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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001 Jan-Feb;84(1-2):107-14.

Blood lactate response to overtraining in male endurance athletes.

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Département de Kinésiologie, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, succ. centre ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3J7.


Many physiological markers vary similarly during training and overtraining. This is the case for the blood lactate concentration ([La-]b), since a right shift of the lactate curve is to be expected in both conditions. We examined the possibility of separating the changes in training from those of overtraining by dividing [La-]b by the rating of perceived exertion ([La-]b/RPE) or by converting [La-]b into a percentage of the peak blood lactate concentration ([La-]b,peak). Ten experienced endurance athletes increased their usual amount of training by 100% within 4 weeks. An incremental test and a time trial were performed before (baseline) and after this period of overtraining, and after 2 weeks of recovery (REC). The [La-]b and RPE were measured during the recovery of each stage of the incremental test. We diagnosed overtraining in seven athletes, using both physiological and psychological criteria. We found a decrease in mean [La-]b,peak from baseline to REC [9.64 (SD 1.17), 8.16 (SD 1.31) and 7.69 (SD 1.84) mmol.l-1, for the three tests, respectively; P < 0.05] and a right shift of the lactate curve. Above 90% of maximal aerobic speed (MAS) there was a decrease of mean [La-]b/RPE from baseline to REC [at 100% of MAS of 105.41 (SD 17.48), 84.61 (SD 12.56) and 81.03 (SD 22.64) arbitrary units, in the three tests, respectively; P < 0.05), but no difference in RPE, its variability accounting for less than 25% of the variability of [La-]b/RPE (r = 0.49). Consequently, [La-]b/RPE provides little additional information compared to [La-]b alone. Expressing [La-]b as a %[La-]b,peak resulted in a suppression of the right shift of the lactate curve, suggesting it was primarily the consequence of a decreased production of lactate by the muscle. Since the right shift of the curve induced by optimal training is a result of improved lactate utilization, the main difference between the two conditions is the decrease of [La-]b,peak during overtraining. We propose retaining it as a marker of overtraining for long duration events, and repeating its measurement after a sufficient period of rest to make the distinction with overreaching.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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