FTP vs Lactate, which is better?

Hi all!

Just finished an Ironman race and through the training, I never doubted on my coach’s approach and follow the “trust the process mantra”. Race went bad due to technical issues (non-treated gastrointestinal infection and a flat) so I can’t really weigh things upon result. During the training, I never actually saw or felt an increase on FTP and when I asked coach about this, he told me “we are not aiming to increase your FTP but rather make you a much more efficient rider in rder for you to run strong”. It sound with solid grounds and a logical approach, different from mine.

My logic, since using TrainerRoad and listening to the podcast, is simple: at a higher FTP, the faster you’ll be. I.e. If on a 10km hill you ride it at 50% FTP with a 100w FTP (50w) you make 20minutes; then if you raise your FTP at 200w, that same climb at 50% FTP (100w) you’ll make 10-11minutes. Am I crazy?

So now I’m non offseason and my goal, as last year, is to raise FTP to approach the season stronger. Last year, after a 4month injury, I did a ramp test with a 260 result. Did SweetSpot Base I and II Low Volume, did a test before doing 4 weeks of traditional base and FTP went up to 295. That number remained the same for the rest of the season to meassure my workouts. I know my body and I’ve been on 317w FTP not much long ago; I can sacrifice one running day to put another solid bike session, and that wont affect my running at all as long as I continue running.

Today, had a call with my coach telling him I wanted to raise FTP in order to be the closest to 4w/kg as possible and his approach was that riasing a 295 FTP 30-35w will cost me a lot of work and sacrificing the two other disciplines. But the mayor approach was lactate efficiency. He wants me to maintain the same 295 FTP but train in order to be able to ride at a higher FTP being more efficient. He prescribed me a metabolic test to go over that in november. He wants me to be able to ride as closer to 80% as possible on an Ironman race; but then he told me that Chris Lieto (Ironman athlete super biker) never won because he actually went at 81%…

What are your thoughts on this?

Obviously, if you need more info, happy to detail as much as requested.

Look into LT1 training and LT1 as a percentage of LT2. Many elites push their LT1 pretty close to LT2 and thus can ride at higher wattages in a more efficient metabolic state as your coach is suggesting

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@redlude97 summarized this nicely.

I’d just like to add that while this is a valid approach that works for some, it may not work for others. In the end, you don’t care what percentage of FTP you can hold for your event duration, you care how much power you can hold in a given position (hopefully super aero) and at a given weight.

Raising your FTP before embarking on another training season is certainly not wrong. However, if you have a coach and you don’t fully trust that coach, this is a red flag. I’m not suggesting the coach’s approach is wrong, rather that the relationship between an athlete and a coach needs to be based on trust. The coach needs to have buy-in from the athlete, and the athlete shouldn’t second-guess the coach’s decisions all the time.

So I’d talk to the coach, asking him to explain his reasoning and you should ask him to explain to you how his plan is different and why they think it is better for you. Ask him what you should or can do during the off-season.

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Yea not necessarily saying it is the way to go about it. Usually its a push and pull and will vary depending on the seasons and if your coach thinks that your FTP wont necessarily increase substantially at the same rate as last season so fitness gains in other areas may yield better bang for the buck. This is definitely something to talk to your coach in more detail though

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Many thanks. Its not lack of confidence since I did continue all the process and all explenatins asked were given and made sense to me at that moment. I’m just asking to the community about the Lactate Threshold approach since nowaddays is in great fashion with the Noregians crushing the sport of triathlon.

Many thanks!!

I think your coach is suggesting an approach that emphasizes improving VLamax similar to what WVA is using to obtain his current results. I think you and your coach need to have a long talk on training philosophy so you are on the same page because as the athlete you can either blindly buy in or you must understand exactly what the coach is trying to accomplish so you do not feel the need to second guess.

Do you really believe its possible to raise FTP by 100W? Not some short test extrapolated to long power, but your actual long power.

Remember you are doing a long 112 mile bike race, in between a long swim and a marathon. Efforts that ultimately are anchored by your lower aerobic threshold (LT1) AND fueling.

Is your theory you can go from 295 to 395? What if your short power goes up to 330W, but your 4-7 hour long power stays about the same or only goes up slightly? And at the same time your fueling needs increase, because you are more glycolytic? What if you raised the floor? You are racing at the floor, not the ceiling (FTP) or roof (VO2max). How long are your Ironman races?

