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10-06-2012 | Physiology | Article

Ideal time for postaltitude competition discovered


Meeting website

MedWire News: Athletes may perform at their best within 48 hours or 18-22 days after returning from altitude training, suggest study findings.

The findings, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine 59th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, USA, could help end the debate among coaches as to when the "ideal" time is for postaltitude competition.

"[Coaches] either believe an athlete should compete within 48 hours of coming back from altitude or in the 18- to 22-day range after returning," said lead study author Robert Chapman (Indiana University, Bloomington, USA) in an associated press release.

The changes in performance-related cardiorespiratory measures found in the current study support this contention.

Chapman and team followed up six elite male distance runners who completed a 28-day altitude training intervention at 2150 meters using a "live high-train low" (LHTL) model. Using this protocol, athletes lived at a high altitude but trained at 1000 meters to do harder and faster workouts a few times per week.

Measurement at sea level showed that isocapnic hypoxic ventilatory response was significantly elevated above pre-altitude level within 24 hours upon return and gradually declined back to baseline level over a 3-week period. No significant differences in cardiorespiratory measures were seen during maximal exercise pre-altitude to 24 hours postaltitude.

Furthermore, heart rate was significantly lower at 24 hours, days 5-6, and days 20-21 postaltitude compared with pre-altitude levels. No significant difference in heart rate was seen on days 12-13 relative to baseline.

A similar pattern was observed for respiratory muscle oxygen uptake, which was significantly lower than pre-altitude measures at 24 hours and rose to a peak at 12-13 days postaltitude, before declining again at 20-21 days.

The average race time in competition at sea level on days 9-10 postaltitude was 0.4% slower than the pre-altitude personal best, while results from day 26 showed an average time improvement of 0.6%.

"The research will help athletes plan for major competitions," said study co-author Abby Laymon (Indiana University).

By Ingrid Grasmo

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