The Lactate System
(The Pain System)
Remember ATP from last week? If you cant… it is our fuel. It stands for Adenosine Triphosphate.
All the energy systems we speak about work to produce this. This system produces ATP at a fast rate and can produce a lot of ATP. The lactic acid system produces 2 ATP for each glucose molecule it breaks down, however, it also produces lactate in the process. Hence the phrase – Pain System.
How Does It Work?
The lactate energy system uses carbohydrates (CHO) as its only source of fuel
and relies on anaerobic glycolysis for its production of ATP.
Glycolysis is the breakdown of glucose to produce ATP. In anaerobic glycolysis the glucose (sourced from glycogen in the muscle or glucose in the blood) is turned into lactic acid as it produces ATP.
Steps of the anaerobic glycolytic system:
Initially stored glycogen is converted to glucose.
Glucose is then broken down by a series of enzymes.
2 ATP are used to fuel glycolysis and 4 are created so the body gains 2 ATP to use for muscular contraction.
The breakdown of glucose to synthesise ATP results in the creation of a substance called ‘pyruvate’ and hydrogen ions. The muscle becomes increasingly acidic as more hydrogen ions are created.
Because this system is ‘anaerobic’ there isn’t enough oxygen to break down pyruvate and synthesise anymore ATP.
This results in pyruvate binding with some of the hydrogen ions and converting them into a substance called lactate (completely different to ‘lactic acid’).
Lactate acts as a temporary buffering system to reduce acidosis (the build up of acid in muscle cell) and no further ATP is synthesised.
What Does It Mean For Me? When Is It Used?
The lactate system lasts between 30 seconds and 3 minutes depending on the intensity. The less intense the activity the longer it will last, because it will be producing lactate at a slower rate at the lower intensity levels.
This is where we think of our Breakthrough Classes, especially the classes involving 45seconds of work with 15 second rest, or a spin.
In terms of MyZone we are looking at the painful yellow zone, so where you are working at 80% – 90% of max heart rate.
It is a system heavily relied on in sports, which require a high intensity for longer than 10 seconds. Sports such as 200m or 400m run, or 50m and 100m swim.
Other times when it is used would include repeated high intensity activities during other sports such as tennis running back and forth with small breaks in-between, repeated tackles in rugby or an extended piece of high intensity in any other sport such as a full-back going forward in an attack and then having to retreat in soccer.
How Do I Develop It?
In terms of work to rest ratios if designing your own sessions, the work to rest ratios used in this type of training vary depending on the intended outcome.
If you want the system to completely recover and clear the majority of accumulated lactate so you can repeatedly condition it you would use a ratio of 1:6 (6 seconds of rest for every second of work).
A ratio of 1:3 can be used to create a greater lactate response and carry some of the fatigue into the next set of repeats. This helps to condition the body to clear (get rid of) lactate.
With advanced exercisers (you might seriously hurt beginners with this) 2:1 ratios can be used to ‘lactate stack’ an individual.
This ratio causes a progressive accumulation of lactate as the very small rest interval doesn’t allow enough time for much of the lactate to be removed from the muscle. This forces the person to continue to exercise with a lot of lactate present thus dramatically increasing their ability to tolerate the exercise.
So, if I wanted to grow the body’s capacity I’d use a 1:6 ratio repeated often. If I wanted to teach the body to clear lactate I’d use a 1:3 ratio. If I wanted to teach the body to tolerate lactate I’d use either a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio.