Wednesday, February 4, 2015

High Altitude Training Risks and Benefits

   Ltip Fitness has moved to Colorado! Denver, the mile high city, to be exact! So to celebrate, I'm going to blog about the benefits of exercising at a high altitude, as well as warn you of potential risks. Some of you may have heard that exercising at a higher altitude can increase your training capabilities. Many athletes utilize this, and the Olympic Training Center isn't located in Denver for no reason.
   As the altitude increases, the air thins and while the oxygen content is the same as it is at sea level, the barometric pressure is less. Your body might signal this by your ears popping. The decrease in barometric pressure decreases the pressure in the lungs, making your bodies oxygen delivery system work at a sub par level. Luckily, the body adapts! While you don't have less oxygen, you have less hemoglobin saturation; your red blood cells can't hold as many oxygen molecules as they usually can, making transporting oxygen to the muscles more difficult. The body deals with this by signaling to your kidneys the decrease in oxygen saturation, and the kidneys say "make more blood!" by releasing a hormone called Erythropoietin. The release of that hormone tells the bone marrow to make more blood cells. More red blood cells = more cells to carry oxygen. This takes the body 7-14 days. (Ever heard of blood doping, similar idea... hmm maybe I'll do a blog on ergogenic aids?!) While adapting to the altitude change, your body does this fairly quickly (or you would die) but the effects are much longer lasting, hence the saying live high, train low.
    Living at a higher altitude has also shown an increase in Mitochondria, the power house of the cell, and an increased threshold for lactic acid so you feel the burn later than you usually would! Again, these changes take a few weeks. Adjusting to the altitude has risks as well that you should be aware of.
    Risks associated with higher altitude are altitude sickness, which can feel like the flu or a hangover, dehydration, headache, dry skin (not a serious risk, but a bothersome one!), high altitude pulmonary edema which is a fluid build up in the lungs, and high altitude cerebral edema which is fluid buildup in the brain.
   Like I said, the body adapts but you have to give it time to acclimate to these changes. I wouldn't recommend you live at sea level and decide you are going to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow. You prepare for these things. Coming to visit me? Don't worry-- I will provide you with lots of water and I never have an asthma inhaler far away! I've luckily only gotten one headache since moving here, but I think I was ultimately dehydrated. I drank as much water as I could get my hands on and felt much better! It's a win-win, you drink more water and you let your body adapt to be awesome!

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