Low Oxygen ➲ Low Body Fat: Low Oxygen Environment Turns Light Intensity Exercise into a Powerful Fat-Burner

If you haven't seen an altitude chamber like this (hypoxico.com) in your gym, you will have a hard time copying the training protocol of the study at hand.
You will probably remember my article about "Training and Living in Hypoxia" (read it) from January 2014. Some of you may even remember the article I posted one year before about a study that found that swimmers lost a whopping 11% of body fat while training in a high altitude camp (read this article, as well).

You are thus probably aware of the purported link between a lack of oxygen in the air you breath and the amount of energy your cells consume. As a regular at the SuppVersity you will also be aware that athletes have used the adaptive response to training in hyopxia (which is like high intensity training for your mitochondria) is highly useful for (endurance) athletes.
Blood flow restriction / occlusion training and Hypoxia are two very different ways to train!

EPO Effect of Low Oxygen

-11% Fat in 3 W. Altitude Training!

Training & Living in Hyopoxia

Strength Up, Size Down W/ Kaatsu

Hypoxia vs. Occlusion

Blood Flow Restriction
During their stays in altitude training camps, researchers observed significant reductions of body mass and fat mass and an increase in insulin sensitivity obesity researchers can hardly ignore. It is thus only logical that scientists from the Osaka Institute of Health conducted a study to examine the effects of exercise training under mild hypoxic conditions on body composition and circulating adiponectin levels in postmenopausal women, which is not only one of the subject groups that is at highest risk of unhealthy weight gain, but also as different from the young, lean, male athlete in the average "altitude training camp"-study.

To assess whether postmenopausal women would benefit to a similar extend from training under (albeit mild) oxygen-deprivation, fourteen postmenopausal women (56 +/- 1 years) were assigned to train either under normoxic (N group) or hypoxic (H group) conditions.
Don't be a fool! Wearing a mask that will make it hard for you to breath is significantly different from training at high altitudes and it is more than unlikely that the stupid masks will produce anywhere similar results to training in a true low oxygen environment, where you breath easy, but simply don't get the normal amount of oxygen with every breath.
Both groups performed the same 30-minute aquatic exercise program at only 50% of their individual peak oxygen uptake level four times per week for 8 weeks.
"The subjects were required to perform exercise maintaining approximately the target HR, which was predetermined from a cycling exercise (pretest), at an intensity of 50%VO _ 2peak. To achieve the target HR, instructors also gave movement instructions to individual participants. Water level was set at around the xiphisternal level (water temperature 27–29°C). The N group performed exercise training under normobaric normoxic conditions (749 3–750 0 mmHg). On the other hand, the H group performed exercise training under hypobaric hypoxic conditions corresponding to 2000 m above sea level (600 1–603 8 mmHg) [... Otherwise] Participants in both groups were instructed to main tain their normal diet and to refrain from any other specific exercise training throughout the study period" (Nishiwaki. 2015).
In that, it is important to note that the subjects in the H group were exposed to the low oxygen condition which mimicked training at 2000 m above sea level for more than just the 30 minutes of (under normoxic conditions) actually pretty light exercise.
Figure 1: The sign. reductions in body fat and visceral fat were highly (inversely) correlated to the changes in adiponectin the scientists observed. The inter-group differences are impressive (Nishiwaki. 2015),
Rather than that, each participant was exposed to these conditions for 2 h per session. This was done, because a previous study has demonstrated that hypoxic stimulus influences the changes in circulating metabolites and hormones in terms of substrate metabolism during exercise and the recovery over the total 2 h (Katayama. 2010) and may thus be relevant if you want to copy the procedure for your clients.
Individual changes in lean body mass, % body fat, subcutanous and preperitoneal (visceral) body fat in the 14 post-menopausal women who participated in the study at hand. Needless to say that increase in adiponectin (not shown) occured only in individual sin the hypoxia group (Nishiwaki. 2015).
The results are impressive, but there's more to keep in mind than the organizational issues (Who has the equipment to have his clients train under hypoxic conditions?) to keep in mind before you are offering training in a low oxygen environment to your clients and that's the type of fat your clients are about to lose: At least in the study at hand, it's exclusively visceral fat (see Figure on the right)!

Don't get me wrong, that's good and healthy, but it's not the type of fat that's covering your clients abs. If you are working with metabolically lean (=low visceral fat) clients or want to train under hypoxia yourself, you will probably have to hit it harder than the ladies in the study at hand to lose subcutaneous body fat, too. That this can work is evident if you take a look at the initially cited SuppVersity articles in which I discuss the similarly impressive results of studies on more athletic subjects | Comment on Facebook!
  • Katayama, Keisho, et al. "Substrate utilization during exercise and recovery at moderate altitude." Metabolism 59.7 (2010): 959-966.
  • Nishiwaki, et al. "The effects of exercise training under mild hypoxic conditions on body composition and circulating adiponectin in postmenopausal women." Clin Physiol Funct Imaging (2015): Accepted article.
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