Altitude Training in a Bottle

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How It Works

How Mountain Might Works In a Nut Shell

Mountain Might is a blend of natural ingredients that isolate the major respective physiological adaptations of high altitude training.   These active compounds and their corresponding benefits are listed below.

  •  N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that provides two of the major physiological adaptations of altitude training.  NAC is a precursor to a signaling molecules called S-nitrosothiols that trigger red blood cell production and an increased respiratory drive.  When at altitude, S-nitrosothiols are released by red blood cells as they become desaturated with oxygen in order to signal for acclimatization.
  • Sodium Phosphate is an organic phosphate salt that induces three physiological adaptations of altitude training.  Firstly, by heightening the production of 2,3 DPG, it improves oxygen unloading to muscles and tissues.  Sodium phosphate supplementation also increases the concentration of phosphates in skeletal muscle thereby increasing their buffering capacity. Both of these physiological changes occur during the course of an altitude-training program.  Finally, sodium phosphate also enhances cardiac output by increasing ATP availability in heart muscle cells.  Contrary to chronic altitude exposure, cardiac output has been shown to be increased from the live high, train low model, and evidence suggests this may be a result of increased high energy phosphate in heart cells.
  • Hawthorn Berry Extract is a cardiac adaptogen that can increase cardiac output by simultaneously enhancing heart contractility and reducing blood pressure.  Though physiologists still debate the performance implications of high altitude’s effect on cardiac output, most agree that altitude-induced reductions in stroke volume limit maximal oxygen consumption.  Including hawthorn berry in the Mountain Might formula helps restore cardiovascular performance at altitude, and may also work synergistically with sodium phosphate to give athletes a performance boost at sea-level.
  • Ferrous Bisglycinate is a highly absorbable form of iron commonly taken by mountaineers and endurance athletes.  Iron deficiency is highly prevalent among athletes and has been shown to stunt improvements in red blood cell production during altitude training.
  • Methylcobalamin is a naturally occurring, highly absorbable form of vitamin B12.  Vitamin B12 deficiencies also compromise our body’s ability to generate red blood cells, by interfering with vital processes of cellular development.
  • Folic Acid is an important nutrient that becomes rapidly converted into folate after it enters the body.  Similarly to that of vitamin B12, folate deficiencies interfere with cell division and replication necessary for new red blood cell formation.

In Depth Comparison of Mountain Might and Altitude Training

High Altitude and the Oxygen Sensing Signal Cascade:
N-acetylcysteine naturally provides two of the most important adaptations our bodys’ have to high altitude—red blood cell production and enhanced ventilation.  Understanding how this happens requires knowledge of a process called the oxygen-sensing signal cascade.  When you travel to high altitude or step into a hypoxic tent, your blood immediately becomes less saturated with oxygen.  When this happens, the sites on hemoglobin upon which oxygen normally binds form molecules called S-nitrosothiols (Diesen et al. 2008).  These molecules then act as biological messengers telling the body to start acclimatizing to low oxygen.

Initially, S-nitrosothiols act upon endothelial cells that line your blood vessels causing vasodilation (Rassaf et al. 2002).  As these molecules circulate they also interact with blood oxygen sensors in the carotid bodies.  After receiving this biological signal, carotid bodies tell the respiratory center in the brain to increase the rate and depth of breathing (Butcher, 2001).  This phenomenon, known as the hypoxic ventilatory response is the body’s principal compensator for low oxygen.  As S-nitrosothiols continue to circulate, they interact with specialized cells in our kidneys and signal for the production of new red blood cells (Hildebrandt et al. 2001)

N-Acetylcysteine Initiates the Oxygen Sensing Signal Cascade

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is the most potent precursor to the production S-nitrosothiols.  In fact, an 8-day supplementation regiment of NAC significantly increased hematocrit and hemoglobin by 9% (Zebron-Lacny et al. 2008).  Identical increases were replicated by the same authors in a later study (Zebron-Lacny et al. 2010).   Fascinatingly, this large of an increase in blood oxygen carrying capacity equates to that of a successful 4-week high altitude training regiment (Levine & Stray-Gundersen 1997; Stray-Gundersen et al. 2001).  NAC supplementation has also been shown to enhance ventilatory pressure during normoxic exercise by 14% as well as significantly enhance the ventilatory response to hypoxic exercise (Kelly MK et al. 2008; Hildebrandt et al. 2001).

