Have you ever thought about how you breathe? Every day you are taking about 20000 breaths , adding up to over a 100 million breaths during a lifetime. Whats your system for breathing? Don’t have one? Then you are probably doing it wrong! Now you ask; how can I possibly be breathing wrong? Most of us tend to be shallow mouth breathers, which increase stress and decrease performance and overall health. A good breath is a done through the nose using the diaphragm. Do you know how to improve this vital skill? Many people have found success by using the systems and techniques we will learn here, a small simple daily practice. As always to get results, you must be motivated! This post will tell you what you need to know to guarantee that you will start mastering your breath to improve endurace, power, recovery, stress and overall health. Lets begin
Summary of the awesomeness in this FLAWD article:
- History lesson – how oxygen came into play
- Mitochondria and why ATP is important
- The importance of Breathing
- Comparing over breathing to over eating
- How does breathing work?
- CO2 – not a waste gas
- the Bohr effect
- Blood PH
- How to improve breathing right now
- Nose breathing
- BOLT score
- Call to action
- Wim Hof Breathing
- XPT and more
History of breathing:
Great Oxygenation Event
We take oxygen for granted. But billions of years ago breathing would not have been possible, as oxygen did not exist. About 2.4 billion years ago the Earths atmosphere radically changed in composition. This is called the Great Oxygenation Event (GEO). During GEO marine cyanobacteria (blue-green algea) started to produce oxygen from photosynthesis, which led to the development of using oxygen to generate energy. Sometime after the GEO the greatest collaboration of all time took place. This epic collabo started between oxygen dependent organism and another form of one-celled organisms (called archaea). The collabo became the start of eukaryotes (which is in all human cells today), which are organisms where cells is significantly more complex than prokaryote cells (bacteria and archaea).
Mitochondria: the G.O.A.T.
GOAT meaning Greatest of All Time. :) From the beginninng the bacteria was just following along the archaea, but ower time both parties started benefitting even more. The Eukaryote organism had several new fancy capabilities (limited cell core, cell sceleton) and specialized organs called organelles. The greatest of the organelles was Mithocondria which are the cells powerplant (the heir to the once oxygen dependent bachteria). Mitochondria exist in almost all eukaryotic cells and the have their own DNA (mt-dna). Over time the collaboration created new possibilities, and created possibilities for bigger cells and multicells.
Specialization of cells and ATP
Multicells opened up posibilities for specialization within cells in one organism. Cells can then become: muscle, skin, neurons, flowers, leafs and so on. This specialization of task in cells lead to that energy creation was delegated to mithocondria which it perform extremely well. The mitocondrias task is to create ATP (Adesonine Tri Phosphate) molecules. ATP is the energy of life and the fuel that is used in ALL cells activities like moving an arm for instance. To create ATP the Mitochondria takes the energy from food and combine it with oxygen to create ATP. You can measure your effectiveness how much oxygen do you need to create ATP.
During this energy production of ATP, free radicals are produced (reactive molecules that harms other biomolecules). These free radicals are also created during oxygenation from plants, or during the opposite of photosynthesis: breathing! Where the end material is water (H2O)and carbon dioxide (CO2).
Great book to learn more about mitochondria: Dave Asprey – Headstrong
Breathing.. The most overlooked function in the body.
- In his book The Oxygen Advantage, Patrick McKeown states that the secret to weight loss, fitness, and wellness lies in the most basic and most overlooked function of your body—how we breathe.
- One of the biggest obstacles to better health and fitness is a rarely identified problem: chronic over-breathing.
- He claims that we often take more breaths than we need (without realizing) contributing to poor health and fitness, including a host of disorders, from anxiety and asthma to insomnia and heart problems.
Reduced oxygen = calorie restriction
- In the book Patrick compares chronic overbreathing to chronic over-eating.
- Restricting calories extends your lifespan and the same goes for restricting oxygen.
- Excess oxygen intake can prematurely damage tissues, create an excess of free radicals, hurt cell membrane and DNA.
- If it helps – consider Oxygen as a NUTRIENT!
But how does breathing really work?
CO2 – not a waste gas?
- In the gas exchange it is easy to think the goal would be eliminate all CO2 as a waste gas, that is not the case.
Total elimination is not the goal; because in order for the oxygen to be released to cells, sufficient CO2 is needed.
- When CO2 blood levels are too low, oxygen clings to red blood cells and less oxygen is released leaving cells starved of oxygen.
- What determines how much oxygen your body can use is the amount of CO2 is in your blood.
- CO2 allows the release of oxygen from red blood cells to be metabolized by the body – called the Bohr Effect.
- According to the Bohr Effect, when there is an increased pressure of CO2 in the blood, pH drops and oxygen is released more readily.
- The more CO2 in the blood, the more oxygen is released meaning more cells are oxygenated.
- Carbon Dioxide, writes Tess Graham, is not just a waste gas.
- It is the body’s natural bronchodilator, antihistamine, tranquiliser and muscle relaxant.
