Training Masks Pros and Cons
Training masks have remained hidden in the background of the fitness industry as people aren’t quite sure whether they’re worth their high price tag. In theory, they seem like a great idea, but in practice, do they really live up to the hype?
The real name for breathing masks is “hypoxia masks” after the word “hypoxiation” which is where the body is deprived of oxygen. You can achieve this through several methods, but most notably, through high altitude training. Many athletes spend weeks if not months training at a high altitude to get their body used to running on low oxygen. When they then compete or come back to training with an abundance of oxygen, their body will be more effective and efficient at utilising it for exercise.
In order to emulate this without the high costs of travel, hypoxia masks have been created. However, a study published in 2010 found that “hypoxia as a supplement to training is not consistently found to be advantageous for performance at sea level. Stronger evidence exists for the benefits of hypoxic training on performance at altitude”. This basically means that if you’re going to compete in a low-oxygen state, then you should train in a low oxygen state.
Another study published 3 years before found that “acute exposure of moderately trained subjects to normobaric hypoxia during a short-term training programme consisting of moderate- to high-intensity intermittent exercise has no enhanced effect on the degree of improvement in either aerobic or anaerobic performance.”
However, other studies have shown that hypoxia training every now and again can increase red blood cell count and your aerobic capacity, making you more effective at cardiovascular training.
So, what’s the bottom line? If you’re just training to be healthy, then a hypoxia mask is a pointless, expensive, and possibly dangerous investment. Yet, if you’re looking to compete and compete somewhere high above sea level, then using an hypoxia mask on and off could be useful. However, in order to get the benefits, you need to wear the mask 24/7, not just during training which is highly impractical for most people’s lifestyles. Hypoxia masks simply don’t have enough research behind them at the minute to be conclude as useful, and once they do, it’s most likely that they’ll only be useful for a small minority of the population who are competing at a high level or just searching for a dope device for some swaggy photos.