Since oxygen plays a crucial role in the functioning of our entire body, the effects of altitude are incredibly diverse. These are the most important physical reactions when exposed to altitude:
- Hyperventilation: Breathe faster and deeper to try to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
- A decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia) and therefore the oxygen uptake in the body. This reduces endurance and recovery capacity.
- An increase in the sub maximum heartbeat and a slight decrease in the maximum heart rate.
- A less good one memory, worse to sleep, a slower one response time, ... (with longer exposure).
- A greater consumption of carbohydrates (sugars) compared to fats.
- A faster production of lactic acid in the muscles compared to sea level.
- An increased effect of hormones, such as adrenaline.
The main adaptations of the body to oxygen deficiency are, firstly, an increase in the haematocrit, which is the number of red blood cells in the blood. This is on condition that the body can absorb sufficient nutrients such as iron from the diet.
Secondly, the oxygen uptake in the body improves thanks to more efficient breathing and better use of oxygen in the muscles, provided that there is intensive training at height.
This article is published in the Running.be magazine.