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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Petergeorge

The Oxygen Advantage – Patrick McKeown


Overview

A simple yet revolutionary approach

to improving your body’s oxygen

use, increasing your health, weight

loss, and sports performance—

whether you’re a recovering couch

potato or an Ironman triathlon

champion


Part 1 - The Secret of Breath Chapter 1 - Oxygen Paradox


Myth: Taking a large breath into your lungs during rest will increase oxygen content of the blood

  • This is actually the wrong thing to do if you seek greater endurance

  • When we breathe, air enters the body and flows down the windpipe (trachea), which then divides into two branches called bronchi. The bronchi further subdivide into smaller branches called bronchioles and eventually into multitude of small air sacs called alveoli.

    • It is physiologically impossible to increase the oxygen saturation of your blood by breathing in large volume of air. This is because the blood is almost always already fully saturated.

  • It is like pouring more water into a glass that is already filled to the brim

  • Oxygen saturation SpO2) is the percentage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells containing oxygen within the blood.

  • The misconception of breathing deep stems from stress counselors, yoga practitioners, sports coaches. This is because taking a large breath can actually feel good, even if it can actually be bad for you.

  • Just as a cat enjoys a good stretch following a midday nap, taking a big breath into the lungs stretches the upper part of the body, allowing a feeling of relaxation to follow but it has nothing to do with being more oxygenated.

  • Bohr Effect - the way in which oxygen is released from hemoglobin (protein in blood) and delivered to the muscles and organs

  • Hemoglobin releases oxygen when in the presence of carbon dioxide. So when we over breathe, too much carbon dioxide is washed from the longs causing the hemoglobin to hold onto the oxygen, resulting in less oxygen release to the cells

Regulation of breathing

  • There are two main aspects to breathing: i) The rate or number of breaths taken in 1 minute ii) the volume or amount of air drawn into your lungs with each breath

  • In conventional medicine a healthy person takes 10 to 12 breaths a minute with each breath drawing a volume of 500 milliliters of air for a total volume of 5 to 6 liters

  • It's not oxygen that exerts the primary influence on your breathing efficiency, but carbon dioxide

  • The primary stimulus to breathe is to eliminate excess carbon dioxide from the body

  • Correct breathing relies on the right amount of carbon dioxide being retained in your lungs

  • The problem is not a lack of oxygen in the blood for people, but that not enough oxygen is being released from the blood to tissues and organs, including the brain, resulting in feelings of lethargy and exhaustion

    • This happens because too much carbon dioxide has been expelled from the body.

Carbon Dioxide: Not Just a Waste of Gas

  • Carbon Dioxide performs a number of vital functions in the human body including:

    • Offloading of oxygen from the blood to be used by the cells.

    • The dilation of the smooth muscle in the walls of the airways and blood vessels

    • The regulation of blood pH

Chapter 2 - How Fit Are You Really? The Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT)

  • Over breathing for a period of days and weeks, however, removes more carbon dioxide than is necessary, increasing the sensitivity of the brain's receptors

  • When breathing receptors are less sensitive to carbon dioxide levels, you will experience a reduction in breathlessness as your body is able to work harder with far less effort

  • Vo2 = maximum capacity of your body to transport and utilize oxygen in 1 minute during maximal or exhaustive exercise

BOLT

  • Does not measure how long you can hold your breath but how long it takes for you to feel the first natural desire to breathe

  • Take a normal breath in through your nose and allow a normal breath out through your nose

  • Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs

  • Time the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe

  • Release your nose, stop the timer, and breathe in through your nose. (if you need to take a big breath at the end of this, then you have held your breath for too long

  • Resume normal breathing

  • A common BOLT starting score for individuals is 20 seconds

  • Aim of Oxygen Advantage is to build BOLT scores up to 40 seconds

  • Having and improved tolerance to carbon dioxide means you are able to achieve a higher VO2 max

Three Steps to Increase BOLT

  • Stop Losses of Carbon Dioxide

    • Breathe through your nose day and night

    • Stop sighing instead, swallow or suppress the sigh

  • One sigh taken every few minutes is enough to maintain chronic over breathing, so it is necessary to counteract the sigh by swallowing or holding the breath. If you notice your sighs only have taken place, then hold your breath for 10 to 15 second to help compensate for the loss of carbon dioxide.

