Flatlanders Guide to Altitude Adaptation For the Stampede
Our friends over at Source Endurance give us these great five tips heading into our next gravel event, the Big Bear Stampede...
Living near sea level has its advantages when it comes to training for endurance events. You can train longer at higher absolute powers. However, once a sea level dweller ascends into higher elevations, the air becomes more thin and limits performance. Unless you've got an altitude tent or the time off work to spend a month at altitude prior to your endurance event, there isn't much you can do to completely restore your oxygen carrying capacity. However, here are some things that can be done to help minimize the negative impacts of arriving at altitude.
1. Proper hydration.
As an effect of the lower oxygen pressure, our body tries to compensate by increasing heart rate and respiration (breathing) especially during exercise. The increase in respiration leads to a heightened fluid loss and in turn a reduction in the amount of blood that the heart pumps with each beat, also known as the stroke volume. Proper hydration is an important step in minimizing the effects of water loss caused by altitude. Not only is it important to think about water, but also replenishment of electrolytes that my be expelled with the water through increased urine production.
2. Supplement with dietary nitrates
Studies have shown that beet juice or dietary nitrates containing Nitric Oxide NO-, increases oxygen carrying capacity and improves endurance performance. Beet juice being high in Nitric Oxide (NO) helps to deliver oxygen to the tissues not only in both lower and higher altitudes. Dietary nitrates in any form, have shown to increase muscle blood flow, regulation of muscular contractions, glucose uptake, and cellular respiration, all of which help deliver more oxygen to muscles.
3. Increase Caloric Intake
Even though the appetite is suppressed upon arrival to altitude, the body responds the pressure difference by raising the metabolic rate at which we burn energy. This is primarily in the form of carbohydrate. This increase in metabolic rate should be accompanied by an increase in caloric consumption to help support the extra energy expenditure.
4. Avoid excessive UV exposure
You may be tempted to subtly acclimatize to your new elevation by going for a hike, run, or bike to test your exercise capacity a little, but beware the UV Rays from the sun. Even a cloud covered day at high altitude can yield enough UV exposure to cause sunburn. According to the World Health Organization, at higher altitudes, a thinner atmosphere filters less UV radiation. With every 1000 metres increase in altitude, UV levels increase by 10% to 12%.
(http://www.who.int/uv/uv_and_health/en/). If you must get out and about, be aware of your exposure and pack some sunscreen.
5. Quality sleep and rest
Although it may seem obvious to ensure quality sleep and rest, it becomes especially important at altitude. Starting the first night at altitude, make sure you heed the bedtime call when your body tells you. As the pressure forces changes in your physiology, the extra stress imposed is grounds for a heightened level of rest and recovery.
All tolled, these tips will not completely minimize the effects of arriving at altitude but they will certainly help. If if it in your capacity to arrive at altitude before your event. Try to either compete immediately, within the first several hours, or after at least several days of acclimatization.