While boring, training to raise the floor (lower aerobic threshold) will work, it will increase your metabolic fitness, and you should see a shift to fueling the efforts more on fat than carbs.

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The 100w increase was just to put some easy numbers. I understand all of what you are saying and it does makes sense, as it was what coach told me. My doubt for you and my coach is that if I raise my FTP from the currently 295w to whatever number in the next three months, then the power zones I will be training for 6 months till the next IM race will be higher. Then on those 6 months of training on those new zones I will develop a “higher floor”.

I know raising FTP is hard and sometimes you just hit that roof of progression in which raising it 1 single watt would mean to devote months of work. I just know that I’ve been in 320 doing just Sweet Spot Base I and II mid volume. No Build plan has been carried out by me, thats when the “no one knows your body better than you” statment comes into play.

Thats due to my experience which is evolving from a recreational triathlete to a competitive one so lot’s of books to go over.

Any recomendations to get into Lactate Threshold (books, articles, videos, etc.) would be highly appreciated, as well as all of your points of view.

This is only true if you’re using a fixed percentage of FTP to assign work. I’m assuming your coach isn’t just doing that, if they are I wouldn’t continue to pay them. So it doesn’t really matter what the FTP value is, what you are after is progression in fitness at your race pace.

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^^^ this and…

base fitness is developed over years, not 3 or 6 months. Now in my 7th year of training, my ftp has plateaued, something like a 10W gain over the last 2 years, but I’ve moved my ‘all day’ power up.

I haven’t tested with lactate but use 140-143bpm as my all-day power, here is an 8-hour HR paced effort: Calculating LT1 and LT2 approximately without a blood test? - #861 by WindWarrior

and along with some other long efforts and field tests, its a good proxy for the floor on long efforts where I’m pushing the pace but leaving something in the tank. Like what you need to do for an IM event where they say its won on the run.

and a couple of posts later showing the shift in power at that HR:

Being a little aggressive, I’m going to claim that is something like going from long steady rides at 77% IF / FTP up to 83% with very little increase if any increase in FTP. Training about 7-8 hours/week average, and 60-80% of that is endurance. And training age of 7 years. Your mileage may vary and all that.

I’m not a triathlete but if I was, once I’ve seen ftp plateau, my next frontier would be the floor as its going to deliver more than just long power (increased use of fat as fuel). To be honest I wish I would have started with the ‘go slow to go fast’ approach, but I didn’t have the patience or knowledge back in 2016.

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If by improving means reducing VLamax then yes. Otherwise its exatclty the opposite.

I don’t think improving implies increase or decrease but you are right one should try to reduce VLamax if their goal is to improve high steady pace (which is what WVA goal was) but an increase of VLamax will improve anaerobic threshold. So I guess the interpretation of improving would depend on one’s goals.

That statement is not correct, there is no “will”, it might but then it might not. Most likely it would have a negative effect, decrease LT2. For IM you almost certainly want to decrease your VLamax

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Scientific Triathlon has a great podcast. As an example here is a past episode on the topic of fueling for a triathlon, with transcription:

It is not specifically about training at lactate threshold.

Alan Couzens has a blog and frequently posts about training zones on Twitter. For example lactate curves for 2 pro triathletes with one training upper z1 and the other upper z2:

A lot of food for thought for IM training. You may not agree with him, but reading the posts and discussion is interesting and thought provoking. And his website: https://www.alancouzens.com

As a result of following him, I’ve started following others on Twitter, for example

those are off the top of my head, hope that helps.

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Your coaches idea is based around tradeoffs. As you mentioned in your post, devoting time to trying to raise the bike will take time/energy/freshness away from improving swimming and/or running. It sounds like the coach’s goal is to have you PR on your total race time. It sounds like your goal is to PR on your bike leg (whether that’s a power goal or time split). I think your coach has the right idea. You won’t win the race on the bike but you can lose it. Maybe he believes you have much larger gains to be made in the swim or run (ie low hanging fruit). As you become a fitter athlete, your ftp will drift up anyways. Maybe in future seasons when your in the marginal gains land the bike will become the focus

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Many thanks to all. This has been a very insightfull thread. Happy to continue receiving all the feedback possible in order to become a better athlete, not only a cyclist.

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