MAP and altitude impacts

Hi all. Question for the forum and maybe a future podcast episode.

General question - what is the impact of moving to high elevation (from 720 to 7,200 feet) on VO2 max and power at VO2 max or MAP?

Specific question - what can an athlete do to maintain or at least minimize the negative impact on maximal aerobic power after moving to a high elevation home?

All of us have a unique cycling profile. Mine, while living in the Chicago suburbs (720 feet), was that of a puncheur or pursuiter where my 1 minute and especially 5 minute power profiles were notably my strong points. However, since moving to Evergreen CO (7,200 feet) my overall power profile has come down, and significantly at that 5 minute duration.

I find it much, much harder to do those really hard 5 minute all-out efforts given the thinner atmosphere. And it feels like it takes much longer to recover from each interval here as opposed to at lower altitude.

One caveat is that in Chicago I had a really good training ride group on Tuesday/Thursday that provided the competitive dynamic to incentivize those MAP efforts and I have not found a replacement near Evergreen. I’ve had a difficult time pushing myself as hard while training solo as what I did while riding with the group.

So, is a lower 5 minute strength simply a trade-off I’ll have to accept for living in the most beautiful area on earth? :wink:

If the Elevation Corrected Power charts in WKO5 are accurate, you should expect about an 8% decrement in power up around Evergreen, compared to sea level power. Over time, as you become acclimated to the elevation, it won’t hurt as much, but the power loss is still there.

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You may be aware, but when you move to higher altitudes, the partial pressure of oxygen decreases. This results in a decreased diffusion gradient of oxygen from the atmosphere to the red blood cells in your pulmonary system. As such, your ability to provide your working muscles the necessary oxygen is impaired. Thus your ability to produce power aerobically will decline. The result is a reduced MAP and VO2max, which you have observed.

To answer your specific question, simply spending more time at altitude will allow you your body to produce the adaptations that come from living in hypoxic conditions (i.e. increase red cell mass). Keep in mind everyone is different, but some of these adaptations simply take time (weeks to months).

Having lived in Gunnison County (~7700 ft) and grown up at sea level, I have experienced exactly what you going through. When I initially moved to elevation I noticed a substantial decline in my MAP ~20% (although I’m sure this will vary person to person) and ~10% decrease in my lab measured VO2max. However, overtime as I adapted to living a high altitudes, the difference between my sea level and altitude MAP became less (~10% difference). Five minute efforts took almost twice the amount of recovery when I first moved there, but over time the recovery time reduced, albeit still longer than at sea level.

I must say, the crisp mountain air and views were well worth the “loss”!

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