Matt W. Kane

Oxygen Advantage

The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You
Patrick McKeown

Foreword by Dr. Joseph Mercola

It has been well documented that those who live at higher altitudes tend to live longer.

            Of course, most of us live our lives close to sea level and do not achieve this benefit. But there are simple strategies that will allow you to access the benefits of living at a high altitude with reduced oxygen intake: keeping your mouth closed while you are breathing and practicing the various exercises outlined in this book. This is a challenge during intense exercise due to air hunger, but this is when most of the benefit actually occurs. I have personally implemented the information in The Oxygen Advantage during my high-intensity workouts. It took me several weeks to make the transition to breathing through my nose the entire time, but once accomplished, breathing became a far more efficient process for me.

PART I: The Secret of Breath

CHAPTER 1: The Oxygen Paradox

            “Who here believes that taking a large breath into the lungs during rest will increase oxygen content of the blood?” Without hesitation, 95 percent of the runners raised their hands. They were wrong, but they aren’t alone—this belief is widespread in the world of sports and fitness. But taking a large breath into the lungs during rest will not increase oxygen content. It is exactly the wrong thing to do if you seek greater endurance.

            Based on this misconception, many athletes adopt the practice of intentionally taking deep breaths during rest and training, and especially when their bodies are overtaxed. By doing so, however, they in fact limit and sometimes even diminish their performance.

Dilation and Constriction of Airways and Blood Vessels

            It is well documented that habitual mouth breathing during waking and sleeping hours results in fatigue, poor concentration, reduced productivity, and a bad mood. Hardly an ideal recipe for quality living or a productive exercise program.

            The same can also be true of individuals whose occupation involves considerable talking, such as schoolteachers or salespeople. People in these professions are often all too aware of how tired they feel after a day of work, but the exhaustion that follows endless business meetings is not necessarily due to mental or physical effort—more likely it is a result of the effects of elevated breathing levels during excessive talking. It is normal for breathing to increase during physical exercise as the body demands more oxygen to convert food into energy.

CHAPTER 2: How Fit Are You Really? The Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT)

  • If you need to take a big breath at the end of the breath hold, then you have held your breath for too long.

A common starting BOLT score for an individual who exercises regularly at a moderate intensity will be approximately 20 seconds. If your BOLT score is below 20 seconds, depending on genetic predisposition, you will probably find you experience a blocked nose, coughing, wheezing, disrupted sleep, snoring, fatigue, and excessive breathlessness during physical exercise. Each time that your BOLT score increases by 5 seconds, you will feel better, with more energy and reduce breathlessness during physical exercise. The aim of the Oxygen Advantage program is to increase your BOLT score to 40 seconds, and this can be realistically achieved.

            Improving your BOLT scores is an important key to attaining a greater physical endurance. As we have already seen, having an improved tolerance to carbon dioxide means you are able to achieve a higher VO2 max and improved performance. The Oxygen Advantage program is all about increasing your BOLT score and maximizing your potential!

BOLT Score and Breathing Volume

CHAPTER 3: Noses Are for Breathing, Mouths Are for Eating

Nose Unblocking Exercise

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            Taping the mouth at night ensures the benefits of good breathing during sleep, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly, stay asleep longer, and wake feeling energized. The tape that I have found most suitable, as it is simple to use, hypoallergenic, and light, is 3M Micropore tape, which can be bought from most drug stores.

            How long this takes will vary from person to person, but in general wearing the tape for a period of around three months is sufficient to restore nasal breathing during sleep. Breathing through your nose will result in a naturally moist mouth when you wake up. If your mouth is dry upon waking, you know that your mouth was open during sleep. When a child has one eye with weaker vision, the treatment often recommended is to temporarily cover the good eye with a patch to train the brain to strengthen the weaker eye and restore normal vision. In the same way, wearing tape across the lips during sleep or when alone in your house during the day gradually trains the body to adapt to nasal breathing both day and night. Spending a guaranteed eight hours breathing through your nose while you sleep is an opportune way to reeducate your respiratory center to adjust to a more normal breathing volume.

