Saturday, December 10, 2016

Altitude Training on VO2 Kinetics

As an athlete performs better and better they sometimes hit a plateau and that leads to them looking for a new way to mix up their training regimen or add new benefits from a different type of training. In a previous blog, it had been stated that training at elevation can not only improve components of red blood cells that lead to higher maximum oxygen uptake, but also improvements in the musculoskeletal system. It was also stated that one of the drawbacks of training in higher elevation was that upon return to sea-level, the effects would soon go away. One of the training methods to prevents such losses are; “the live high, train low” method.1

altitude training.jpeg

This “live high” term is used to describe the low partial pressure of oxygen at high elevation needed to reap the benefits of altitude training. The term “train low” is used to describe low altitude, or sea level, used to be able to train at high intensity and long duration.2
In a study performed by Stray-Gundersen and Levine, the “live high, train low” method consisted of athletes training at high altitudes and a control group at sea level.1 The authors wanted to see what improvements in performance, if any, transferred from the elevation training to performing at sea level. One group-set lived at a high altitude and trained at high altitude (HiHi), one lived at high altitude and trained at low altitude (HiLo), and the control group-set lived and trained at a low altitude (LoLo). All of the athletes had the same training routine and were all tested with a 5,000m time trial to see improvements. All athletes trained for four weeks at sea level, then were assigned into their respective altitude group (HiHi, HiLo, LoLo) for four weeks, and then all were assessed at sea level for three more weeks.1
The HiLo group was the only group that maintained improvement at sea level with the 5,000m test (1.4% decrease in time). The improvement was maintained throughout the 3-week post camp assessment, and the HiHi and LoLo groups did not improve during that 3-week post assessment. Red cell mass increased in the HiHi and HiLo groups (~8%), but not the control groups. VO2 max also increased in the HiHi and HiLo groups (~5%), but no change in the control groups.1
In conclusion, athletes looking for a method of training that will not only increase VO2 max, but also beneficially increase red blood cell components safely, can consider altitude training. Altitude training has shown to improve VO2 max, red blood cell mass, and improve physiological components of the musculoskeletal system. One proven way to maintain those improvements after descending to sea level after exposure to altitude is to use the “live high, train low” method. Is there a way to get these beneficial adaptations without the hassle and cost of natural elevation? Or are some trends just a myth? This will be a topic in the next blog.
1Stray-Gundersen, J., Levine, B. D. Live high, train low at natural altitude. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008; 18(Suppl. 1): 21-28.

2Powers, S.K. and Howley, E. T. Exercise Physiology. Theory and Application
to Fitness and Performance. 2015;
(9): 547.

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