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Effect of intermittent hypoxia in rest on endurance performances


13th International Hypoxia Symposium

"Living high-training low" altitude training improves sea level performance in male and female elite runners.

Stray-Gundersen J, Chapman RF, Levine BD.
Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, 0806 Oslo, Norway. Appl Physiol 2001 Sep;91(3):1113-1120

Acclimatization to moderate high altitude accompanied by training at low altitude (living high-training low) has been shown to improve sea level endurance performance in accomplished, but not elite, runners. Whether elite athletes, who may be closer to the maximal structural and functional adaptive capacity of the respiratory (i.e., oxygen transport from environment to mitochondria) system, may achieve similar performance gains is unclear. To answer this question, we studied 14 elite men and 8 elite women before and after 27 days of living at 2,500 m while performing high-intensity training at 1,250 m. The altitude sojourn began 1 wk after the USA Track and Field National Championships, when the athletes were close to their season's fitness peak. Sea level 3,000-m time trial performance was significantly improved by 1.1% (95% confidence limits 0.3-1.9%). One-third of the athletes achieved personal best times for the distance after the altitude training camp. The improvement in running performance was accompanied by a 3% improvement in maximal oxygen uptake (72.1 +/- 1.5 to 74.4 +/- 1.5 ml. kg(-1). min(-1)). Circulating erythropoietin levels were near double initial sea level values 20 h after ascent (8.5 +/- 0.5 to 16.2 +/- 1.0 IU/ml). Soluble transferrin receptor levels were significantly elevated on the 19th day at altitude, confirming a stimulation of erythropoiesis (2.1 +/- 0.7 to 2.5 +/- 0.6 &mgr;g/ml). Hb concentration measured at sea level increased 1 g/dl over the course of the camp (13.3 +/- 0.2 to 14.3 +/- 0.2 g/dl).

We conclude that 4 wk of acclimatization to moderate altitude, accompanied by high-intensity training at low altitude, improves sea level endurance performance even in elite runners. Both the mechanism and magnitude of the effect appear similar to that observed in less accomplished runners, even for athletes who may have achieved near maximal oxygen transport capacity for humans.

Adaptation to intermittent hypoxia and the effectiveness of sports training
Tkachuk et al.
Adaptation to intermittent hypoxia for therapeutic and prophylactic purposes. Extract from the article. Book: Adaptive medicine: Mechanisms and the effect of adaptation" F Z Meerson, p 305-308, 1993, Moscow

A total of 118 athletes from different sports (rowing, swimming, cycling, skiing, volleyball - both sexes, track events) were subjected to the effect of intermittent hypoxia training alongside traditional training techniques. The cyclists and volleyball players underwent a training course involving intermittent hypoxia methods during a period in competition, the rest at the beginning of a preparatory period of the yearly training cycle. 108 of these sportsmen, having completed the same programme of traditional training, took no part in the hypoxia methods but served as a double blind control.

The hypoxia course lasted 14-25 days.

After intermittent hypoxia therapy (IHT) the level of haemoglobin in the blood rose in real terms from 141 +/- 4 to 153 +/-3 g/l. Circulation was more effective together with increased ventilation, an increase in the minute blood volume in response to breathing the hypoxia mix was reduced.

The veloergometric test showed that work capacity increased and that the functional condition of the athletes significantly improved. The limit of physical effort on the veloergometer was increased so that during workout at the limit the metabolic value of the work completed was reduced and the frequency of heart contractions decreased. The capacity on the threshold of anaerobic metabolism increased, the maximum load capacity increased, for example, in the female volleyball players from 1300 kgm to 2100 kgm.

Psychological testing during normal training conditions revealed no change in psychophysiological indicators whilst in the hypoxia group a significant improvement was noted.

The conclusion is that intermittent hypoxia therapy carried out against a background of traditional sports training enhances the general and special performance of sportsmen, improves their psychophysiological performance. Combined adaptation to hypoxia and hypoxia with physical loads is more effective than sports training by itself.