Will those ventilation masks make me a better athlete?
You might have seen some ‘hardcore’ gym enthusiasts wearing them. Special ventilation masks that make you look like Bane from Batman. Manufacturers promise that they will increase performance and stamina and defeat workout fatigue, by simulating training at high altitudes. Big promises. But what does the evidence say?
We’re going to look at just 1 study in this post, to help figure out exactly what’s going on and if they really are doing what the manufacturers say.
This study took 17 male cadets and measured their anaerobic and aerobic capacity. All subjects were determined to be of similar fitness levels. They were then allocated to a control group (CON), who didn’t wear a mask and a group who did wear a mask (MASK), that was set to simulate training at 2743.2m in each session. All participants, ordinarily were training at an altitude of 299.9m. They then trained for a period of 6 weeks, completing their training sessions under the supervision of their commanding officers.
In terms of Anaerobic Capacity, both groups experienced an improvement, the study stating that “both MASK and CON groups demonstrated minute yet insignificant increases in AC of 4.5% and 4.19% respectively”.
In terms of Aerobic Capacity, VO2 Max for the CON group increased was increased by 5.57% and VO2 Max for the MASK group was increased by 1.81%.
ANY LIMITATIONS IN THE STUDY?
One limitation of this study, however, is that training regimes were not matched, as some of the subjects were part of the air force and some were part of the army. This meant some trained twice per week and some trained four times per week, which may have affected the results. So future studies should look to determine the impact when subjects have the same training regimes matched.
Also, nutrition was not controlled. We know that there are ergogenic substances which could affect ones training intensity and adaptations to exercise. For example, caffeine and dietary nitrates can affect one’s rate of perceived exertion and time to fatigue and some may have consumed more of these substances than others. We just don’t know.
Are they worth it?
That said, this study shows that in terms of Anaerobic Capacity, there was a very slight improvement for the MASK group, though fairly insignificat. In terms of Aerobic Capacity, it seems that you would be better off not wearing a mask.
There are a few more studies out there, that look at how effective these masks are in terms of simulating high altitudes and improving lung function. So expect this article to be updated.
For now, if you’re thinking of investing in one, to improve your athletic performance, hold off for now until a body of research conclusively demonstrates that they actually are effective. We recommend that you purchase one purely for performing killer Bane impressions at your next fancy dress party.
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