CHAPTER 5: Secrets of Ancient Tribes

            While we need to be efficient with our use of oxygen, it is also imperative that the size of our airways enables air to flow freely to and from the lungs. If children or teenagers spend five or ten years with their mouths hanging open, their faces will become narrow, their jaws will not develop correctly, and their airway sizes will be reduced. Nasal breathing during the formative years is absolutely essential to help ensure correct development of the face, jaws, and airways.

Train Your Body To Do More With Less

To reap the most benefit from your physical training, you need to train your body to do more with less. To do this, you will need to reduce your air intake. Incorporating those concepts into your training will result in improved breathing economy and an increase in your athletic performance, along with reduced breathlessness and lactic acid during competition.

            Creating an air shortage by holding the breath during your warmup is vitally important to cause an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood before physical exercise commences.

  • Measure your BOLT score before training.
  • Perform your physical exercise.
  • Measure your BOLT score one hour after you finish training.
  • If your BOLT score is higher after exercise then before, your breathing is efficient during exercise.
  • if your BOLT score is lower after exercise then before, your breathing is inefficient during exercise. In this situation, it is safer to slow down and ensure your breathing remains controlled throughout exercise.

PART II: The Secret of Fitness

Chapter 6: Gaining the Edge—Naturally

Bicarbonate of Soda—More Than Just a Cooking Ingredient

In a similar way that breath holding delays the onset of fatigue during sports, countless studies have shown that taking the alkaline agent bicarbonate of soda reduces acidity in the blood to improve endurance. Who would have thought that a cooking ingredient found in almost every kitchen cupboard in the Western world could also improve sports performance? Not only that, but it is a very helpful tool to reduce your breathing volume and increase your BOLT score.

            Bicarbonate of soda is a salt that is found dissolved in many natural mineral springs and is usually sold as baking soda, bread soda, or cooking soda. This ingredient has a wide variety of uses ranging from baking to brushing your teeth to cleaning your fridge.

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CHAPTER 7: Bring the Mountain to You

Breath Holding During Cycling

  • After your body has warmed up, exhale and hold your breath for 5 to 15 pedal rotations.
  • Resume nasal breathing while continuing to cycle for about 1 minute.
  • Repeat this exercise 8 to 10 times throughout your ride.

Advanced Stimulation of High-Altitude Training

  • To regulate the decrease in oxygen saturation to below 94 percent and to ensure that it does not go below 80 percent, it is important to use a higher-quality pulse oximeter during this exercise.
  • This exercise should be practiced on a relatively empty stomach, at least three hours after eating.
  • The first breath hold is between 40 and 60 paces, or until you feel a medium to strong need for air.
  • After the first breath hold, subsequent holds are performed every 5 to 10 paces.
  • Following each breath hold, either exhale through your nose or take a sip of air in through your nose before the next breath hold.
  • A “sip of air” means taking a tiny breath in, the purpose of which is to relieve tension rather than take an air. It is about 10 percent of a normal breath.
  • Contractions of the diaphragm will strengthen as the air shortage progresses. Try to bring a feeling of relaxation to your body as the air shortage increases.
  • With each successive breath hold, oxygen saturation will continue to decrease.
  • Continue to observe the pulse oximeter, ensuring that you do not go below 80 percent of SpO2.
  • Challenge but do not stress yourself.
  • If the air shortage is too great, take a slightly larger breath and continue to relax.
  • Perform this exercise for 1 to 2 minutes.

Please note that it is not advisable or even necessary to lower your oxygen saturation below 80 percent. Maintaining an oxygen saturation of less than 91 percent for approximately 24 seconds can result in an increase of EPO of up to 24 percent, while maintaining the saturation for 136 seconds can result in an increase of EPO of up to 36 percent.

PART III: The Secret of Health

CHAPTER 11: Improve Oxygenation of Your Heart

I soon discovered a study conducted by the University of Exeter that investigated the effects of increased dietary intake of beet juice, which is rich in the nitrates required to generate nitric oxide. A study group of men aged between nineteen and thirty-eight drank about two cups of beet juice every day for a week. This resulted in a “remarkable reduction” in the amount of oxygen required to perform exercise in comparison with a control group who drank water: The beet juice drinkers were able to cycle up to 16 percent longer