The key benefits of lactate threshold testing for cyclists

When it comes to riding, we always want to go faster and last longer. We always have this secret competition going on with our fellow cycling kakis. But how do we know if we’re putting in the right amount of training intensity to increase power and endurance?

At either end of the extremes of exercise intensity, the result is the same: lots of exercise but poor or inconsistent results. Lactate testing allows you to get the most out of your exercise time.

Currently used around the globe by researchers and athletic coaches, it is the gold standard for determining exercise intensity zones and a significant tool for determining whether or not training is producing the desired psychological effect. 

If you’ve heard of lactate testing but aren’t sure of what to expect from it, we’re here to give you a taste of what it’s like.


What is the purpose of lactate threshold testing? 

The main purpose of it is to assess and improve your key performance indicator (for all endurance sports). 

Secondly, it determines your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds (km/h, watts, bpm), calculates training zones, assess your body’s physiological response to exercise/physical activity, and is used to establish pacing strategies. 

From the test, you not only gain a better understanding of your body but also know the ways in which you can step up your game from coaches who understand the science and able to tweak the training programme based on it.


Lactate threshold testing review with fellow cyclist

Lemuel extracting Prof Li’s blood for a test.


 Prof. Li Man Kay, who has been cycling for 50 years, went ahead to try out a blood lactate testing session with Serene Lee and Lemuel Lee from the Sports and Cardiology Centre. 

Prof Li first started racing when he was 16 years old. Back then, he read a book about Tour de France once and thought cycling to be an attractive sport. All he had back then was a bike – there were no guide or rules to direct him in excelling in the sport and knowing how to train right.

But with this session, he had much insight on his cadence. 



“Now I think it has become more scientific. In those old days, you just cycle – there were no signs, assistance to aid with performance – people will just tell you just go lah. No one will tell you what you should eat, training, schedule and so on.

So, last time because I used to ride to school every day – to and from school it was like 50-60 km every day – that gave me the training I needed. But as for now with accessible technology and information, we can easily analyse our rides in a detailed manner.”


Sign up for a test session with Sports and Cardiology Centre (SCC – Tri-Factor Performance Diagnostics Tests) to see how you truly fare on your rides. Working hand in hand with a team of specialists, the TriFactor Performance Diagnostics Tests offers cardiology services from the Sports and Cardiology Centre (SCC) and coaching plans from CrankSmart to those looking to ace any race.


A closer look at your potential

Prof Li observing his results


From his session, Prof Li recommends recreational cyclists who want to catch up in a group to try out lactate testing as it gives you a lot of signs and insights as to what your body should adapt to. 

From one session, Prof Li realised that in order to improve his performance, he’d have to pick up on his cadence and lower his power so that he wouldn’t get muscle fatigue so fast.

“It tells me what’s the right cadence and how much power I need to use in order to last longer on a ride. This gives me a lot of good points in terms of where I should focus on more.”

At this point in time, most people will say, nevermind lah as long as u go ride for recreation, as long as you are fit it’s ok, but that’s only true to a certain extent. My group and I, we go overseas to ride 100-150km a day for leisure, but even just doing that – you need to have the right kind of endurance.


I guess most of the cyclists in Singapore are the recreational ones. They ride until they drop on weekends, but if you know exactly what is the best for you then these kinds of testing will be very useful. It’s not just about keeping fit. I’m sure everybody who is cycling regularly are fit but you need to know how to go fast and how to keep the speed longer. 


Results indicated a need for higher cadence training

What you’ll see on the screen before you ride.

According to Lemuel Lee, SCC’s exercise physiologist and coach at CrankSmart, Prof Li’s blood lactate response indicated that it was that of an active individual with an average aerobic base.

Even though he was able to tolerate a rather high workload indicating good muscular strength/endurance, his lactate clearance is sub-optimal due to the low cadence strategy that he employed which further hampered the body’s ability to clear away lactic acid.

This put a greater strain on his muscular system, as opposed to his cardiovascular system, which resulted in an early termination of the test. In the real world, this would translate to a slower ride up the hill, or a quicker time to fatigue during long rides.

To improve, he would benefit from higher cadence training in his aerobic zones (Zone 1 and 2) along with some lactate threshold work at a higher cadence.

This would not only help to improve his aerobic capacity and lactate threshold, but also his ability to ride at higher cadence over a range of power, unloading some of the exercise-induced fatigue or stress from the muscles to his cardiovascular system.


Prof Li’s advice for the test 

It is not a race. There are some cyclists who come down for a lactate test and give all their energy at the start without having much thought that this is a segmented process to analyse your ability at different levels – so you shouldn’t waste efforts unnecessarily. 

“Don’t expect too much of yourself thinking that you’re the best performer. You might be surprised at the outcome. Come here and just do it slowly, don’t push yourself. Especially on this treadmill or on this test.”

“If you do it normally as per instructions, they’ll take you through segments by segments. But you have to be very prepared as there’s minimal to no rest during a particular segment so try not to push too hard,” said Prof Li. 


Sign up for a lactate threshold testing session with the Sports and Cardiology Centre (SCC)

In collaboration with TriFactor and SportsIn Cycling, SCC addresses the need for sports cardiology services in sports enthusiasts to assess their cardiac function prior to high-intensity exercise.

They enhance and sustain your sports health and performance through various diagnostic testing procedures and provide a holistic approach to treatment and rehabilitation to athletes through a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, health and sports professionals.


Find out more about their services and packages here!

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