Chances are you’ve already seen some people riding their bikes, pumping iron or perhaps going for a jog with altitude training masks on. The whole concept behind these masks is they mimic the hypoxic condition that the body goes through when it is subjected to exercise at elevated altitude levels.
There are even some models that flaunt a “resisted breathing” mode that forces you to physically up the ante on your workout to activate their ideal inhaling and exhaling rhythms.
However, there are still a lot of individuals who are rather skeptical of the benefits that these altitude training masks supposedly offer. Why don’t we give them a closer look in a bit to find out if they really work?
A Quick Rundown on Altitude Training Masks
For starters, altitude training masks work by restricting the amount of air that gets in your lungs during exercise. The idea is to simulate the body’s air intake and outflow when it is exposed to intense physical activity 5,000 feet above sea level or more.
But the thing is experts say that there’s a big difference between using an altitude training mask and actually being exposed to high altitude.
When you’re using an altitude training mask, you’re basically being prevented to breathe as much as you’d like to because it regulates the air that flows through it. The carbon dioxide level in your body builds up faster as well.
However, being physically in an environment where the altitude is higher is a different story. Although you can breathe in the same volume of air as you would in lower ground, the oxygen molecules that are in it are spaced a lot farther from each other. Moreover, your CO2 level won’t rise drastically when you breathe.
The Cons of Using an Altitude Training Mask
Sure getting your very own altitude training mask may sound like a good idea, but a lot of sports scientists point out that it will just promote a number of negative effects that can easily derail your workouts.
Here are the disadvantages that they have pointed out when you’re using one during exercise:
You’re Basically Targeting the Wrong Muscles.
When you’re using an altitude training mask, the only muscles that are going to be targeted are the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. Although these play a key role in the flow of oxygen to the lungs, they only help loosen up the chest to take in more air and haven’t been proven to boost athletic performance whatsoever.
You’re Preventing Your Muscles to Work Like They Should.
Your muscles require oxygen to function optimally. Preventing them from getting the ideal amount they need during exercise simply cuts down the power that they can produce when you’re working out. You’ll just find yourself going slower and getting worn out faster than usual.
Altitude Training Masks Don’t Help Boost Red Blood Cell Count.
Top athletes aim to acclimatize to higher altitude levels because doing so helps promote the development of more red blood cells in the body, which increases their ability to carry more oxygen. This gives them an advantage when competing in lower elevations. An altitude training mask only restricts your breathing.
So Should You Get Your Hands on an Altitude Training Mask?
Given the opinions of experts on the matter, investing in an altitude training mask to improve your overall athletic performance isn’t such a good idea.
However, sports scientists emphasize that perhaps the only benefit you’ll get from using one is improving your body’s pacing when you need to change the way you ventilate, especially when overcoming obstacles that can significantly affect your heart rate and speed like trudging up a hill while carrying something heavy.