What are the Physiological Benefits of Altitude Training?

Mizuno {1990} reported a  6% increase in of the gastrocnemius muscle the buffering capacity  elite male cross-country skiers who resided at 2100 m (6890 ft) and did their training at 2700 m (8860 ft) for 2 weeks.

Substantial improvements in their max  O2 deficit (29 %) and treadmill exercise  time to exhaustion ETE (17%) were found after the athletes returned to sea level. Additionally, a “+” correlation (r = 0.91, p < 0.05) was shown between the increase in buffering capacity of the gastro-cnemius muscle and treadmill run ETE.

Gore et al  {2001} also reports that skeletal muscle buffer capacity improved  18% (p < 0.05) in male cyclists, triathletes, and cross-country skiers after 23 days of residing at altitude of 3000 m (9840 ft) and physical training at 600 m (1970 ft).  Additionally, they found that athlete’s  mechanical efficiency considerably improved during for- three – four 4-min submaximal cycling test after the 23-day ‘live high train low’ training period.

The exact mechanisms are unclear yet – what is responsible for improved skeletal muscle buffering capacity after high altitude training  but may  relate to changes in creatine phosphate and/or muscle protein content  (Mizuno et al. 1990).  Enhancements  in blood buffering capacity may be becasue of the increases in bicarbonate (Nummela and Rusko 2000) or hemoglobin content.

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