In addition to physiological parameters, NAC supplementation has been shown to directly enhance athletic performance.  Specifically, studies have reported improvements in time to exhaustion of 23%, increases in V02 max of 7%, as well as improvements in high intensity cycling performance (Mckenna et al. 2006; Leelarungrayub D. et al. 2011; Slattery et al. 2014)

Role of 2,3 DPG in Altitude Acclimatization and Athletic Performance

After you spend several days in the mountains or as a result of long term endurance training, your body synthesizes an elevated amount of an enzyme called 2,3 diphosphoglycerate (2,3 DPG).  This enzyme interacts with hemoglobin in your blood enabling it to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and tissues.

In addition to conferring tolerance to high altitude, 2,3 DPG has also been linked to enhanced aerobic performance.  Scientists have even correlated 2,3 DPG levels in the blood with an athlete’s V02 max using sodium phosphate supplementation (Cade et al. 2004). Due to chemical structure similarities, sodium phosphate induces a spike in 2,3 DPG similar to that elicited by high altitude exposure.  In this study, athletes who had the largest spike in 2,3 DPG in response to sodium phosphate also had the largest increases in V02 max (Cade et al. 2004).

How Much Sodium Phosphate is Necessary to Boost 2,3 DPG?

In one study performed at the University of Sidney, subjects who ingested 4 grams of sodium phosphate for multiple days had blood serum 2,3 DPG levels that were 30% higher than control group levels (Bremmer K. et al. 2002).  For comparison, the Pikes Peak Climax study reported average increases of 15-20% after exposure to roughly 14,000 ft (Moore and Brewer, 1980).  Another study demonstrated that 500 mg of sodium phosphate per day for four days significantly increased 2,3 DPG concentrations by 18%, as well as increasing oxygen delivery, cognitive function, and psychological well-being at 3,500 m (11,482 ft) (Jain et al. 1987).  Though this low of a dosage has been shown to enhance altitude tolerance, larger doses are thought to be necessary to enhance performance at sea-level.

We used basic linear regression to formulated Mountain Might to contain a dosage of sodium phosphate that would increase 2,3 DPG similarly to acclimatization to moderate altitude of 7,000-9,000 ft.  It is also important to consider that the reduced hemoglobin-oxygen affinity elevated conferred by 2,3 DPG synthesis is believed to only be beneficial at altitudes below approximately 20,000 ft, whereby respiratory alkalosis begins to increase the overall oxy-hemoglobin affinity (Winslow et al. 1983).

Boosting Muscle Buffering Capacity

When you exercise, byproducts of energy generating processes begin to accumulate in your blood and cells.  These byproducts impair your muscles ability to contract and give you the sensation of “the burn.”  Your body has several buffering agents that neutralize these byproducts and enable your muscles to work longer.  One of these role players in “extending glycolysis” is skeletal muscle phosphate.

Many altitude-training studies demonstrate that it increases our muscle’s buffering capacity.  Though scientists do not know exactly how, alterations in intracellular phosphate may be responsible (Mizuno et al. 1990).  This suggestion has been further support by recent evidence demonstrating higher levels intramuscular phosphate in elite mountaineers at sea-level as well as increases in intramuscular phosphate in both elite mountaineers and less fit trekkers after exposure to high altitude (Edwards et al. 2010).

Sodium phosphate supplementation has been extensively studied for its ability to increase muscle-buffering capacity by increasing phosphate levels.  These studies, which monitored both serum phosphate concentrations and anaerobic threshold data, all demonstrated that sodium phosphate supplementation provides significant increases in muscle performance likely mediated by increased buffering capacity (Krieder et al. 1992, Bredle et al. 1988)

High Altitude’s Effect on Heart Contractility and Cardiac Output

The effects of high altitude of heart contractility and cardiac output vary.  Upon acute exposure and as a result of chronic exposure, cardiac output decreases.  This is likely due to a combination of peripheral vasoconstriction, losses in plasma volume, oxidative stress, and reduced ATP availability in the muscle cells of the heart.  The hearts strong reliance on oxygen for the synthesis of ATP makes it especially vulnerable to reduced contractility.  For these reasons numerous studies on altitude training reported drops in cardiac output (Hartley et al. 1967; Ferretti et al. 1990).

