Monday, October 12, 2015

Athletes Recover From Overtraining in Hypoxia - 4 Weeks of Low Intensity Training in Low Oxygen Environment Will Do

With overtraining you have to undertrain to reverse the damage you've done. Doing so in intermittent hypoxia, returns important markers of OT to normal in less than 4 weeks in T&F athletes.
As Davide Susta and colleagues point out in the introduction to their pilot study on the effects of repeated hypoxia–hyperoxia exposure and light exercise enhances performance in athletes with overtraining syndrome, "[o]vertraining syndrome (OTS) is a major concern among endurance athletes and is a leading cause in preventing them to perform for long periods" (Susta. 2015).

As a SuppVersity reader you will know that as much and be aware of the benefits of training in hypoxia in non-overtrained athletes, where multiple studies have shown its efficacy to improve performance and body composition - often without exercising or at least only regular workouts.
You can learn more about overtraining and checking your training status at the SuppVersity

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The aim of the pilot study at hand was now to bring the two together, i.e. overtraining and intermittent hypoxia–hyperoxia training in combination with light exercise as an intervention to facilitate athletes with OTS to restore their usual performance level. For the experiment, the scientists recruited thirty-four track and field athletes:
"15 athletes with OTS volunteered to participate and undertook a conditioning programme consisting of repeated exposures to hypoxia (O2 at 10%) and hyperoxia (O2 at 30%) (6–8 cycles, total time 45 min–1 h), three times a week, delivered 1 5–2 h after a low-intensity exercise session (2 bouts of 30 min, running at 50% of VO2max with 10 min rest between bouts) over 4 weeks" (Susta. 2015). 
Nineteen healthy track and field athletes volunteered to participate as a control group and followed their usual training schedule. Measurements before and after the intervention included exercise capacity, analysis of heart rate variability and hematological parameters.
Figure 1: Pre vs. post results of the PWC170 (Boreham. 1990) performance test in overtrained and normal athletes (Susta. 2015) indicate that even with hypoxic training the time it takes to recover is a throwback for athletes.
In athletes with OTS, a 4-week light exercise combined with intermittent hypoxia–hyperoxia training
improved exercise performance (191. 9 +/- 26. 9 W versus 170 .8 +/- 44 .8 W in exercise capacity test in which the subjects physical work capacity was tested at a heart rate of 170 beats per minute | PWC170 | P = 0 01).
Figure 2: The most significant marker that indicates the normalization of the training status in the overtrained group is the LH/HF Index, the only variable that is plotted against the secondary axis (Susta. 2015).
In line with these improvement, the scientists' heart rate variability analysis (see Figure 2) revealed an improved sympatho-parasympathetic index (low frequency/high frequency ratio, wit 8 .01 +/- 7 .51 before and 1 .45 +/- 1 .71 after | indicative of a significant improvement in one of the few direct measures of overtraining we have | P = 0 007). All hematological parameters were unchanged.
If you've tried to use overraching to increase your performance, the hypoxia-hyperoxia protocol used in the study could come very handy to help you recover | learn more.
Bottom line: While the scientists are right to conclude that their "pilot study showed that intermittent hypoxia–hyperoxia training and low-intensity exercise can facilitate functional recovery among athletes with OTS in a relatively short time" (Susta. 2015). They forget to mention that they didn't test their protocol vs. a regular light intensity exercise protocol.

A follow up study in which this is being done and the effects on performance and the normalization of the sympatho-parasympathetic index are compared between the regular and hypoxia training group is thus necessary before one could recommend training in hypoxia for athletes and/or gymrats suffering from the very existent overtraining syndrome | Comment on Facebook!
  • Boreham, C. A., V. J. Paliczka, and A. K. Nichols. "A comparison of the PWC170 and 20-MST tests of aerobic fitness in adolescent schoolchildren." The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 30.1 (1990): 19-23.
  • Susta, Davide, Elena Dudnik, and Oleg S. Glazachev. "A programme based on repeated hypoxia–hyperoxia exposure and light exercise enhances performance in athletes with overtraining syndrome: a pilot study." Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging (2015).