Oxygen Deprivation Tents vs Hyperbaric Chambers

Athletic training in Oxygen Deprivation Tents

Hyperbaric vs Hypobaric
Oxygen deprivation tents or altitude tents are risky at best

The practice has garnered much attention in the sports world. The debate on manipulating the body into making more blood, equaling more oxygen, is in itself controversial.

However, tent-training poses certain risks that should not be applied to the general population seeking its perceived benefits. Oxygen-deprivation training banks on the premise that the body will heal itself, adapt and compensate for an insult inflicted on the body. In this case, the insult is a simulated hypoxic (lack of oxygen) incident. These tents literally reduce the air’s oxygen concentration to below normal levels.

Under these reduced-oxygen conditions, the body goes into a self-preserving panic, forcing itself to produce more oxygen-carrying blood cells to make up for the oxygen volume loss. By producing more cells, it grabs the few oxygen molecules to itself greedily. Thus, when the person returns to a normally oxygenated environment, he or she will have a kind of boost in oxygen levels (and oxygen-bearing cells) until their body once again acclimates to the regular oxygen environment and the cells return to normal numbers.

Increased oxygen in the body has the effect of boosting performance of muscles. The body, thus enriched, is bolstered with a reserve.

Not all it seems

While this scenario may seem like a good option for those seeking that slight advantage, it is important to remember that oxygen deprivation tents actually cause a hypoxic incident, in which the body suffers from lack of oxygen. Healthy athletes “training” their bodies may be able to absorb this shock here and there, right before performances, but the fact that the body is being first injured and then demanded to heal itself, just to gain a small edge in performance is a bad recipe for long-term damage. In other words, just because you know your body can recover now, does not mean you should continue to push your luck.

It is important to remember that the body does not thrive in a hypoxic state, especially chronically. This is why it frantically tries to remedy the situation by trying to heal itself—producing more cells to allow you to thrive as much as it can during the hypoxic event. The body’s natural defenses know that hypoxia makes systems in the body vulnerable to certain malignant conditions that thrive on hypoxia—cancer growth, brain injury, circulatory diseases, and more. Needless to say, oxygen deprivation tents pose risks that can easily become real threats to the body’s welfare.

Hyperbaric, a practical solution

There is, however, a better solution to achieve a boost, without wreaking havoc on the body—the delivery of Hyperbaric Oxygen. Propelled by an increasing interest in the technologies derived from diving and mountain-climbing, Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers, have become a natural choice for many trainers. Hyperbaric chambers actually produce a healthy increase in oxygenation, without causing bodily damage to achieve a positive result.

Chamber works

By increasing the pressure inside the chamber, hyperbaric chambers simulate a descent to a depth below sea level. It is like diving 10-20 feet, for lower pressure treatments suitable for performance training purposes. Inside the pressurized device, the molecules of oxygen in the air compress and infuse inside the body, its blood, plasma, and organs. The body, and all its parts, likes the addition of oxygen (versus, a “depletion” of oxygen in the deprivation tents). This extra oxygen under pressure is a very important component.

All about the pressure

It is important to note that oxygenation alone does not yield the same results as hyperbaric oxygen—under pressure. Oxygen alone depends on the blood to carry the oxygen to carry it throughout the body. The number of cells does not increase or change. Instead, these cell-carriers fill up and simply deliver as usual, to their capacity. There is an easing in the body’s workload to transport the oxygen, but not enough of a boost to provide any kind of competitive edge being sought in this discussion. Under pressure, however, oxygen as a volume of gas is readily absorbed into the body—comprised mostly of water. Like a carbonated drink in which carbon is infused and locked, so is oxygen into every inch of the body. (By comparison, think of merely blowing carbon bubbles, through a tube into a glass of still water; there is no retention and the carbon will pass through and not bind with the liquid.) Pressure changes everything.

Benefits of Hyperbaric

Therefore, hyperbaric oxygen promotes:

  1. The formation of new capillaries and blood cells to carry the new oxygen load;
  2. A growth in all cells’ energy producing mitochondria to make use of new oxygen reserves at the cellular level;
  3. And a reduction in inflammation and lactic acid build up allowing the body to recover faster with the oxygen reaching injured sites at that cellular level.

True regeneration

As well as providing these incidental benefits to athletes and anyone training for performance or a healthy natural boost, hyperbaric oxygen safely offers much more, minus the risk. It is a tool that many athletes and trainers are including in their arsenal of training equipment. While training in many ways can be considered a tough and regimented need—to break the body, to rebuild it, and to push it to its limits—it is important to know that not all training must throw the body over edge just to see if it can recover. Hyperbaric is a win-win therapy—an oasis with a regenerative perk…

Source: International Hyperbarics Association’s, “The Pressure Point” Winter 2010.
Posted with permission from the International Hyperbarics Association, Inc.