Endurance Athletes: Live High, Train Low
Kate’s Real Food is pleased to be partnering up with Lolly Steuart: trail runner, outdoor enthusiast, dedicated dietician-in-training, and Kate’s Brand Ambassador. Lolly writes about how endurance athletes can improve their performance with a ‘live high, train low’ endurance training method.
Have you ever heard of athletes living at a high altitude and training at a low one to maximize their performance? Live high, train low is a method used by elite athletes to increase endurance performance.
How, you may ask?
When we are acclimating to high altitude, the body first recognizes that it isn’t receiving optimal amounts of oxygen. In response, it adapts to increase lung capacity, energy output, and number of red blood cells.
Why is this beneficial for endurance athletes?
Stay with me, because this part gets technical:
Endurance activities require aerobic metabolism to produce ATP, an energy-providing chemical that powers muscular contraction using oxygen. Your red blood cells carry oxygen to your body tissues--so, if you have an increased amount of red blood cells (which is the case at a high altitude), your oxygen carrying capacity goes up. And more oxygen equals more ATP production. This means, essentially, that you feel more energized during your long run at sea level.
Where does training low come into play?
When we train low, we are able to maximize our performance due to the higher atmospheric pressure. At a higher altitude, what is affected most is our ability to oxygenate blood. Remember, oxygen is essential for aerobic metabolism--so lower levels of oxygen don’t allow for optimized endurance output. At a lower altitude, endurance athletes can maintain and maximize their fitness performance.
Isn’t it just astounding what the human body is capable of? We can undergo these physiological adaptations and use them to our advantage beyond the physiological needs of the body.