What are some economical oxygen-deprivation possibilities

Since I am looking to move from moderately high altitude (5300 feet) to possibly sea level in the near future, and I want to continue to train for cycling pretty competitively, I am looking pretty seriously at some oxygen deprivation devices that might simulate high altitude.

That whole, live high, train low concept.

Anyway, while shopping around on the internet, the cheapest alternatives that I could find were in the $10,000 dollar plus range, frankly way out of my realm of possibility.

So, what are some more economical options for doing something along these lines? Certainly, removing oxygen from air is a well studied reaction where I can find some cheaper alternatives than the tune of $10,000. Even a little do-it-yourselfness couldn’t hurt, presuming of course that we are doing this on a blow-by basis rather than a sealed up tent, etc.

Anyone care to advise?

Hold your breath?

Deliberately depriving yourself of oxygen doesn’t strike me as a particularly good idea at any rate.

I don’t see how anything short of a space suit is going to prevent long term adaptation to low altitude. Sure, you could take up smoking and rely on the carbon monoxide to outcompete oxygen for heme bining sites, but what are you going to do while you’re sleeping?
$10,000 seems mighty cheap for the sort of setup I’d think you’d need to accomplish much. How about showing us your links?

This is a training method that has garnered a large amount of study and attention. All of the sites here, particularly the Go2Altitude one have a lot of independent research to back up a number of their claims, and the fact that people adapt to high altitude, and that a reduced concentration of oxygen is a good simulator of altitude, is a well agreed upon point.

That this directly converts into athletic performance is a slightly more controversial claim. Some say that it robs you of recovery ability, but most will agree that a combination of low altitude training and some sort of high altitude/hypoxic training is more effective than training alone.

How much more effecive? I won’t make any claims to that effect? Would I be better off spending the money on other factors that might help my training? I don’t know. I guess it depends upon the price of some sort of hypoxic system.

Here are the requested links:


Perhaps this thread would have been better titled with talk of altitude simulation than oxygen-deprivation to make it clear what I am trying to do.

Wow, those are sweet little machines. I took a look at the patent behind the Colorado Mountain Room (6,565,624) and it’s basically a zeolite (clay) based oxygen concentrator hooked up so as to dump the O[sub]2[/sub], and fill your room with nitrogen. There’s also a chemical (Calcium and Sodium Hydroxide) CO[sub]2[/sub] scrubber and all sorts of control circuitry to prevent mishaps. The machine is NOT a good candidate for a do it yourself project.
GO2Altitude’s Hypoxicator looks to be based on the same general principles, although they don’t provide much in the way of details. What’s slightly more promising in terms of something you might be able to rig at home is CAT’s first patent (5,860,857 ) in which they use nitrogen to dilute ordinary air to the desired O[sub]2[/sub] content. That’d still be a major undertaking, and expensive in the long run, but if you only needed to buy nitrogen tanks for a week or two…
As far as other methods of limiting oxygen, I think you’re pretty much out of luck. Combustion of carbon yields too much CO[sub]2[/sub], Burning Hydrogen would turn your room into a swamp, and metals have a nasty habit of giving off ammonia when you burn them in damp air. Fermentation again yields too much CO[sub]2[/sub], and chemical oxygen scrubbers are fabulously expensive.
Perhaps I’ve forgotten something?

I live @ 1200 ft, and train for hunting @ 10,000 ft. I do this by wearing a dust mask during training.
You can also do it by extending the breathing tube ie. a snorkle tube. the longer the tube the less exchange of O2. be carefull!

Hypoxia leads to activation of a regulatory pathway controled by hypoxia indicible factor (HIF, it comes in more than part and variety, but we’ll just call it HIF), a transcription factor that turns on a variety of genes to help cells and tissues cope with the effects of low oxygen. One of the genes up-regulated by HIF is erythropoietin (EPO), a protein that stimulates stem cells in your bone marrow to divide and produce daughter cells that differentiate into erythrocytes. You need these extra erythrocytes in a hypoxic environment to increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood.

One way to simulate this effect of hypoxia is to simply inject EPO. If one is closely monitored, this can be done safely. However, if you overdose on EPO, you can get dangerously high levels of erythrocyte production, a condition called erythrocytosis. Blood viscosity increases greatly with increased hematrocrit, and if the blood gets too thick, especially combined with the stresses of exercise (elevated b.p., dehydration), sudden death can occur through cardiac arrest and other problems. If you’re competing professionally, you’ll also get booted from the sport if you’re caught doping with EPO, so I guess that’s not an option.