    • Avoid taking big breaths when yawning or talking

  • You should not be able to hear your breathing during talking. If you do slow down your talking speed.

    • Observe your breathing throughout the day. Good breathing during rest should not be seen or heard.

  • Improve Tolerance of Carbon Dioxide

  • Simulate High-Altitude Training

Chapter 3 - Noses are for breathing, mouths are for eating

  • The common misconception of taking a deep breath is to puff out the chest and raise the shoulders, but this is neither deep nor beneficial to oxygenating the body

  • A true deep breath is abdominal, gentle and quiet

  • Acid-forming foods such as processed products, dairy, met , bread, sugar, coffee and tea stimulate breathing and requires a demand for greater breathing, which can cause over breathing to become a habit

The Nose - A Most Important Organ

  • Nose breathing imposes ~50% more resistance to the airstream in normal individuals than does mouth breathing, resulting in 10 to 20% more O2 uptake

  • Nasal breathing warms and humidifies incoming air - less likely to get a cold

  • Nasal breathing removes a significant amount of germs and bacteria from the air you breathe in

Mouth breathing

  • Greater risk of developing forward head posture and reduced respiratory strength

  • Breathing through the mouth contributes to general dehydration

  • A dry mouth also increases acidification of the mouth and dental/gum disease

  • Mouth breathing causes bad breath due to altered bacterial flora

  • Breathing through the mouth increases snoring and sleep apnea

  • Breathing through your mouth long term actually changes your facial structure (makes you less attractive as it narrows your face) and screws up your teeth alignment(reason why more people need braces nowadays)

Nose Unblocking Exercise

  • Humming can actually increase nitric oxide in the body

  • Unblocking exercise should not be done right after eating

Steps:

  • Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and a small silent breath out through your nose

  • Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath

  • Walks as many paces as possible with your breath held.

  • When you resume breathing, do so only through your nose. Try to calm your breathing immediately

  • After resuming your breathing, your first breath will probably be bigger than normal. Make sure that you calm your breathing as soon as possible by suppressing your second and third breaths

  • You should be able to recover normal breathing within 2 or 3 breaths. If your breathing is erratic of heaving than usual, you have held your breathing for too long

  • Wait 1 or 2 minutes before repeating the breath hold

  • In order to prepare yourself for the longer breath holds, go easy for the first few repetitions, increasing our paces each time

  • Repeat for a total of 6 breath holds, creating a fairly strong need for air

  • 80 paces is an achievable goal

Nasal Breathing at Night

  • The key to improving the quality of sleep was to keep your mouth closed during sleep

  • Because we are unaware of how we breathe at night, the only way to ensure nasal breathing is to wear light paper tape across the lips to prevent the mouth from falling open.

  • Use this method for around three mounts to ensure you are nasal breathing at night

  • Waking up with your mouth dry is a sign that you were mouth breathing at night


Chapter 4 - Breathe Light to Breathe Right

  • Breathing is very core to the Chinese concept of "chi":

    • First is to breathe softly so that a person standing next to you does not heard your breathing

    • Second level is to breathe softly so that you do not hear yourself breathing

    • Third level is to breathe softly so that you do not feel yourself breathing

  • By utilizing the natural benefits of abdominal breathing you will improve the quality of your blood flow, increase delivery of oxygen to working muscles, and reduce the symptoms of anxiety associated with over breathing

  • Using time to measure the size of a breath is a fundamental error

  • It is impossible to change breathing volume by altering breathing rate, but the best way to naturally alter your breathing rate is to reduce your breathing volume.

Breathe Light to Breathe Right Exercise

  • Sit up straight. Allow shoulders to relax. Imagine a piece of string gently holding you up from the top of the back of your head. Feel the space between your ribs gradually widening

  • Place on hand on your chest and one hand about your navel.

