Gas masks for altitude training

Most of the following has been taken from a site by Eric Wong MMA, who, like me, has looked into this stuff, and spent considerable time doing so. Thanks Eric for doing some of the graft for me. I've just added some medical bits, from medical people, with medical and altitude experience.

Q: How does altitude training (wearing a gas mask) stimulate red blood cells?
A: Come on, it doesn’t! But living at altitude does. This is because the amount of oxygen in the air is less than at sea level, (it's actually the same but under less pressure so you can't get as much in your lungs - Steve), which is different than just not being able to breathe in enough air.
Here’s basically how it works... with normal breaths at altitude, your body doesn’t get much oxygen so it thinks, “I need more O2 or I’m gonna DIE! What should I do?”
Then this hormone EPO (EPO or Erythropoietin is an essential hormone for red cell production) through the body’s infinite wisdom increases, which then stimulates the production of red blood cells.
But this takes time, like constant daily exposure over weeks, not over the hour or two of training that you might do in a day.

Q: So is wearing Altitude Training Devices  actually like being at altitude?
In short – NO.
Here’s why…
At altitude, you aren’t getting  as much oxygen because each litre of air has less oxygen in it (due to lower atmospheric pressure at altitude).
When you’re wearing one of these devices, each litre of air has the same amount of oxygen, you’re just getting less air overall.
You don’t get any altitude benefits because when you inhale, you’re getting less air than normal, but the % of oxygen stays the same.
When the normal amount of oxygen comes in with this breath, there is nothing different for your brain to adapt to, unlike at altitude, when you take in a normal breath, there is far less oxygen, so your brain goes, “Holy crap, what’s going on? I’d better do something about this or I’m gonna die.”

Q: If I wear Altitude Training Devices to bed, will it help stimulate increased red blood cells?

A: Nope, not at all, because when at rest, your body is getting the same amount of air and oxygen it always does, so it will not need to adapt to anything, just maybe a little stronger breathing at rest, which would be wasteful and unwanted. But if your wife asks you to wear an altitude training device to bed that’s another story ;)

Q: Have I (Steve) done any research into this?
A: Loads, I've even asked Doctors, specialists in altitude, HAPE HACE and yes even HAFE (the smelly one) The result was clear. People who say wearing a gas mask is going to train you for altitude, have no idea. There is only one thing that can train you for altitude and that is, wait for it... altitude. Acclimatise safely, slowly ("pole pole", as the guides on Kili say)
On occasion, people that have used these devices, under the supervision of an inexperienced trainer (some have never been higher than their own attic) have actually been taken ill, at least two have died that I know of. This is because training with a device that restricts your breathing is madness. The oxygen level in the mask is the same as at sea level, it's just harder to breath it in. Safe your money and just get someone to strangle you while you train.


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