Frequently Asked Questions
Who uses altitude training? What sports and activities does it help?
Altitude training is for anyone looking to improve; whether amateur, professional, or enthusiast. Almost all top athletes in endurance sports employ altitude training. Typical sports include running, cycling, swimming, rowing, climbing, speed skating, triathlon, mixed martial arts, skiing, soccer, hockey, and football.
What results will I get?
Even well-trained athletes can break through performance plateaus using altitude training. Various scientific studies have reported 3.9% improvement in 5K time, 3.3% improvement in running economy, 7.0% increase in the mean maximal oxygen uptake, and 7.4% increase in the mean maximal power. Typical improvements reported by runners using Higher Peak are 10 to 15 seconds for 1 mile, 30 to 45 seconds in 5K, 60 to 90 seconds in 10K, and up to 15 minutes in the marathon. Cyclists have reported 10% to 12% increases in sustained wattage.
Is simulated altitude training legal in my sport? Is it fair and ethical?
Altitude simulation is legal in all sports. The World Anti-Doping Agency has examined the issue and declared altitude training legal, reasoning that altitude training levels the playing field for athletes not able to live or train in elevated locations.
What is the difference between real and simulated altitude training?
Simulated altitude training has some advantages over going to the mountains. The principle of "live high train low" says that the best results come from mixing high-altitude acclimatization with low-altitude training, which isn't possible at high altitude training camps. With your Mountain Air Generator, you can continue with altitude training as long as you want.
How long does it take to see results?
You can get measurable results in 3-4 weeks of consistent use (e.g. 6-8 hours per night in an altitude tent). During this time, the body will produce more red blood cells and make other metabolic adjustments that facilitate oxygen uptake and release. Most of the benefits occur when you continue altitude training beyond one month. This is when you can push your training to the maximum to build up your entire body to exploit the enhanced availability of oxygen. As you adapt your muscles and other body systems through continued training, you will grow significantly stronger and faster. During this phase, you are building up capillary density and the number of mitochondria (energy organelles) in muscle tissue.
How long do the effects last?
If you stop altitude training, you start losing the benefits in 2-3 weeks.
What is the optimal altitude and oxygen range?
Sleeping high should carried out between 8000 ft and 14,000 ft (between 15.4% and 12.2% oxygen). Hypoxic exercise can be done in the same range. Hypoxic intervals (short exposures) can be carried out at up to 20,000 feet (9.7% oxygen).
Will sleeping at high altitude hurt my training? My recovery?
If you are careful to increase altitude gradually, you will be able to continue a full training or competition schedule. You may experience mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and dehydration while you are adjusting. Your recovery should not be affected, since you are also increasing the flow of oxygen to your muscles, which reduces damage and enhances recovery.
Do I need to measure my blood parameters while I'm training?
You can, but it isn’t necessary. Changes in hematocrit (the percentage of blood occupied by red blood cells; also spelled haematocrit) and reticulocytes (newly-generated, immature red blood cells) can be measured with a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test.
What is the oxygen analyzer for?
The oxygen analyzer measures the percentage of oxygen in the air. Normally, air contains 20.9% oxygen. Using the Mountain Air Generator, the oxygen level can get as low as 9.5%. The lower the oxygen level, the higher the effective altitude.
What is a pulse oximeter? How is it used?
A pulse oximeter tells you how your body is responding to low oxygen conditions. It measures oxygen saturation, the percentage of oxygen in your bloodstream (SpO2). For example, an SpO2 of 90% indicates that 10% of your blood's capacity to carry oxygen is unused. When your oxygen saturation is low, your body creates EPO, the blood growth factor hormone.
What are good target values for oxygen saturation (spo2)?
Normally, your SpO2 is in the upper 90s. When you sleep at altitude, your SpO2 should be around 90% to trigger the EPO response. For hypoxic intervals, aim for 80% (below that, you will get lightheaded or dizzy).
What are the different methods of altitude training?
There are three main protocols for simulated altitude training: Live High Train Low (HiLo), Hypoxic Workouts (HW), and Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT).
