We put your questions to our experts to find the answers you need. Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert looks at what to eat at altitude…
Q: I know that altitude effects the way the body responds to exercise – do I have to adjust my nutrition as well? Joseph Hylton, by email.
A: Our bodies go through various physiological pressures when training at altitude, these effect oxygen pressure and cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine and central nervous system functioning. These result in changes to our resting and maximum heart rate values, ventilation rates, blood pressure, VO2max and oxygen transportation. Therefore it’s so important to ensure that you are getting optimum nutrition at altitude to enable you to fully adapt and acclimatise.
Hydration: At altitude, breathing becomes shallower and more frequent, which leads to greater loss of water through the respiratory system. Sweat also evaporates more quickly.
Carbohydrate: Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases at altitude but your appetite decreases. You therefore need to make sure you don’t lose muscle (through insufficient protein consumption) and that you meet your daily calorie intake overall for energy. Carbohydrate metabolism is the preferred source of energy in these conditions so ensure you eat frequent meals that are heavy in carbohydrate; taking a carb-based sports drink is also a good option.
Iron: Take an iron supplement if needed and make sure you get plenty of iron-rich food into your diet. As the body adapts to lower oxygen levels more red blood cells are produced which increase oxygen carrying capacity. Red blood cells need iron to help make the haemoglobin in the cell, which carries oxygen around the body.
Immunity: Whilst placing your body under physical and psychological stress it is important to ensure you support your immune system. Ensure a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries, nuts, seeds, bee pollen and take some echinacea to help steer clear of infection.
Energy and muscles: It may be useful to take a magnesium supplement. Magnesium plays a key role in energy metabolism and is necessary for producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate – the body’s universal energy creator), a deficiency may make you feel tired and lethargic. Low levels of magnesium are also associated with muscle cramps so taking a supplement may also be beneficial.