Preparing For Altitude Training
To make the most of altitude training, it’s critical that your body be as prepared as possible for the metabolic demands and physiological changes that will occur.
1. Take an iron supplement.
Red blood cell mass and oxygen demands increase at a higher altitudes. As such, you need to supplement your diet with iron before you arrive at altitude. Supplementing with iron before will not only help prevent altitude sickness, but it will maximize metabolic benefits such as increased red blood cell counts and EPO production. The guidelines for Olympic athletes training at altitude is to supplement with 120 to 130 mg of elemental iron per day, divided into 2 doses, taken with vitamin C. You should consult with your doctor to get an iron test if you’re thinking about iron supplementation.
2. Take an antioxidant.
While most runners understand training at altitude will be made more difficult because of the thin air, many don’t realize that recovery from hard running at altitude is slowed because of an increased production of free radicals in the muscles. These free radicals contribute to fatigue and hamper recovery. To combat the effects of these free radicals, begin taking an antioxidant such as a multivitamin or Vitamin E before you head to the mountains and ward off as much free radical damage as you can.
3. Supplement with branch chain amino acids
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases at altitude, especially in the first couple of days, which means you’re actually burning more calories for the same amount of exercise. Meanwhile, appetite is suppressed by hypoxia, causing you to eat less because you’re not hungry. While this may sound great for those runners trying to lose weight, it’s detrimental to performance, especially when your body is already stressed. To minimize reduction in body mass and loss of muscle, make sure you’re eating enough and try supplementing with branched-chain amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids help to build muscle mass and prevent further deterioration of lean muscle mass at high altitudes.