The air we breathe at sea level contains about 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen.
This is known as a normoxic environment. When training at altitude the levels of oxygen are significantly lower.
An altitude room can be set at a range of levels. To give you idea, an altitude room set at 3,500m, (14% oxygen), is similar to Mt. Fuji, whereas, an altitude room set at 5,500m (11% oxygen), is – similar to Everest base camp.
Why train in a low oxygen environment?
A reduction in available oxygen (hypoxia) prompts your body to immediately (within 1-2 minutes) increase heart rate and respiratory rate (breathing) in an attempt to get more oxygen to your working muscle.
Regular exposure to hypoxia stimulates the body to become more efficient at moving oxygen to the active muscle and therefore boosting energy production within the muscle.
This ultimately improves aerobic conditioning and training capacity.
Over time (60 – 90 days) your body begins making more capillaries within the muscle to ensure better blood flow (think of those deep red rose cheeks of the Sherpa’s) and therefore oxygenation. This also allows for better removal of metabolites (chemical changes that cause muscle fatigue) which can accumulate in the working muscle.
Why is training at altitude best for injury and weight loss?
During rehabilitation, the benefits of training at a low oxygen environment mean that maintaining a level of fitness is more easily achieved at lower exercise intensities, placing less stress on joints and recovering tissue.
Let’s not forget also, the simultaneous increase in basal metabolic rate (BMR) which results in about 20% greater fat burning capacity.
How does altitude training help reduce insulin?
Enhanced insulin sensitivity as well as improved use of carbohydrates for fuel reduces blood sugar levels.
Not only does this help to prevent Type II Diabetes, but may also reverse the progression of the illness in people that already have it.
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