Question

What are the physiological benefits of altitude acclimatization?

Answer
  1. Oxygen Intake - After altitude, when you take a breath, more oxygen gets from your lungs into your blood stream.
  2. Oxygen Transportation - After altitude exposure you have more red blood cell mass and higher hematocrit - the ratio of red blood cells to total blood volume. (If half of the blood is red cells then hematocrit is 50%, if 1/3 of the blood is red cells then hematocrit is 33%). Red blood cells carry oxygen to your muscle cells where it is converted to energy for athletic performance. The more red blood cells you have the more oxygen you deliver to the muscles.
  3. More Blood too. Greater blood volume helps too. Altitude acclimatization not only produces more red cells it produces a greater total blood volume as well.
  4. Better delivery of oxygen to the cells. Altitude acclimatization creates more capillaries. This improves the delivery of the oxygen to the muscles by giving the blood more pathways to the muscles.
  5. Better oxygen use. Increased volume of mitochondria. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cells - they convert oxygen to energy. When the volume of mitochondria increase, the cell can perform more work - the kind that wins races.

The net result is an increase in your VO2 max - the maximum amount of oxygen you can convert to energy. More oxygen converted to energy equals more power, more endurance and greater speed. You will go longer, faster and with less effort because your body has become more efficient.