So people try to “naturally” dope by putting themselves in hypoxic or hypobaric chambers to simulate high altitude, which can lead to dramatic increases in hematocrit. Unless it was a really well-regulated system (that’s likely to be super-expensive), I wouldn’t go near something that’s supposed to deprive me of oxygen during my non-training hours. It’s have to be some really sophisticated chamber like what Lance Armstrong has in his bedroom or whatever. Those things are damn expensive. I’m not so sure about the tents. Remember, also, that the trade-off for increased hematocrit is decreased volume available for hydration. It’s easier to get dangerously dehydrated if your hematocrit is very high, and I think Armstrong ran afoul of this side effect on at least one occasion. A person’s better off just moving to Colorado, if you ask me. Let nature do its job the way it was meant to.

Well, thank you all for your advice.

I see that it looks that my only real options are either buying MUCHO nitrogen or one of these little machines. Just FYI, I found another site that offers them for around $6500. I figure that there must be some sort of used market for these babies…

Obviously, the EPO simply isn’t an option. Getting banned and what not…

Also, I do live in Colorado. The problem with just living in Colorado is that you are limited in your maximal efforts and have more endurance, but less peak strength.

So, if you guys don’t mind, what is the actual feasability of working out some sort of nitrogen-dilution solution? It seems like a pretty feasable option, since it is readily available in liquid form, correct? I did some fast calculations, and it seems like 1kg of the liquid would provide me with about 86 L of the stuff at room temperature at 1 atm. Let’s just assume that we want to knock the concentration of 02 from 20.8% (0 feet) to 15% (9000 feet). Assuming a total flow of close to 10L/min (liberal), around 2.8 of that should be pure nitrogen. That means close to 31 minutes of air/kg. Rather than doing this for extended periods of time like a tent, I would really only be using this for up to an hour and a half using the interval method described, and only when awake. I could get one of the 02 monitors, and I have access to a pulse-ox regardless.

So, really, the important question is, how can I regulate all of these flows, how much does a dewer for LN2 cost, and how much does LN2 cost per kg?

Firstly, be aware that what you are proposing to do can kill you if you get it wrong. The trigger to breathe in humans comes mostly from accumulation of CO[sub]2[/sub]. If you wound up breathing pure nitrogen, you would be flushing CO[sub]2[/sub] away and you could pass out and die before you knew anything was wrong.

Having said that there may be a cheap safe way to do what you want. My boss dives with a rebreather, that contains a can of granulated sodium hydroxide to scrub out CO[sub]2[/sub] so he can rebreathe the gas he’s already breathed. (Oxygen is trickled into the mix to replace that which you’ve consumed.) He says that if you just breathe through the scrubber into a bag, rebreathing the same air over and over again and scrubbing out the CO[sub]2[/sub], you can pass out from hypoxia as the oxygen level drops, without any significant discomfort.

If you had a mouthpiece with two tubes, one going to a-scrubber-and bag, the other going to the open air, you could reduce the concentration of oxygen in the air you were breathing. For example, if the tube diameters were such that 75% of your inhalation/exhalation was to the open air and the rest through the scrubber, then you’d get down to about 15%. You’d have to fiddle with tube diameters and capture your exhalation as bubbles in inverted bottles of water to get your flow ratios right, but after that you’d be set. The scrubber itself you could get from a dive supply shop. They could probably give you a lot of advice as well.

gbrohman’s suggestion of breathing through a long tube is correct in that you will partially be rebreathing your own exhalation, which will be lower in oxygen. But you will also be rebreathing your own CO[sub]2[/sub], which is not desirable when you’re training. However, breathing through a scrubber with a long tube at the end of it would work, but it would be hard to control the levels.

On second thoughts, you can’t work out the percentage oxygen you’d be getting using gas flow volumes alone, using the scheme I outlined above. The assumption that the air cycling through the scrubber is completely oxygen depleted is not valid.

You’d need some kind of oxygen meter on your face mask/mouthpiece, and a pair of adjustable valves on the pipes going to the scrubber-and-bag and the open air to get the oxygen level you want. Which might be more trouble than its worth.

I still recommend talking to some divers who use rebreather kits - oxygen sensors are integral to their equipment. And if you have a go and make it work, you could put it on the market in competition with the expensive kits and make a fortune. If that happens you owe me a beer!

The dust filtration mask works very well, it has an inhalation check valve to completely dump dump the exhaled breath. Also I do double up on the filters just prior to leaving for Colorado. May people tell me they have trouble with breathing when they get into higher altitudes. I never experienced that. I just happen to train on the dusty primary ore conveyors where i work during break time and ta-da I was conditioning myself for altitudes also.

Okay, thanks for advice. Will look into dive shop possibilities for oxygen concentration monitors. The other deal, though, is that these other hypoxic people sell O2 meters for just a couple hundred bucks.

At any rate, I think that I found some pretty cheap solid state, no electronics nitrogen-generators that simply use an air compressor and a semi-permeable membrane that lets everything but nitrogen through and then passes the compressed nitrogen on through flow regulators. They use them to fill up tires on trucks to maintain tire life, so I figure, how expensive can they be?

At any rate, I am guessing that this can be done pretty economically if the solid-state membranes work out.

Again, thanks.

Yes, beer is owed all around if this works out.