What is the difference between these methods?
- In Live High Train Low (HiLo), you sleep or work in a low-oxygen environment, using a mask, tent, or semi-sealed room, and continue to train normally, at low altitude. Your exposure to altitude must be 6-8 hours a day for at least 4 weeks. Users typically sleep between 8,000 and 14,000 feet (2500 to 4000 m).
- Hypoxic Workouts (HW) involve exercising in low-oxygen air, delivered through a mask, typically on a cycle trainer or treadmill. HW improves high-altitude tolerance.
- Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) involves repeating short intervals (typically 5 min on, 5 min off) breathing moderately to highly hypoxic air. Interval length and oxygen level are adjusted to achieve a target oxygen saturation in the blood, typically around 80%, measured with a pulse oximeter. Altitudes up to 20,000 feet (6000 m) are used in IHT.
Which method is best? Can they be combined?
Sleep high-train low (HiLo) is the traditional method for increasing red blood cell concentration (hematocrit). There is growing evidence that IHT can be used alone or with HiLo to enhance and accelerate altitude adaptation. IHT also creates new mitochondria, which produces energy in your muscles. Hypoxic workouts helps build tolerance to high altitude and is especially useful for preparing for high altitude events. These methods work through slightly different biological pathways, and can be combined.
What are the physiological benefits of altitude training?
There are several beneficial changes affecting the heart, lungs, circulatory system, and muscles: more blood flow to the lungs, and increased permeability of the lungs to oxygen; an increase in the number of red blood cells able to carry oxygen; increases in the enzymes that facilitate release of oxygen from red blood cells into muscles; increases in capillary density in muscles and a higher number of mitochondria (the energy-producing structures) inside muscle cells. Together, these changes represent a powerful combination of positive effects that can significantly improve your athletic performance.
What is EPO? Isn't it banned?
EPO (erythropoietin), a hormone naturally produced in the body, signals the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Altitude training stimulates the production of natural EPO. This is perfectly legal in all sports. Synthetic EPO is a drug developed for treatment of severe anemia, and taking it is illegal in all sports, and can have dangerous effects at high doses.
Will altitude training increase my VO2 max?
VO2 max, which measures maximum oxygen delivery rate, has been observed to increase 3-8% as a result of altitude training. Scientists have also observed decreases of about 3% in the body's demand for oxygen, meaning your body gets more efficient and you work less hard to get the same result. Other performance measures, such as time until exhaustion, also increase substantially.
Will my hematocrit (haematocrit, HCT) increase?
Hematocrit is a measure of the proportion of blood volume that is occupied by red blood cells. The higher your hematocrit, the more oxygen can be delivered per volume of blood. A rise of 4-5 points (about 10%) is typical. This means each heartbeat will deliver 10% more oxygen to your muscles.
Should I take any dietary supplements, for example, additional iron?
Women might consider additional iron on the advice of a physician. A normal diet with red meat and/or green leafy vegetables almost always provides enough iron for men. Taking a B-Complex vitamin that includes folate or folic acid is a good supplement to help your body build new red blood cells.
How safe is altitude training?
Adapting to high altitude is a natural physical ability of humans. Millions of people, old and young, live in or visit high altitude locations without ill effect. This is not to say there are no risks, especially if you are in poor physical condition or try to acclimate too quickly. People going to high altitude sometimes experience mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and dehydration. These symptoms should subside as the body adjusts to altitude.
Who should NOT use altitude training?
You should not attempt altitude training if you have cardiac or pulmonary conditions, hemoglobin abnormalities, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, epilepsy, severe obesity, kidney disease, if you are pregnant, or if you are immune-suppressed, unless specifically cleared by your doctor.
Can I use altitude training if I have anemia from chemotherapy, dialysis, fibromyalgia, or other medical reason?
No. If your body can't produce red blood cells for a medical reason, your body won't respond to altitude by making more red blood cells. Lowering oxygen may be unsafe in these circumstances.