Vampires and MLSS

In this MLSS test I was testing blood lactate at each step. HR can be equated to various lactate levels, but when lacate levels are rising rapidly (i.e. over your iAnT) the relationship is dicey at best. When you go to peak effort levels, you are best learning about a seriously math intensive relationship between blood lactate, muscle lactate, exercising muscle, non-exercising muscle and lactate release/removal rates. Serious, serious geekology that needs biostatistical software/knowledge to figure out what’s going on. Pretty cool though…

The basic lactate testing process is very simple, but requires a little practice before you can shed the nickname “butcher” and become a “vampire“. I’ve probably taken a few thousand samples over the last 10 years, and I still have the odd bad day. Especially with prima dona athletes.

I use the Accusport / Accutrend analyzer which is very reliable and accurate. While relatively cheap at $230 it is as good as the more expensive (and smaller and faster) Lactate Scout at $400. Both are available at

The steps for taking a sample are as follows;

1. I set up a test table/area where I arrange my supplies on a clean, dry surface. If it is windy, set up a wind shield. I place a test strip, cotton gauze pad, alcohol swab and autolancet tip together for each planned sample and move reserve material out of the way, but acessible. You will also need a waste bag and a “sharp’s” container. No one likes bloody medical supplied lying on a beach or park, so pack up all your waste properly. The sharp’s container is for used autolancet tips and can be a proper biomedical one or another unbreakable, sealable container (i.e. small plastic pop bottle with a screw cap). For a quick guide to managing biomedical hazards click here.

2. put on latex or vinyl gloves to minimize risk of infection (to subject and self, even if you’re testing yourself),

3. use alcohol prep swap to clean pad of finger (ideally index finger, avoid thumb or “skinnier” fingers as this minimizes any risk of bruising,

4. wipe off excess alcohol with cotton gauze pad,

5. remind subject to relax their finger (further minimizes bruising),

6. “gently” prick pad of finger with an autolancet (mechanical pricking device similar to those used for diabetic blood glucose level monitoring). For on water tests lancet setting may need to be more agressive if the fingers are very wet/waterlogged, cold or circulation impaired.

7. gently massage drop of blood from pad of finger tip,

8. apply drop to analyzer test strip, then transfer strip to analyzer,

9. apply gauze to finger tip to help clean up any excess blood,

10. suggest the subject lick their finger to help speed coagulation,

11. remind subject what next step of testing procedure is (i.e. 4:00 minutes at HR of 140, etc.),

12. in Accusport analyzer sample is ready in 60 seconds, Lactate Scout takes 15 seconds.

When you are very good at this you can do steps 3-10 in less than 30 seconds. Newbie may take 2-3 minutes or longer, bruise the finger, make horror movie type mess and loose friends.

I would recommend that [La-] be used in testing, while you use the equivalent HR for training. This is a tired and true methods to improve training quality while minimizing the risks of overtraining.

Alan Carlsson
Engineered Athlete Services


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