In our previous blog post, we looked into the science behind altitude training, illuminating the chemical and physiological responses within our bodies. Now, let's explore the practical advantages of these adaptations. This blog post discusses the tangible benefits altitude training offers, with a specific focus on the well-known benefits; improved VO2 Max, enhanced Repeat Sprint Ability (RSA), and increased muscle buffering capacity.
What is VO2 max?
VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, measures the maximum amount of oxygen an individual can inhale during intense exercise, serving as an indicator of aerobic fitness and endurance capacity. Simply put, the higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can utilise to generate energy.
Why does increasing VO2 max matter?
Improved performance: A bigger VO2 max enables your body to sustain a more intense level of exercise, resulting in increased speed and distances covered before exhaustion.
Enhanced running economy: A higher VO2 max makes submaximal intensity levels feel easier and more sustainable.
Increased fatigue resistance: A higher VO2 max means a more efficient aerobic system can provide sustained energy. This also delays the requirement and onset of anaerobic metabolism, which is a less sustainable energy source.
Faster recovery: Athletes with elevated VO2 max recover more swiftly between bouts of intense exercise.
How does altitude Training increase VO2 max?
Prolonged exposure to high altitudes results in an increase in red blood cells, mitochondrial density, and capillarisation, all combine to enhance oxygen transport and utilisation.
Short, repeated exposures to high altitude positively affect VO2 max by increasing the body’s sensitivity to nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and enhances blood flow during exercise.
REPEAT SPRINT ABILITY
What is Repeat Sprint Ability?
Repeat Sprint Ability (RSA) represents the ability to perform multiple short-duration sprints without full recovery and minimal speed decline between sprints.
Why does increasing RSA matter?
Improved performance: Athletes with a superior RSA can maintain their speed and power better throughout a game or event.
Reduce injury risk: Injuries can occur due to localised fatigue in tissues such as muscles and tendons. Improving RSA can delay the onset of fatigue and minimise injury risk.
How does altitude training affect RSA?
The increase in VO2 max allows for faster recovery between repeat sprints. Altitude training boosts the anaerobic energy pathway. At high altitudes, where oxygen levels are low, the body leans on anaerobic pathways for energy, effectively training this system. This enhanced anaerobic efficiency is particularly beneficial for sprinting, where a well-trained pathway translates to faster sprinting speed.
MUSCLE BUFFERING CAPACITY
What is muscle buffering capacity?
Muscle buffering capacity refers to the body's ability to clear metabolites that build up in the blood and muscles during exercise, allowing sustained high-intensity efforts and delaying fatigue onset.
Why does increasing muscle buffering capacity matter?
Delayed muscle fatigue: Athletes can sustain their performance at high intensities for longer durations.
Improved recovery: Faster clearance of byproducts post-exercise can expedite the recovery process. Athletes experience less muscle soreness and can return to training more quickly.
Improved performance: Increasing buffering capacity allows athletes to recover quicker in rest periods and, generate power and speed more consistently throughout their race or game.
Reduced discomfort: Buffering capacity minimises discomfort and the onset of muscle ‘burn’ during intense exercise.
Reduce injury risk: Injury risk is reduced by delaying muscle fatigue allowing proper form/technique and better decisions to be made.
How does altitude training effect muscle buffering capacity?
Altitude training enhances muscle buffering capacity by lowering the lactate threshold, resulting in earlier blood lactate accumulation even during less intense workouts, allowing the athlete to get used to clearing metabolites whilst conserving energy.
Prolonged altitude exposure increases red blood cells, improving oxygen transport and carbon dioxide removal, while capillarisation enhances oxygen delivery and metabolite clearance.
In summary, altitude training offers a comprehensive array of benefits that can significantly enhance an athlete's performance. Altogether, these advantages underscore the value of altitude training as a powerful tool for athletes striving to reach their peak performance levels.
About the Author
Jake Ward is the Sales Manager at Altitude Training Systems and has a background in strength and
conditioning, as well as applied sports science, having worked with elite sporting organisations and
sport technology companies.