riding: "The Effects"
There are several things that
you need to think about when you are cycling at high
First, you have to take into consideration the barometric
pressure changes due to the increase in altitude. When
you increase in altitude there is less pressure in the
air that you are breathing.
people think that there is less Oxygen, but the reality
is that the Oxygen percentage levels are the same at
any altitude in our atmosphere. Why all this talk about
pressure? Well, pressure is what makes the oxygen in
the air we breath get through membranes in our lungs
and into our blood. If there was no pressure in the
air we would die instantly. That is exactly what makes
climbing Mt. Everest so hard is the lack of pressure
in the ambient air that surrounds the climbers that
attempt the giant. There is just as much Oxygen at 24,000
feet as there is at sea-level - approximately 20.93%.
It is just that the pressure is so low at 24,000 feet
that your lungs are just unable to absorb oxygen.
when you are cycling at 8000 feet or higher you are
experiencing a decrease in the ability to absorb Oxygen.
Your power output is sacrificed because your muscles
require oxygen to burn carbohydrates and fat for energy.
Your body is forced to work harder for similar workloads
than it would at sea-level. Respiration is increased
due to lower levels of Oxygen in your blood so breathing
harder is very common. The body tends to burn more carbohydrates
at altitude. Since fat requires more Oxygen to burn
than Carbohydrates, the body will primarily burn Carbs
at high altitude than fat.
symptoms that exist from altitude sickness are headaches,
nausea, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss
of appetite, or extremely low energy levels. These are
all a result of pressure changes and Oxygen absorption.
Though they cannot be completely prevented they can
plan to take it easier when you arrive to altitude.
Unless you plan on staying for a long time, you will
not completely adapt to the new changes in pressure.
In order to adapt to changes in altitude, you must plan
to stay for at least a couple of weeks. Your body will
sense the lowered ability to absorb and process Oxygen
and begin to produce more red blood cells. Red blood
cells are what transports Oxygen throughout your body.
People who live at altitude tend to have higher concentrations
of these cells. This allows them to capture more Oxygen
when it is passing through their lung membranes. Drink
plenty of water and eat more than you normally consume.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco and get plenty of rest. Remember
your body is in a constant state of Oxygen debt.
thing that you must take into consideration when you
are at high altitudes is that the weather can change
rather quickly. If it looks like a fine sunny day on
one side of the mountain, it does not necessarily mean
that the other side of the hill is just as pleasurable.
Always take extra clothing, food, matches, lots of water,
and even a cell phone if you have one. You can never
be too prepared when traveling into the high country.
Be safe and have fun!
N., Human Anatomy and Physiology; Third Edition, Benjamin/Cummings