  • Feel your abdomen gently moving outward as you inhale and gently moving inward as you exhale

  • As you breathe, exert gentle pressure with your hands against your abdomen and chest. This should create resistance to your breathing

  • Breathe against your hands, concentrating on making the size of each breathe smaller

  • With each breath, take in less air than you would like to. Make the in-breath smaller or shorter

  • Gently slow down and reduce your breathing movements until you feel a tolerable hunger for air

  • Breathe out with a relaxed exhalation. Allow the natural elasticity of your lungs and diaphragm to play their role in each exhalation. Imagine a balloon slowly and gently deflating of its own accord

  • When the in-breath becomes smaller and the out-breath is relaxed, visible breathing movements will be reduced. You may be able to notice this in a mirror

Chapter 5 - Secrets of Ancient Tribes

  • Try working out with purely nasal breathing. If you need to open your mouth to breathe while working out - it means you are working out at too fast of a pace, slow down and perform at a pace that you can mouth breathe

  • When you first start to workout using nasal breathing, your nose may start to run constantly - this is common as your body is getting used to nasal breathing (clears up in a few weeks)

Nasal breathing and benefits to sports performance

  • Filtering, warming and humidifying air before it is drawn into the lungs

  • Reducing the heart rate

  • Bringing nitric oxide into the lungs to open airways and blood vessels

  • Better oxygen delivery throughout the body

  • Reduced lactic acid as more oxygen is delivered to working muscles

During physical exercise, there are three ways to reduce air intake to improve capacity

  • Relax your body and take less air into your lungs

  • Increase exercise intensity while nasal breathing

  • Practice breath holding during exercise

Warming up prior to your work out also helps you with breathing

  • The production of more carbon dioxide during your warm up will improve the release of oxygen from the blood to tissues and organs increasing VO2 max, improving endurance, and reducing the risk of injury

  • The opening of blood vessels and airways - allowing for better blood flow and easy breathing

  • By skipping an adequate warm-up - either through impatience or because you believe it's not necessary - you are cheating yourself out of performing at your full capability

Oxygen Advantage Warm-Up

  • Begin walking at a pace that is comfortable for you

  • During your warm-up, try to breathe regularly and calmly through your nose, using your diaphragm to maintain a gentle and relaxed breathing technique

  • Feel your abdomen gently moving outward as you inhale and gently moving inward as you exhale

  • As you walk, allow a feeling of relaxation to spread throughout your body. Silently encourage the area around your chest and abdomen to relax ( you will find that any tension can be released by silently telling that area of body to relax). Feel your body relax and become soft.

  • After 1 minute or so of walking at a good pace, exhale normally through your nose and pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath.

  • While holding your breath , walk for 10 to 30 paces, or until you feel a moderate need to breathe.

When you feel this hunger for air, let go of your nose and resume breathing

  • Continue waking for 10 minutes, performing a breath hold every minute or so


Breathing Recovery Exercise

  • Exhale as normal through your nose

  • Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold the breath for 2 to 5 seconds

  • Breathe normally through the nose for 10 seconds

  • Repeat the first 3 steps throughout your cooldown

  • Resume regular breathing


Part 2: The Secret of Fitness


Chapter 6 - Gaining the Edge - Naturally

  • Try and hold your breath at times to feel the effects of high altitude training

  • Performing a breath hold after an exhalation lowers the oxygen saturation of the blood to simulate the effects of high-altitude training

  • Erythropoietin ("EPO") is a hormone secreted by the kidneys in response to reduced oxygen levels in the blood. EPO stimulates the maturation of red blood cells in the bone marrow, thereby increasing oxygen delivery to muscles

    • Breath holding is an effective way of stimulating the release of EPO

  • In essence, holding the breath until a medium to strong need for air mobilizes the diaphragm, provides it with a workout and helps to strengthen it

  • Working a muscle without sufficient fuel generates lactic acid, a buildup of lactic acid creates a burning or cramping sensation that slows down the muscles. By breath holding you expose your body to higher levels of acidity thereby improving tolerance and delaying the onset of fatigue

Chapter 7 - Bring the mountain to you

  • Breath holding during jogging or running can be the next level after training while walking to improve

BOLT scores

  • Only start breathe holding 10-15 minutes into jogging/running after the body is warmed up

  • Swimming is the only activity where breathing through the mouth is necessary

Simulate High-Altitude Training While Walking

  • Walk and hold : After a minute of continuous walking, gently exhale and hold your breath. Continue walking until you feel a medium to strong air shortage. Then breath by taking very short breaths for about 15 seconds

  • Continue walking for 30 seconds and repeat: Continue walking for around 30 second while breathing through your nose and then repeat the above.

