Medical oxygen is used in clinics, dental offices, veterinarians, and more. But what you may not realize is that oxygen is also used in various sports programs. With the Olympics wrapping up recently, sports have been at the front of our minds. So how exactly does this benefit these athletes?
Oxygen and Altitude
Traveling as an athlete may mean your destination could be at an altitude much higher or much lower than you’re used to training at. As you’re probably aware, the higher the altitude you are at, the harder it is to breathe. However, the percentage of oxygen in the air is about 21%, no matter what altitude you’re at. The cause of this difficulty is that at higher altitudes there is lower air pressure, which means the oxygen molecules are further apart. So for any given volume of air, there are fewer oxygen molecules in it when you’re at the top of a mountain than there are when you are lounging at the beach. Therefore, when you breathe a fixed volume of air into your lungs, less oxygen will enter your blood.
Adapting to higher altitude diminishes the ability to train and often leads to restless nights of sleep, which further hinders their ability to recover from their training. One solution to this training workload issue is to train with supplemental oxygen.
Supplemental Oxygen Training
Supplemental oxygen training goes with the mantra “live high, train low”. For athletes who already live at a high altitude, instead of training with 21% oxygen, the pressure of oxygen can be significantly increased (some studies include subjects breathing 50-70% partial pressure of oxygen). On the other hand, athletes living at sea level adapt this idea by using supplemental oxygen to breathe an air mixture with a reduced partial pressure of oxygen. This, in turn, simulates training at higher altitudes.
Oxygen tents are another way for athletes to simulate high altitude conditions without traveling there. In general, you would have to spend about 20-22 hours per day for 5 days a week. Some athletes have said they have had success, but it required them to use the tent for at least one month. These tents allow an athlete to live at any altitude or location, but still gain an edge over their competition.
This year we’ve all gotten used the having to wear a mask, but altitude masks are a little different. These masks reduce the amount of oxygen you breathe in while training, but it does not change the pressure of the air you’re breathing in. Essentially, you’re breathing less air, but it does not replicate the high-altitude environment.
Studies are still being researched on how effective altitude masks really are. Some athletes said that the mask made their workout more productive, but this could be simply a placebo effect.
Is It Worth It?
While oxygen tents or altitude masks may not be as effective as you might think, medical oxygen plays a huge part in helping athletes catch their breath when training or during a game and gaining an advantage when competing at high altitudes. For over 70 years, Minneapolis Oxygen has been providing all of this (and more!) to our customers. We offer expertise, dedicated service, and decades of experience for all your gas needs.
For more information, contact our gas experts at 612-588-8855 or contact us here.