The Science Of Altitude Training
High altitude sports training
Training at altitude has been used to improve athletic performance for decades. After numerous American running records fell at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, researchers soon found out this had to do with altitude training. Altitude training provides exposure to reduced oxygen levels, ( also known as altitude or hypoxia) and is quite the challenge to the human body. Since the energy of our cells primarily comes from oxygen, the body has to work hard to compensate for the lack of it while under hypoxia. Nowadays, plenty of teams, athletes and individuals who are concerned with their health have been using low oxygen training as part of their training regimen and/or preparation.
The science behind altitude training
Since oxygen serves as the primary source of energy for our cells, training under low oxygen circumstances can be very hard on the human body. While the body is under a state of Hypoxia, it strives to produce the required amounts of energy; even though there is less oxygen available. In order to compensate, a protein called Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF-1) sets off a host of reactions. These reactions are geared toward improving the body's ability to utilize said oxygen. Altitude training can help with this.
Three primary altitude training methods
There are 3 main training methods used to obtain the benefits of Altitude Training:
What does altitude training do?
For an in-depth and visual explanation of Altitude Training, please watch the video below.
What are the benefits of altitude training?
The following physiological reactions have been shown to occur:
- Amplified pulmonary oxygen absorption
- Boosted production of Erythropoietin Hormone (EPO) by the kidneys. This stimulates generation of Red Blood Cells
- (RBCs) and enhanced oxygen transportation through the body
- Increased capillarization for greater oxygen delivery to the tissues, muscles and brain
- Enhanced production and rejuvenation of mitochondria (the cell’s hub for aerobic energy production) and mitochondrial enzymes, allowing more efficient use of oxygen for energy production and superior enzymatic anti-oxidative defense.
Other high altitude training benefits:
- Decreased average Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
- Increased production and release of Human Growth Hormone
- Stimulation of fat metabolism
- Decreased oxidative stress from Free Radicals (Reactive Oxygen Species “ROS”)