Key facts from the article
There is no 'one' perfect way to lose weight
Altitude increases the metabolic rate, meaning at altitude you burn more calories than you do at sea level.
Altitude suppresses your appetite and this can last up to a month after returning to sea level.
With less oxygen available, your body produces more red blood cells to cope with this deficit and this can increase your aerobic capacity.
Peru Fitness Holidays offer altitude, healthy meals and specific workouts to ensure that our holidays will exceed your expectations.
If you are looking for the best way to lose fat, the simple answer is that there is no “best way”. Each person will respond differently to a training program, diet and many other factors that can affect the fat burning process. But there are some basic rules and conditions, which will definitely help you to reach your goal. This is where altitude comes in. It is well known to be associated with weight loss and has actually been used as a method of weight reduction in obese patients.
Both researchers and mountaineers have long observed weight loss at high altitudes. Hypobaric hypoxia (reduced oxygen content of air) affects our metabolism giving us the perfect conditions to burn more fat. Can you imagine that you are getting slimmer whilst not changing anything in your calorie intake? This is what altitude will do for you.
What hypoxia does with your body?
The mechanisms of this process are still widely discussed. It is already known altitude is associated with increase in a basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day. Some studies revealed that BMR increases in lowlanders by 6–27% over the first several days after arrival at high altitude, which is directly proportional to altitude gain (at 3650 m BMR increases by 6%, whereas increases of 10% and 27% occur at 3800 and 4300 m respectively). After a few weeks of acclimatization it tends to decline but still remains higher than at sea level.
Hypobaric hypoxia facilitates weight reduction not only by increasing energy expenditure but also by suppressing appetite. It doesn’t mean you should eat less but if you feel like a Cookie Monster from time to time then it will be much easier to control your eating habits whilst at altitude. As researches shows it may be mostly because levels of leptin, the satiety hormone, surges during a stay at the altitude, while grehlin, the hunger hormone, remains unchanged. But what’s more, the same study showed that even after the return to your low-lying communities, you can expect maintained weight loss (“What is nice about this paper, is that it clearly demonstrates that there’s a lasting effect of decreased caloric intake, that people eat less even a month after they come out of high altitude,” said Massachusetts General Hospital anesthesiologist Kay Leissner, who studies high altitude physiology.)
Changes in your blood
The greatest challenge facing humans at altitude is the reduction in the partial pressure of oxygen that results from a fall in barometric pressure. Erythropoietin (hormone that controls red blood cell production) increases rapidly with peak levels occurring 48–72 hours upon altitude exposure. Because of this, lowlanders ascending to altitude have increases in hemoglobin and hematocrit as it is necessary to survive in such a environment. The good thing is that when you are return from altitude (if you do not live in a Tibet), then you will feel what it means to have better blood parameters. If you go on your regular run you may think that a third lung has grown inside of you.
The higher the better?
It is important to also mention that the degree to which altitude leads to weight reduction is dose dependent. If you don’t want to look like a skinny fat (where you look fit and healthy but you have health problems due to lack of exercise or poor diet) you better choose modest altitude. Here loss of weight is comprised of fat whilst sparing lean muscle mass. Exposure to extreme altitudes results in muscle wasting and makes it even easier to gain more fat at sea level.
Who can benefit of staying at altitude?
Whether your goal is to enhance your physical performance or just weight loss, staying at altitude will be a great opportunity to get the results you would like quicker. Of course you should always be careful if you have any heart problems, and you should first check with your doctor. Even if you are healthy person, there is also always some risk you will experience altitude sickness. But if you allow a few days for acclimatization it is unlikely you will suffer any serious conditions. At Peru Fitness Holidays, we are really lucky to be based in the Sacred Valley, where we can offer fitness holidays with the extra benefit of being at altitude. This combined with expert trainers who will offer personalized workouts and diet plans, we are sure the results you see will exceed your expectations.
“Ascent to altitude as a weight loss method: The good and bad of hypoxia inducible factor activation”. Palmer BF, Clegg DJ. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2013
“Hypobaric Hypoxia Causes Body Weight Reduction in Obese Subjects,” Florian J. Lippl, Sonja Neubauer, Susanne Schipfer, Nicole Lichter, Amanda Tufman, Bärbel Otto, and Rainald Fischer. Obesity, 4 February 2010.
“Effects of Intermittent Exposure to High Altitude on Blood Volume and Erythropoietic Activity”. Walter Schmidt, High Altitude Medicine & Biology. July 2004