However, there is some evidence that sufficient intermittent altitude exposure may cause the heart to adapt in such a way that enhances its ability to pump blood and increase an athlete’s V02 max.  This research is showing that live high, train low methods can successfully increase cardiac output by enhancing the contractility or energy utilization of cardiac tissue (Liu et al. 1998).  We wanted to provide this potential benefit as well as mitigate losses in heart contractility associated with acute and chronic altitude exposure.

Hawthorn Berry and Sodium Phosphate Synergism

Sodium phosphate supplementation has also been demonstrated to increase athletic performance by enhancing stroke volume and the contractile function of the heart (Kreider et al. 1992; Czuba et al. 2009).  Interestingly, the authors suggest that sodium phosphate brought about these improvements by increasing ATP availability in heart cells, which is also a mechanism by which the cardiac cells of rats have been shown to adapt to hypoxia (Novel-Chate et al. 1995).

Hawthorn berry extract has also been shown to provide a host of improvements in cardiac function including increased output, reduced blood pressure, increased contractility, and improved exercise tolerance in the elderly (Schmidt et al., 1994; O’Connolly et al., 1986; O’Connolly et al., 1987; Leuchtgens, 1993).  As a cardiac adaptogen, it is unique from nearly all nutrients because of its ability to naturally improve multiple aspects of cardiac function in a stressor-dependent manner.  Furthermore, hawthorn berry’s numerous mechanisms of action including coronary vessel dilation and cardiac beta-adrenergic receptor sensitization have also been suggested to be beneficial aspects of cardiac adjustment to hypoxia (Liu et al. 1998).

Its ability reduce peripheral blood pressure and oxidative stress, while enhancing heart contractility may attenuate the cardiovascular acute response to altitude that hampers aerobic performance.  These unique benefits to heart performance also likely combine with that of sodium phosphate to affect substantially higher increases in cardiac output and V02 max.

The Combined Effect: Athletic Performance Elevated

On top of providing three powerful active ingredients at clinically effective dosages, the Mountain Might formula works synergistically to maximize your performance.  It does so by enhancing oxygen uptake intake in the lungs, transport in the blood, and delivery to tissues, while simultaneously reducing the oxygen cost of ATP regeneration within working cells.

Are There Other Physiological Benefits of Altitude Training?

Scientist still debate what the exact physiological benefits of altitude training are. For example, some have proposed that adjustments enhancing the delivery and utilization of oxygen on a cellular level may play a role.  These adaptations, which  include increased mitochondrial capacity, myoglobin production, and new blood vessel growth may enhance cellular oxygen extraction and utilization.  However, there is no strong evidence demonstrating that 1) they actually occur to a detectable degree or 2) that they actually increase athletic performance.

Furthermore, modern scientific literature suggests that both mitochondrial biogenesis and myoglobin synthesis are actually reduced during acclimatization to altitude (Ferreti, 2003; Howald and Hoppeler 2003; Robach et al. 2007).  Altitude studies also suggest that increased tissue capillarity at high altitude occurs as a result of a loss in muscle mass, as opposed to the proliferation of new blood vessels (Boutellier et al 1983; Hoppeler et al. 1990; Green et al. 1989).  More on this topic, Mountain Might research details, and quantitative comparisons to modern altitude training techniques are available in our scientific review below:

Scientific Review of Mountain Might

References:

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Bremner K, et al.: The effect of phosphate loading on erythrocyte 2,3-bisphophoglycerate levels. Clinical Chimica Acta 2002, 323:111-14.

Butcher, J. (2001). S-nitrosothiols-lots of deep breaths required. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)06085-8

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Czuba, Milosz. 2009. Effects of sodium phosphate loading on aerobic power and capacity in off road cyclists. Journal of Sport Science and Medicine 8: 591-599

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Ferretti, G., U. Boutellier, D.R. Pendergast, C. Moia, A.E. Minetti, H. Howald, P.E. Prampero. 1990. Oxygen transport system before and after exposure to chronic hypoxia. International Journal of Sports Medicine 11 (Suppl.1): S15-S20

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Zebron-Lacny, A, Slowinska-Lisowska, M, Szygula, Z, Witkowski, Z, Svyszka, L. Modulatory Effect of N-Acetytlcysteine on Pro Oxidant Status and Hematological Response in Healthy Men. 2010 Mar;66(1):15-21. doi: 10.1007/s13105-010-0002-1. Epub 2010 Mar 31.