Altitude training is a recognized sports scientific method to increase performance in athletes, although many different protocols exists and there are many opinions about their effect.
Physioinnovation believes in some of the protocols in altitude training and we have tried to give you a digest of some of the studies regarding the altitude training in this blog… At AlpCamps Sports Institute we live in altitude and use the altitude training as a tool to increase performance, loosing weight, adapt to high amounts of metabolic waste products during anaerobic performance. Here is some of the evidence behind hypoxic training…
Although some studies have had a hard time finding the benefits of intermittent hypoxic training there are several studies that has found positive results, more recently by Faiss et al., (2013). The Swiss based research team tested the effect of hypoxic training on sprint ability and found a positive correlation in performance of the group that performed sprints in altitude compared to sealevel group and control group.
Interval training has been one of the most important factors in order to increase endurance performance, peripherally muscle buffer capacity increases, imagining your capillary system as one big spindle net, which increases in size and small branches when training with I.e. Interval training. Central factors such as heart size and ability to pump an increased amount of blood in the body are obviously also increased by interval training, these are just basic facts and benefits of physical training (Michalsik and Bangsbo, 2005).
So how could you amplify this effect by training in hypoxic conditions?
Since late 90’s there has been a lot of attention into hypoxic training/ altitude training with the study by Levine and Gundersen (1997), whom showed an increase in haemaglobin levels (10%) and 5000m running time (5%) in the group living high and training low compared to a control group and a group both living and training high (∼2800m).
However, this method is quite time consuming, since you’ll have to stay high for a minimum of 18days (Pialoux et al, 2009) in order to get any change in blood parameters and hereby performance, although best results has been obtained from at least a 24days stay in altitude until date (Levine and Gundersen, 1997).
Intermittent hypoxic training, has gained far more attention recent years because of its less time consuming efficacy. Although it’s efficiency upon elite endurance athletes yet has to prove effective to a major degree, there has been in particular one study by Dufour et al. (2006), whom showed an increase in endurance for competitive distance runners. The results were promising from the method used in this study, a +5% increase in Vo2max and +35% time to exhaustion only in the group undergoing altitude training at ∼3000m (Dufour et al, 2006).
Training in hypoxic condition or altitude cannot change blood values, since the amount of exposure in altitude like the study by Dufour et al. (2006) is not enough to change actual haemaglobin etc as seen in the recent study by the Swiss research tem (Faiss et al., 2013). However, in this type of training the peripheral factors increasing the buffer capacity in the muscles (the spindle net as mentioned above) is believed to change (Faiss et al. 2013, Dufour et al, 2006; Vogt et al, 2003) Hereby creating a better circulation and exchange in the blood/muscle barrier. Faiss et al, (2013) also discussed the possibility that fast twitch muscles had a better effect of the training in high altitude, since there could be a more dramatical shift in the ability of these fibers to get rid of metabolic waste products.
One of the reasons why there is such a change in buffer capacity (capillarity) while training in altitude is the stimulant of the so called master gene HIF-1 or hypoxic inducible factor 1, which starts the process of human adaptation to altitude (increased capillarity, mitochondrial content, glycolytic enzymes I.e.) (Vogt et al, 2001). These effects from the transcription of the Mrna gene was also seen in the hypoxic training group in the study by Faiss et al, (2013).
Although there is not fully consensus about this master gene HIF-1 (Lundby et al, 2009) it is mentioned as one of the leading factors to human adaptation in altitude (Pialoux et al. 2009) and hereby also increase in endurance performance at least in altitude (Dufour et al. 2009) and possibly also the increased performance of sprint ability at sealevel (Faiss et al, 2013).
At AlpCamps Sports Institute we daily live and exercise in Hypoxic conditions, ranging from altitudes at 400 - 3000 meters. We use a broad variety of methods, ranging from intermittent hypoxic training, train high live low, live high train low.
By Bjørn Toft @ Physioinnovation
Faiss, R., et al. (2013) Significant molecular and systemic adaptations after repeated sprint training in hypoxia, www.plosone.org
Bangsbo, J, Michalsik, L (2005), Aerob og anaerob træning, Danmarks idræts forbund, 1 udgave, 2 oplag, p.123-127
Lundby, C, Calbet, J.A., Robach, P (2009) The response of human skeletal muscle tissue to hypoxia, Cell mol Life Sci, sep.10
Levine, B.D, Gundersen, J.S (1997), ‘‘Living high-training low’’: effect of moderate-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training on performance, the American Physiological Society
Vogt, M, Billeter, R, Hoppeler, H (2003), Effect of hypoxia on muscular performance capacity: “living low—training high”, Ther Umsch, Jul;60(7), 4p. 19-24
Pialoux, V, Brugniaux, J.V, Fellmann, N Richalet, J.P, Robach, P, Schmirr, L, Coudert, J, Mounier, R (2009), Oxidative stress and HIF-1 alpha modulate hypoxic ventilatory responses after hypoxic training on athletes, Respi physiol Neurobiol, Jun 30;167(2), p.217-20
Dufour, S.P, Ponsot, E, Zoll, J, Doutreleu, S, Lonsdorfer, W.E, Geny, B, Lamber, E, Flück, M, Hoppeler, H, Billat, V, Mettauer, B, Richard, R, Lonsdorfer, J (2006), Exercise training in normobaric hypoxia in endurance runners. I. Improvement in aerobic performance capacity, J Appl physiol, Apr;100(4), p.1238-48
By Bjørn Toft @Physioinnovation