A biofeedback model of hyperventilation during exercise was used to assess the independent effects of pH, arterial CO2 partial pressure (Pa(CO2)), and minute ventilation on blood lactate during exercise. Eight normal subjects were studied with progressive upright bicycle exercise (2-min intervals, 25-W increments) under three experimental conditions in random order. Arterialized venous blood was drawn at each work load for measurement of blood lactate, pH, and Pa(CO2). Results were compared with those from reproducible control tests. Experimental conditions were 1) biofeedback hyperventilation (to increase pH by 0.08-0.10 at each work load); 2) hyperventilation following acetazolamide (which returned pH to control values despite ventilation and Pa(CO2) identical to condition 1); and 3) metabolic acidosis induced by acetazolamide (with spontaneous ventilation). The results showed an increase in blood lactate during hyperventilation. Blood lactate was similar to control with hyperventilation after acetazolamide, suggesting that the change was due to pH and not to Pa(CO2) or total ventilation. Exercise during metabolic acidosis (acetazolamide alone) was associated with blood lactate lower than control values. Respiratory alkalosis during exercise increases blood lactate. This is due to the increase in pH and not to the increase in ventilation or the decrease in Pa(CO2).