Athletes continually aim to perform better and break records with their athletic abilities. They spend an enormous amount of money and time improving performance, fitness, energy and endurance. There is however a secret usually overlooked to aid all these and more.
It will be fair for you to think “I know how to breathe, I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
But the pertinent question is : Do we maximise our potential by doing it the right way?
“The body is self-regulating, not self-optimising.”
Our body will keep us alive but it won’t make us healthy or improve our sports performance.
On an average, an individual takes 22,000 to 25,000 breaths every day. Optimising one’s life by breathing right can be extremely beneficial.
To understand how to use breathing techniques to unlock next level athletic performance, we need to first understand how oxygenation works inside the body.
When we inhale, oxygen moves into our lungs. At the lungs, the oxygen makes it’s way to these little air sacs called alveoli. Alveoli allows oxygen into the blood. Once oxygen passes through the alveoli, they hitch a ride to something called haemoglobin.
Haemoglobin is found in the blood and has a strong bond with oxygen. This makes them hard to separate. In order to release oxygen from haemoglobin, we need carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product from the working muscle.
Still with me? Wondering why we need to release oxygen?
Because our muscles need that oxygen to create energy, we need to have enough carbon dioxide present at the muscle to allow this exchange to take place. If there’s not enough carbon dioxide in the muscle, then oxygen won’t transfer across. If oxygen can’t transfer across, it can’t create energy. If we can’t create energy, then our performance suffers.
This phenomena is known was OXYGENATION.
Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide in the body
Traditional logic leads us to infer that to increase performance we need more oxygen in the body. In reality, the key is actually to maximise the efficiency of oxygenation. What actually matters is the amount of CO2 in the body since CO2 is required for oxygenation of cells.
So how can we increase the amount of CO2 in our bodies?
The key is by changing how and how much we breathe. Primarily, the essence here is to focus on nose breathing instead of mouth breathing.
Through the lens of athletic performance, mouth breathing is harmful since it actually leads to us expelling too much CO2. This puts us in a CO2-deficient position, which decreases our ability to oxygenate our cells.
By practising nose breathing, our CO2 levels increase to facilitate more efficient oxygenation. This reduces breathlessness and boosts athletic performance.
Breathing during rest impacts breathing during exercise
What’s crucial to understand when optimising your breathing is that the way we breathe during rest and sleep significantly impacts our level of breathlessness during physical activity. By learning how to optimise both our resting breathing and our activity breathing, we can leverage breathing as a powerful tool to boost athletic performance.
During rest and sleep, we want to focus on nose breathing in order to increase our body’s CO2 tolerance. For many of us, years of mouth breathing has actually lowered our body’s CO2 set point. However, it is possible to increase this set point via nose breathing and slow breathing. By increasing our body’s comfort level with a higher CO2 concentration during rest, we will be able to perform better when CO2 increases even further during periods of physical exertion.
Gain an edge by breathing less
Beyond just nose breathing, we can further increase our body’s oxygenation efficiency by learning to breathe slower. Nose breathing naturally leads to slower breathing, but using conscious breathing techniques we can train our body to use air more efficiently. When we breathe slowly, the inhaled air has more time in our lungs to be absorbed into the bloodstream. It also allows CO2 levels to rise before the CO2 is exhaled. The net result is that our body learns to do more, with less.
Nose breathing while training
In addition to optimising how we breathe during rest and sleep, it is also important to perform breathwork exercises during training. The principles are the same: use nose breathing and slow breathing to help increase the body’s tolerance to CO2. Next time you’re out running, cycling, or working out, see how long you can go without opening your mouth. Focus on slow, controlled inhales and exhales through your nose. At first, your body will feel like you’re starving for oxygen. But in reality your blood oxygen level is still going to by 95-99%. After even just a few weeks of this exercise, your body will become more tolerant of CO2, allowing you to breathe less (through your nose, of course). In turn this will drop your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and increase aerobic capacity.
Nasal breathing provides significant advantages over mouth breathing, particularly for athletes who want to improve performance as well as recover more efficiently.
Nasal breathing enhances endurance, recovery between high-intensity efforts, boosts immunity, and improves sleep quality. While mouth breathing is detrimental to your performance. It can cause forward head posture, dehydration, reduced carbon dioxide tolerance, and more.
Nasal breathing is accessible to everyone. It doesn’t require a coach or equipment and it can be done right now.
craving for more….
Here is an excerpt from a talk show between Joe Rogan and James Nestor – author of the book “Breath : The New Science of a Lost Art.”