Why Does Altitude Training Work?
While it sounds complicated, the way altitude training works is simple. In all varieties of sports, the key limiting factor to success is delivering oxygen to the muscles during competition. Because oxygen is the primary source of energy, exposure to altitude (reduced oxygen levels) forces the body to confront and adapt in order to maintain balance. At high altitude the body strives to produce energy with less oxygen available. Your lungs allow more oxygen to enter your system. Your kidneys produce the hormone EPO, which starts the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Simply put, altitude training improves the body’s ability to carry and deliver oxygen to the working muscles needed for performance. Another way to say it is, oxygen is critical for the body’s ability to perform. Increasing the body’s capacity to carry and utilize oxygen means improved performance.
What Does Altitude Training Feel Like?
The most common experience for first-time users is simply an increased perceived exertion at a given speed. Users who measure wattage will notice it is much harder to maintain their sea level power at higher altitude. Likewise, runners who gauge their training on pace will notice it feels more difficult to hit their splits they are used to. All users will notice an increase in heart rate at a given intensity level. All this is to say, altitude training naturally increases the total load of a given training session. With a greater load comes greater adaptation, which equates to bigger performance gains. While the first few sessions might feel hard, they will get easier over time as the body begins to adapt to the new stimulus. Consistency is key. While it may feel hard, there are enormous benefits from altitude training and the increase in effort is rewarded with levels of fitness most have never really experienced.
Who Is Altitude Training For?
Runners, Cyclists, Triathletes, Hikers, Mountaineers. Any person who is participating in any type of endurance sport. It’s also important to remember that with an increase in training load comes a greater bang for your buck from each session. Time crunched athletes will get more out of the time they have available and elite level athletes will squeeze more stimulus and adaptations out of their workouts. Likewise, non-athletes or people for whom performance is not a key motivator will experience accelerated weight loss and an overall improvement in energy levels and vitality. Research has shown that an altitude workout can promote the burning of three times as many calories as normoxic exercise as calories (usually in the form of fat stores) continue to burn up to 15 hrs after the workout ends.