How can you ensure optimum preparation for high altitude sports?

Athletes who want to climb mountains during their vacation or who have competitions at high altitude must take into consideration that the air pressure is much lower at high altitude and that there is therefore less oxygen available. Our muscles need enough oxygen to perform to the best of their ability. When our muscles receive less oxygen, this results in a decrease in muscle capacity and also in performance. Our physical performance therefore depends on the efficient delivery and use of oxygen. With this in mind, it is essential to optimise the oxygen supply to the muscles during the preparation for such high altitude performance, meaning that the reduction in oxygen levels can be largely (but never fully) compensated. This is also the reason why many cyclists plan high altitude training camps in preparation for competition, to allow their bodies to adapt to the altitude.

During several weeks of high altitude training, the body will respond to the lower availability of oxygen by producing extra red blood cells, which allows the blood to transport relatively more oxygen to the muscles. Haemoglobin is the compound in the red blood cells that is responsible for this process and the concentration of haemoglobin can increase by 10 – 15% through training or supplementation. As a result of such increases, the active muscles will suffer less at high altitude as a result of the decreasing availability of oxygen. In addition, this will also result in improved endurance at sea level.

In addition to several weeks of high altitude training, there are also several aids that an (elite) athlete can use in preparation for high altitude events, in order to optimise the transport of oxygen to the muscles. The Etixx range contains 2 products that an athlete can take in combination to increase the transport of oxygen to the muscles: Iron 125 AA & Arginine 1000

 

  • Iron 125 AA is a high dose iron tablet, in amino acid chelate form for improved absorption. In addition, it also contains specific vitamins and minerals that contribute to an improved uptake of iron. Iron promotes the production of haemoglobin and thereby the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen. As mentioned above, the concentration of haemoglobin that is present in the blood is an important factor in the transport of oxygen. Studies demonstrate that athletes who have taken iron supplements for several weeks experienced an increase in the haemoglobin concentration, meaning that the active muscles were supplied with oxygen more effectively.
  • Arginine 1000 contains the semi-essential amino acid L-arginine, in other words that it is essential under certain conditions, meaning that it must be absorbed via the diet. Our bodies produce nitrogen monoxide from L-arginine. The nitrogen production in our bodies relaxes the blood vessels, making them dilate (become wider). This results in an improved supply of blood - and therefore oxygen - to the active muscles.

 

As mentioned above, the Iron 125 AA and Arginine 1000 supplements are two very important products for (elite) athletes who are preparing to perform at high altitude. The Iron 125 should be taken as a course of treatment, taking 1 capsule per day for at least 4 weeks. The Arginine 1000 should be taken primarily before exercise at a dose of 1 to 3 tablets.