We know elite cyclists use altitude training to get a fitness boost before racing in the Tour de France. And we’ve heard that olympic runners will head to high altitude camps in places like Flagstaff or St. Moritz to get that extra lung for events at sea-level.

But what if you’re not headed to Le Portet d’Aspin (a famous Tour de France climb) or the upcoming summer Olympics? What if you’re not a professional cyclist or runner or athlete? What if you consider yourself a ‘normal person’ whose goal is to simply get stronger, maintain a healthy body fat % and feel good in your body. And do so without having to invest a huge amount of time and energy, which is already being divided amongst so many other things in your life.

We tend to diminish a goal like this, as if it’s embarrassing that we’re not headed to the Olympics and we’re ‘just exercising to look and feel good’ instead. But this is actually an extremely important goal. Maintaining the healthiest version of your body is one of the most important things you can do for yourself physically and mentally.

Just like altitude training can help elite cyclists and runners get an edge in their competitions, it can also help you increase muscle mass, lose body fat and improve overall health. Here’s how:

 

How can altitude training help me increase my muscle mass?

Research shows that intermittent hypoxic training can result in greater gains in muscle mass compared to similar training performed at sea-level. Resistance training done at altitude was shown to:

  • Increase the metabolic stimulus that signals muscle growth
  • Have a similar effect to BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) training, but without the discomfort and common problems associated with BFR
  • Enhance metabolic efficiency in the muscle tissue, which enhances muscular endurance

The effects are maximized with a specific transition time between exercises and rest between circuits combined with appropriate volume and muscular tension, so it’s important to work with a coach who is familiar with strength training protocols in hypoxic environments.

 

How can altitude training help me lose body fat?

Studies have shown differences in fat loss when doing the same exercise program at sea-level vs. altitude. It’s been found that altitude training can decrease fat mass more effectively and create a larger caloric deficit with the same amount of exercise. In one of these studies, participants saw an almost 7% reduction in fat mass by training in a hypoxic environment compared to the group training at sea-level, which didn’t see any reduction. Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) may also play a role in healthy weight loss through influences on leptin secretion (a hormone that tells the body it has had enough to eat).

 

How can altitude training impact health factors: metabolism, blood pressure and cholesterol

There are also benefits that contribute to overall health and disease prevention. For instance, IHT can increase your body’s capacity to use fat as fuel. If you’re struggling with a slow metabolic or have metabolic syndrome (slow metabolism), this can help improve those symptoms. The effects of altitude on the metabolism has also shown promise in potentially reducing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and insulin resistance in overweight individuals. For those looking to improve vascular health and slow down the progress of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), it’s been shown that training in a hypoxic environment can help reduce arterial stiffness and improved blood pressure, as well as improving blood lipid profile such as having a positive effect on cholesterol.

 

So if you’re looking to feel better and see greater improvements in body composition more efficiently, altitude training can definitely help. For the fastest route to your goals, ensure you work with a coach and get access to a well-structured program that addresses your specific needs in exercise and nutrition. Learn more about personalized programming at Altitude through our Memberships.

 

References:

[1]A. Törpel, B. Peter, D. Hamacher and L. Schega, “Dose–response relationship of intermittent normobaric hypoxia to stimulate erythropoietin in the context of health promotion in young and old people”, European Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 119, no. 5, pp. 1065-1074, 2019. Available: 10.1007/s00421-019-04096-8.

[2]I. Guardado, B. Ureña, A. Cardenosa, M. Cardenosa, G. Camacho and R. Andrada, “Effects of strength training under hypoxic conditions on muscle performance, body composition and haematological variables”, Biology of Sport, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 121-129, 2020. Available: 10.5114/biolsport.2020.93037.

[3]B. Yan, X. Lai, L. Yi, Y. Wang and Y. Hu, “Effects of Five-Week Resistance Training in Hypoxia on Hormones and Muscle Strength”, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 184-193, 2016. Available: 10.1519/jsc.0000000000001056.

[4]B. Feriche, A. García-Ramos, A. Morales-Artacho and P. Padial, “Resistance Training Using Different Hypoxic Training Strategies: a Basis for Hypertrophy and Muscle Power Development”, Sports Medicine – Open, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017. Available: 10.1186/s40798-017-0078-z.

[5]R. Timon, I. Martínez-Guardado, A. Camacho-Cardeñosa, J. Villa-Andrada, G. Olcina and M. Camacho-Cardeñosa, “Effect of intermittent hypoxic conditioning on inflammatory biomarkers in older adults”, Experimental Gerontology, vol. 152, p. 111478, 2021. Available: 10.1016/j.exger.2021.111478.

[6] Park, Hun-Young & Lim, Kiwon. (2017). The Effects of Aerobic Exercise at Hypoxic Condition during 6 Weeks on Body Composition, Blood Pressure, Arterial Stiffness, and Blood Lipid Level in Obese Women. International Journal of Sports Science. 1. 1-5.

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