Let's Be Real: High-Elevation & Training Masks

March 18, 2014

 

I meander through the gyms and all I see are people walking around looking like Tom Hardyin "The Dark Knight Rises".  To note, I live in Colorado.  We are at an elevation of 6000+ feet which is the official effects of high altitude exposure.  Although these effects are minimal (light-headedness, headaches) at this height, it does affect maximal performance. Levels of oxygen concentrated in the blood begin to reduce significantly with further ascensicion.  At the highest point in the world, air is so thin an individual wil pass out within 30 seconds of exposure without an oxygen apparatus.

 

 Speaking from experience, I have climbed Pikes Peak on 3 occasions (which is half the height of Mt. Everest), and it was an eye-opening experience once we crossed elevations above 11,000 feet.  Walking with 30 lbs of equipment on your back became an ordeal.  Be it that I wasn't an experienced climber, it affected me much more than individuals who practice this regularly.  While people can see adaptations with high altitude training, the body does not fully make adjustments.  

 

So, why are you bringing this up Julien? The reason why I bring this up is because you are negetively affecting maximal performance by wearing a "high-elevation masks"especially when you are already at high altitude.  Everyone can expect a 1.5%-3.5% reduction in VO2max for every 1000 feet you ascend above 5000 feet above sea level, which means your cardiovascular performance will diminish once you arrive in Denver and climb above that elevation.  Long-term exposure will make physiological changes such as making your blood more alkaline, increases red blood cell production and concentration. So what does that mean Julien?  It means that to experience the full effects of "the mask" you have to wear it all the time.  To further illustrate this fact there are no real studies to support that training at altitude permanently affects ones VO2max. As a matter of fact, it can make things worse!

 

Listen, there are reasons why people wear oxygen masks when climbing Mt. Everest. For one, they don't want to die.  Also they want to be able to perform.  For the first 40 seconds of any continuous activity, your cells aren't consuming oxygen. Which means when you lift weights, your cells will use oxygen only to recover the depletion of ATP (energy).  So, if oxygen during weight training helps you recover depleted energy, why deprive yourself of it unecessarily?  A high majority of the people I observed wearing this product, was lifting weights!

 

 I read the "research" that the company provided, and the problem with the study was that there was no control group to legitimize the study's findings.  Had there been one (which there can't be due to the information I provided) the study would have been valid.  Those of you with a research background understands that the experiment needs to be blind, optimally double-blind.  This means that the people performing the experiment does not know neither the control group or the affected or treated group to maintain the integrity of the experiment.  You can find the study here: http://www.trainingmask.com/clinicals/  

 

Don't belive the hype! Follow the science!

 

 

Julien Stoutt, EXHP; NESTA CPFT; NASM CPT, CES, FNS, WLS

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