Using a training mask

Altitude masks are increasingly popular in gyms, so we asked James Fletcher if they work.

Training at altitude is great, but what about the fad of altitude masks? According to Fletcher, they just don’t work.

Fletcher points out that altitude masks claim to simulate altitude training, which can increase the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood and the delivery of oxygen to your muscles, making them more efficient.

But Fletcher points out that “there are well-established protocols to achieve these benefits that include weeks or months spent living and training at altitude, where the oxygen content of the air is reduced.

“When training at altitude, your body doesn’t get the amount of oxygen it needs to operate efficiently. Over time, your body compensates for this by improving its ability to carry and deliver oxygen. This results in an increased ability to exercise when an athlete returns to sea level, where more oxygen is available and with a body that’s more efficient at delivering it. This effect only lasts a few weeks before your body returns to its normal state.

“Altitude masks do nothing like this. They use a flow resistive valve, which makes it harder to breathe. Some users report improved breathing after training with the device, much like I imagine swimming would feel easier after taking a lead weight belt off. There is no evidence for improved exercise performance training with these devices, they are just a fad.”