Altitude Training a Primer
High altitude training is thought to improve performance. The apparent benefits of high-altitude training include: increases in the blood cell stimulating hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which leads to slow increases in red blood cell volume (RBC), and in turn can result in a higher hematocrit level (the proportion of blood that is made up of RBC), allowing the body to maintain higher blood oxygen concentrations during exercise. While this does occur with altitude exposure, the time course for these adaptations, if they do occur, is not short. A commentary by Duke et al. concluded that in order to elicit performance benefits from altitude, one must live at an altitude of 2,000 – 2,500m (~6,500 – 8,200ft), for > 20 hours daily, for a period of no less than 28 days. Meaning that a ‘stint’ to high altitude by going snowboarding for a week is not a sufficient amount of time to elicit the performance gains from altitude exposure. Furthermore, most high-altitude research lacks solid control populations, as well as placebo control, and some studies have incomplete study design leaving many researchers skeptical to the efficacy of altitude training.