High Altitude Training Can Benefit Olympic Athletes

High Altitude Training Benefits

The effect of high altitude on athletes’ physical condition is well known. The physiological changes are not only related to the body’s need for oxygen but also to its need for other nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. These changes affect how much energy athletes have when they exercise or perform certain tasks.

For example, if a person needs more calories than usual during exercise then their muscles will burn them up faster and produce less force. If they need more fat than usual, their bodies will store it instead of burning it off. If they need more protein, their muscles will use it up quicker and produce less force.

It is believed that these physiological changes occur because there is a greater demand on the body’s resources at higher elevations. The body uses more energy to maintain blood pressure and heart rate while exercising at high altitudes compared with lower elevations where the air is thinner and oxygen levels are higher.

Another reason why high altitude training benefits is due to the fact that athletes must cope with different conditions. They may experience cold temperatures, snowstorms, blizzards, extreme heat and humidity. All these factors make it difficult for athletes to work out at their best level.

The body adapts by making adaptations such as increased sweating and muscle contraction to compensate for the adverse conditions. These changes make the body produce more endurance allowing the athlete to cope with the conditions and train better.

Erythropoietin And High Altitude

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone that controls the body’s red blood cell production. The hormone is not only released by the kidneys but also by the brain. When an athlete trains at high altitudes there is a higher demand for oxygen in the blood.

High Altitude Training Can Benefit Olympic Athletes - Image

The brain detects this change and orders the kidneys to release more erythropoietin. This hormone increases red blood cell production which carries more oxygen to the body.

An increased amount of red blood cells in the blood also allows more carbon dioxide to be carried back to the lungs where it can be expelled. This means that an athlete’s breathing rate decreases at high altitudes, making them feel less tired when exercising there.

Sources & references used in this article:

Altitude training considerations for the winter sport athlete by RF Chapman, JL Stickford… – Experimental physiology, 2010 – Wiley Online Library

‘A debt was paid off in tears’: Science, IOC politics and the debate about high altitude in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics by AM Wrynn – The international journal of the history of sport, 2006 – Taylor & Francis

International Olympic Committee consensus statement on thermoregulatory and altitude challenges for high-level athletes by MF Bergeron, R Bahr, P Bärtsch, L Bourdon… – British journal of sports …, 2012 – bjsm.bmj.com

Altitude training and athletic performance by RL Wilber – 2004 – books.google.com

Altitude training camps. by RJ Shephard – British journal of sports medicine, 1974 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Exercise at altitude by B Drust, J Waterhouse – Scottish medical journal, 2010 – journals.sagepub.com

… of Energy Availability, Health, and Sex on Hemoglobin-Mass Responses Following Live-High–Train-High Altitude Training in Elite Female and Male Distance Athletes by IA Heikura, LM Burke, D Bergland… – … Journal of Sports …, 2018 – journals.humankinetics.com

Constructing altitude training standards for the 1968 Mexico Olympics: the impact of ideals of equality and uncertainty by D Kasperowski – The International Journal of the History of Sport, 2009 – Taylor & Francis