For my first ever blog post on the Hash Fitness website I figured I'd cover a somewhat controversial topic...elevation training masks. The idea behind these masks is that the valves on the front of the mask limit the amount of oxygen one can consume while wearing the mask; thus simulating training at altitude.
Even when at altitude, there is still roughly 21% oxygen content in the air. Meaning, there is the same amount of oxygen in the air at the top of Mount Everest as there is at sea-level.The reason that it is harder to breath at altitude has NOTHING to do with the amount of oxygen present. Instead, the difficulty breathing has to do with the change in the partial pressure of oxygen. At altitude, because the atmospheric pressure is lower, the partial pressure of oxygen is lower which makes it more difficult for the body to get oxygen out of the air and into the blood.
Partial Pressure of Oxygen at Sea-Level: 160 mmHg
Partial Pressure of Oxygen at Top of Mount Everest: 47 mmHg
Percentage of Oxygen at Sea-Level and at the Top of Mount Everest: 21%
When one lives or trains at altitude the body physiologically adapts to this environment and becomes much more efficient at extracting the oxygen from the "thin air." The $80 elevation training mask is not changing the atmospheric pressure and decreasing the partial pressure of oxygen. All it is doing is limiting the amount of air coming through the mask with each breath. You are still breathing in oxygen at the same partial pressure. You're just breathing in less of it. This will not lead to any physiological adaptations. There are pressure chambers that athletes have used to simulate living and training at altitude which will produce these adaptations but they can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Moral of the story: your elevation training mask is pointless and you just look silly !
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