented him.
If you want a demonstration of this test, you should come to Sports Performance Centres in Thornill in 2 weeks time, when I get my next LBP test done, to see what it’s all about. I’ll be doing it on the treadmill. Let me know if you want more info, I can give you the address and time.
Yes, Arthur, I would like more information on the test and would like to see you doing one. Sure hope it’s not on a Wednesday night as I am at the U of T indoor track running my weekly speed workout with my athletes. Please give me the date, time and location. I’ll try to read the forum threads as you suggested so that I have a better understanding of the concept. It makes a lot of sense to me. My coach used to take my blood lactate readings when I was competing but I think knowing the LBP of my athletes would more useful.