Elite cyclists endurance performance following Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT)
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Summary of the paper:
Well controlled and applied endurance sport research. 20 male elite cyclists randomly divided into a hypoxic or normoxic group trained at 95% (hypoxic) or 100% (normoxic) of individual lactate threshold, 3 times a week for 3 weeks. After a rest week the hypoxic group managed a significantly improved 30km time trial with a 5.6% increased in average power and 2.6% improvement in time trial performance. The normoxic group did not see any significant differences post training.
The study highlights that haematological adaptations may not occur when only using IHT. However when combined with an adequate training stimulus muscular adaptation (increase mitochondrial density, cappilary length density) and gene expressions (upregulation of glycolytic pathway) adaptations could play important roles in the increase in endurance performance seen. Hoppeler and Vogt (2001) have previously shown that only intense exercise has resulted in muscular adaptation during an IHT period. This could be the reason a short 3 week study has shown significant gains.
Another interesting point would be that the hypoxic group actually worked at a slightly lower workload (in terms of Wattage on the bike) compared to the normoxic group. Buchheit et al (2012) shows that while perceived exertion may increase in hypoxia, physiological stress did not differ from normoxia (in high intensity interval work), allowing athletes to feel they have worked harder than normal with no detrimental increase in stress on the body.
Perhaps combining IHT alongside sleeping in hypoxia to ensure a significant dose is accumulated could lead to haematological improvements also. However training load must be carefully monitored to ensure adequate recovery occurs as previously mentioned this recovery may be key to endurance performance.
• If a decreased work load can be used for similar if not greater gains in performance could this be due to an improved recovery?
• In terms of elite sport could this provide an edge psychologically as well as physically?
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