Hypoxic training methods for improving endurance exercise performance
Contributed By: Mindstrong Harvey
Sinex, J. A., & Chapman, R. F.
Hypoxic training can have positive effects on performance, depending on dosage and individual differences.
Within the context of both life and performance, our breath has been established as our “lowest-hanging fruit.” Breathe well, live well. Breathe well, perform well – physiologically speaking. These views are not new, as breath practice goes back thousands of years to early yoga and meditation practices. However, within the last few decades, many in the human performance company have become academic about a new form of breath-training: hypoxic training. Hypoxia itself is not a novel concept; it is simply a state of inadequate oxygen in our tissues. What researchers have uncovered is that training at sub-optimal levels of oxygen (high altitude) creates some pretty unique and, at times, desirable training effects. This article from 2015 by Sinex and Chapman (2015) details quite well the state of literature on all things hypoxic training. While the conclusions suggest more research, the paper gives great insights into high-altitude training, simulating high-altitude training, and accounting for individual differences.
Main takeaways: 1. At its best: Increases in VO2max, red blood cell count, stress tolerance (working in hypoxic environments, iron uptake, erythrocyte volume, mitochondrial volume, capillary density, oxidative enzyme activity, and more scientific terms that can confuse us. So what does this all amount to? Better oxygen transport through our body, which means our muscles and tissues get the fuel they need to perform. 2. At its worst: Increased oxidative stress, plasma volume loss, dehydration, increased load on the respiratory system, detraining, or minimal/no results. 3.Dosage and intensity are vital: Hypoxic training can become nonfunctional or even detrimental if done incorrectly. A “live high, train low” model has shown the most promising effects compared to other models of hypoxic training. This means living in a high-altitude area and training in a low-altitude area. Again, reiterating that intensity, duration and frequency of exercise, as well as altitude of training all corroborate to create an overall training effect – for better or worse.