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Storing oxygen in muscles?

Simos

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Feb 15, 2009
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Inspired by a documentary about sperm whales, I started wondering whether I should focus more on finding a training (and nutrition?) programme that will increase my ability to store oxygen in my muscles rather than training to get more air to my lungs and use it more efficiently.

Does anyone know if there is a training regime which would result in maximising oxygen stored in muscles? Would weight training and becoming more muscular help?

Also - do you think that empty lung statics would give a better indication of whether or not my capacity to store oxygen in the muscles has increased?
 
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Simos

Simos

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Feb 15, 2009
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Just to clarify - the relevance to sperm whales is that the way they apparently can dive for so long is not the amount of air they can hold but the very high levels of myoglobin - in fact there is do much that it evens results in their muscle tissue being black in colour!
 

efattah

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Mar 2, 2001
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Increasing myoglobin through training has been discussed a lot on this forum in the last 8 years.

The problem is that although many exercises have been invented to do this, no one knows for certain if they are working since it is so unbelievably expensive and difficult to measure your myoglobin levels.

First of all, high myoglobin levels are *useless* unless you have a profound vasoconstriction. The myoglobin only releases oxygen under extreme energy failure situations, and this will only happen if there is no blood flowing to the muscle. If blood is flowing to the muscle, oxygen will be *always* be drained from the blood first.

Secondly, if you want to develop myoglobin, you first must enter a state of profound vasoconstriction so that almost no blood is flowing into the muscle. Then, in this state, you must exercise the muscle until it fails (massive lactate accumulation). Then, you rest until the lactic acid clears, and you repeat the exercise. The big problem is how to get such a big vasoconstriction. The best way is diving in very cold water without anything on your legs. You need to do a long warm up of dives, preferably at submax inhale, then after a long warm up in very cold water, you start the myoglobin exercises. However if you do this, you need to eat a huge amount of iron, B6, B12, folic acid, C and protein to support the production of myoglobin.

And, when you finish developing myoglobin, your dive time will not increase at all. The only thing it will help is delaying muscle fatigue. So if you don't experience total muscle failure on your dives, it won't help. In the situation of extreme vasoconstriction, your muscles will fail almost immediately upon swimming. Looking at a seal, for example, if a seal had little or no myoglobin, its swimming muscles would fail immediately upon the start of the dive due to the extreme vasoconstriction.
 
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Simos

Simos

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Feb 15, 2009
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You killed the dream Eric lol

thanks for the info, very interesting!
 

Mullins

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Mar 4, 2004
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Yeah, local muscular endurance isn't much use unless you're already hitting a wall in that regard, i.e. legs failing towards the end of a performance.

Also, it's difficult to know how to train because nobody knows what causes fatigue and muscle failure in normal exercise, let alone in apnea.
 

xristos

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Sep 5, 2013
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What about occlusion training wouldn't that reduce the supply of oxygen in the muscle thus achieving the desired adaptation?
 

Leander

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Oct 17, 2017
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You mean like in rockclimbing? Extended static muscle contractions?

I just closed an article about climbing nutrition and the oxygen use of muscles during climbing. I'll try and find it in the browser's history (easier said than done, I'm the 100-tabs-open type).
 

xristos

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Sep 5, 2013
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I mean "occlusion training" you can google it, in short it is tying a not too tight band at the start of a limb so that you reduce bloodflow and make stronger adaptations. It's used in physiotherapy as well because it can yield results without big weight loads .
 

Leander

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Oct 17, 2017
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So it's like vasoconstriction-on-demand? I can see that working.

The climbing article talked about a similar effect with extended isometric contractions, which also limit the bloodflow and cause the muscles to become oxygen-starved.
 
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Nathan Vinski

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Apr 19, 2015
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What about occlusion training wouldn't that reduce the supply of oxygen in the muscle thus achieving the desired adaptation?
The question is, is increased myoglobin a 'desired' adaptation worth pursuing? Unlike proper aquatic mammals we lack the strength of vasoconstriction required to actually need muscle O2 stores. We always get enough bloodflow to the muscle, (like Eric said, most research supports the idea that if O2 can come from the blood.. It will) So we'd BO long before out muscles start functioning on myoglobin at any level of efficient.

Secondly, it might be interesting to measure myoglobin levels in 2 types of freedivers.

high-intermediate to elite (70-130m depth or 175-300m) competitors and look for myoglobin differences

vs

Semi-regular to professional (daily) spearfishers who dive more like a marine mammal would: Lots of dives looking for food.

I would predict that the spearfishers would have higher myoglobin due simply to the volume to time spent in the water (the key difference between sea mammals and non sea mammals is the volume of time they spend diving, other than genetic selection to have more myoglobin and better vasocontriction).

I would also expect that 1-rep max divers (competitors) would have more type-2 muscle fibers, high lactic tolerance, and low(er) myoglobin, as this is probably what's needed to do just 1 massive dive, compared to hours of small ones.

In short. The best adaptations will occur from actually doing the activity your training for (maximally-specific training), and second, maybe you'd want to train 2-different approaches depending on what you're training for. If you're a competitor, but it;s found that 1-rep max dives don't have increased myoglobin, then it's clearly the wrong type of adaptation to pursue.
 
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