Altitude & Heat – environmental synergies to optimize human performance

The environmental stress of altitude and heat have both been shown to elicit divergent adaptive responses and are used by elite athletes to augment training adaptation and subsequent performance.   Indeed, 3-4 weeks at moderate altitudes can increase the body’s natural erythropoietin (EPO) responses, raising hemoglobin by 4-6% and enhancing endurance performance.  Conversely, as little as 5-7 days of exercise induced heat acclimation can increase blood volume by 5-10%, resulting in increased tolerance to heat, increased VO2max /cardiac output and improve endurance performance as well. However, the concept of “cross-tolerance” has recently emerged, which is the use of heat and altitude synergistically to augment adaptation and performance; however studies in humans are sparse.  Furthermore, there is an  opportunity to implement  non-invasive / wearable near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) technology to further our understanding of peripheral mechanisms of muscle oxygenation/utilization in elite athletes in various environmental conditions, and to better elucidate performance determinants in endurance sport.  

Faculty Supervisor:

Michael Koehle


Gareth Sandford


Canadian Sport Institute Pacific




Life sciences


University of British Columbia



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