RESEARCH: Altitude training vs Sea level training
Altitude Training – Why do we do it?
Since the late 1960’s, altitude training has been at the forefront for innovative research to benefit athletic performance. From the Tour de France to Olympic Games, many competitions have taken place in an environment that athletes have to prepare for specifically due to environmental differences in comparison to sea level. Nowadays, similar challenges are available to the avid city athlete – from the L’Etape du Tour to the Haute Route – and altitude events and training modes are becoming ever popular.
So how can we be certain that all of the effort, determination and willingness you put in to training in the chamber is really worth it? Here is how…
A meta-analysis, known as the holy grail of scientific research due to it combining a large pool of articles and processing statistical calculations to come to a conclusive summary, was recently carried out by a group of researchers in Korea to answer this question. They intended on evaluating the effects of altitude training on physiological markers, including oxygen delivery and VO2MAX, on athletic performance enhancement.
The results of the study found conclusive support in relation to altitude training being more beneficial than sea level training.
In particular, red blood cell count, haemoglobin mass, hematocrit and erythropoietin (all of which have been linked to athletic performance) all improved significantly in response to altitude training compared to sea level. Additionally, VO2max also improved following training completed at altitude. These findings equate to a greater potential for improved athletic performance, due to the larger amounts of red blood cells produced by erythropoietin and transported via haemoglobin; which leads to a superior amount of energy produced and utilised for performance.
So whether your next event is cycling through the Alps, running your local half marathon, tackling a Tough Mudder or anything else that you may have signed up to, altitude training can help you to reach your performance goals, no matter what level of athlete you are!
Park et al. (2016). J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2016;20(1):015-022