  • Repeat breath holds 8 to 10 times


Chapter 8 - Rapid weight loss without dieting

  • Not properly breathing changing the PH in your blood causing you to crave acidic food such as processed and sugary foods

    • This can create a poor diet cycle causing further improper breathing

  • Breaking the vicious cycle of acid-forming foods and increased breathing volume is certainly a factor in achieving weight loss and provoking a reduction in appetite.

  • The reason for sustained weight loss at high altitude seems to coincide with the lack of appetite experienced at high altitude due to a reduced saturation of oxygen in the blood

Nature vs Nurture

  • Optimal breathing will help form proper face structure for children

  • The proper tongue placement to ensure your jaw is growing properly is to place 3/4 of the tongue on the roof of your mouth with the tip of the tongue behind the two front teeth (should be able to make the "nuh" sound)

    • Ancient Buddhist scriptures contain passages describing how Buddha pressed his tongue against the roof of the mouth to control hunger and the mind

  • Aristotle quote: "Beauty is a far greater recommendation than any letter of introduction"

Summary of Breathing Exercises

  • Nose Unblocking Exercise

  • Breathe Light to Breathe Right

  • Breathing Recovery, Improved Concentration

  • Simulate High-Altitude Training

BOLT Test

  • Take a small silent breath in through your nose, and allow a small, silent breath out through your nose

  • Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs

  • Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe

  • At the first definite desire to breathe in, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles. (Your abdomen may jerk and the area around your neck may contract.)

  • Release your nose and breathe in through it

  • Your inhalation at the end of the breath should be calm

Nose Unblocking Exercise

  • Take a small, silent breath in and a small, silent breath out through your nose

  • Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath

  • Walk as many paces as possible with your breath held. Try to build up a strong air shortage, without over doing it

  • When you resume breathing, do so only through you nose your breathing must be calmed immediately

  • After resuming your breathing, your first breath will usually be bigger than normal. Make sure that you calm your breathing as soon as possible by suppressing our second and third breaths

  • You should be able to recover your breath within 2 to 3 breaths. If you cannot, you have held your breath for too long

  • Wait for about a minute or so and then repeat

  • Repeat this exercise 5 or 6 times until the nose is decongested

Breathe Light to Breathe Right

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other just above your navel to help you to follow your breathing

  • Breathe in and gently guide your abdomen outward

  • Breathe out and gently guide your abdomen inward

  • Observe your breathing pattern, noting the size and depth of each breath

  • Apply gentle pressure with your hands to slightly reduce your breathing movements. It should feel as if you are breathing against your hands

  • Encourage the depth of each breath to reduce

  • Take in a smaller or shorter breath than you would like

  • Allow a relaxed breath out, exhaling gently, slowly and easily

  • Bring a feeling of relaxation to your breathing

  • Do not tense your body, hold your breath or pause your breathing. Continue to breathe smoothly but take in less air than before

  • The objective of this exercise is to create a tolerable hunger for air. Try to sustain this for 3 to 5 minutes at a time. If your breathing rhythm becomes chaotic or if your breathing muscles contract, then the air shortage you have created is too much

Breathing Recovery, Improved Concentration

  • Exhale as normal through the nose

  • Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold the breath for 2 to 5 seconds

  • Breathe normally through the nose for 10 seconds

  • Repeat the first three steps

Simulate High-Altitude Training

  • Walk for 1 minute or so while breathing through your nose

  • Gently exhale and hold your breath, followed by minimal breathing for 15 seconds: Gently exhale, pinch your nose, and walk while holding the breath until you feel a medium hunger for air, then release your nose, inhale through it, and minimize your breathing for 15 seconds by taking short breaths. After 30 seconds of continued walking and nose breathing, repeat the breath hold until you feel a medium hunger for air. Minimize your breathing for 15 second, then allow your breathing to return to normal and through the nose.

  • Continue walking for 30 seconds and repeat: Continue walking for around 30 seconds while breathing through your nose , then gently exhale and pinch your nose with your fingers. Walk while holding your breath until you feel a medium to strong hunger for air. Release your nose and minimize your breathing by taking short breaths for about 15 seconds. Then resume breathing through your nose.

  • Repeat breath holds 8 to 10 times: While continuing to walk, perform a breath hold every minute or so in order to create a medium to strong need for air. Minimize your breathing for 15 seconds following each breath hold. Repeat for a total of 8 to 10 breath-holds during your walk.

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