A review of blood lactate and ventilatory methods of detecting transition thresholds

Sports Med. 1989 Jul;8(1):43-55. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198908010-00005.


As far back as the 1930s exercise physiologists recognised the existence of critical levels of work intensity above which lactate accumulation increased drastically and energy production was affected. Investigation of these transition points (thresholds) both invasively and non-invasively has led to much recent controversy. Respiratory exchange variables such as Ve, Ve/VO2, VCO2, excess CO2 and blood lactate have been monitored for simple, double and exponential breakaway points to elucidate these critical work intensities. A number of studies have produced high correlations between endurance performance and anaerobic threshold calculations, further demonstrating the potential existence of critical work intensities. Much of the controversy surrounding these phenomena has centered on mechanisms and nomenclature. The term 'anaerobic threshold' has been severely criticised because in addition to the tissues being oxygen insufficient, an imbalance in the energy systems may have resulted. The anaerobic condition or lactate accumulation may be due to changes in lactate production and removal. Muscle fibre type and the fibre type recruitment patterns may also be important factors in threshold transitions. Further examination is made in this review of non-invasive measures for determining transition thresholds and protocols for elucidating the critical points.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobic Threshold*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Lactates / blood*
  • Methods
  • Physical Endurance


  • Lactates