- It assists blood flow and oxygen transport by relaxing blood vessels.
- CO2 facilitates oxygen delivery to the cells and it also enhances digestion and regulates nervous tension.
Any change in CO2 levels will impact pH.
Nerd information warning! :)
Ideal partial pressure of CO2 in alveoli and arterial blood is 40mmHg, with normal range being 35 to 45mmHg (Levitsky 2003).
When we overbreathe, excess CO2 is exhaled, dropping CO2 levels below 35 mm Hg, which is a condition known as hypocapnia (Thomson et al 1997).
Why we overbreathe?
Pain, stress and fear are known examples of unconscious inputs leading to altered breathing.
Under prolonged stress and pain, altered breathing can become a habit.
When breathing mechanics change, respiratory chemistry can change, specifically CO2 levels.
Overbreathing occurs by either breathing too quickly, with too large of a volume, or both.
When excess CO2 is exhaled, the pH of blood become alkaline.
The Regulation of Blood pH
- In addition to determining how much oxygen is released into your tissues and cells, CO2 also plays a central role in regulating the pH of the bloodstream: how acidic or alkaline your blood is.
- Anything above 7.0 is alkaline, anything below 7.0 is considered acidic.
- Normal pH in the blood is 7.365 (slightly alkalined) and this level must remain within a tightly defined range or the body is forced to compensate.
- Maintaining normal blood pH is vital to our survival.
- If pH is too acidic and drops below 6.8, or too alkaline and rises above 7.8, the result can be fatal.
- This is because pH levels directly affect the ability of our internal organs and metabolism to function.
- Alteration in pH can results in reduced blood flow, particularly to the brain (Eames et al 2004, Ito et al 2005) poorer oxygen delivery to the tissues (Thomson et al 1997), increased muscle tension (Thomson et al 1997) and increased nervous system excitability (Seyal et al 1998, Mogyoros et al 1997).
Solution 2: Know your BOLT SCORE
To know where you are going, you must know where you are; BOLT stands for for Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT) and it is a simple way to determine how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Check out Oxygen Advantage Guide how to measure bolt.
How to test BOLT
- Take a small silent breath in and small silent breath out through the nose
- Hold nose with fingers
- Count the seconds until you feel “air hunger” – the urge to breathe
- Release your nose and breathe in
- Inhalation should be calm
Your Score: seconds to first signals
How to increase bolt:
- Nose breathe at all times
- Never take big breaths
Train your breathing
- Bolt should increase 3-5 sec every week first 3-4 weeks
- Aim for a score above 20 seconds
- Aim for 40 secs – that could take up to 6months
Solution 3: Train your breathing
Hypoxic training if BOLT >30 sec
Normal oxygen saturation at sea level varies between 95 and 99 percent. To receive any benefit from hypoxic (reduced oxygen) training,
oxygen saturation levels must drop below 94 percent (and ideally to below 90 percent). To know your levels you can use a Pulse Oximeter measuring SPO2. SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, an estimate of the amount of oxygen in the blood.
The effect of this method depends on two factors:
- oxygen saturation during training, and
- the length of the exposure to reduced oxygen.
Lowering oxygen saturation below 90 percent for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes can significantly increase the production of EPO. EPO is a hormone that helps the body create more red bloodcells which in turn tranports O2 and CO2 in the blood, in short increasing our oxygen uptake.
The Exercise – from the oxygen advantage program, my own interpretation:
- Walk normally, of course do you walk “WalkFeeling Style“, and breathe through your nose.
- Take the first breath hold between step 40 to step 60.
- After the first breath hold, subsequent holds are performed every 5 to 10 steps.
- 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 is about 10 percent of a normal breath.
- Observe the pulse oximeter, ensuring that you do not go below 80 percent 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.
XPT Pre Training breathing for a workout or competition.
Here is an easy routine to do on your own or with your team before competition or if you do any form of fitness.
It will get you oxygentaed which increases your energy. Plus it helps get you focused and ready to do what your desired goal is.
- Sit in a quiet place. Take slow deep breaths in and out for 90 seconds.
- At 90 seconds take a last big inhale and hold your breath for 20 seconds.
- At 20 seconds exhale slowly so that your exhale lasts 20 seconds in length. (You must control our breath)
- Repeat this cycle 2 more times.
Breath Contol is Stress Control
Oxygen is a poison
It is important to note that oxygen actually is poisionious and too much oxygen can kill us. This is called Oxygen Toxicity (or oxygen poisoning) and it is caused by exposure to oxygen at partial pressures greater than those to which the body is normally exposed. This occurs in three main ways:
- underwater diving,
- hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and
- the provision of supplemental oxygen, (particularly to premature infants.)
If you’re exposed to pure oxygen for a few days you can die. This is why antioxidants are good for us (as their name implies). The state of Oxygen toxicity is called Hyperoxia. The “reverse” of this is called Hypoexemia which occurs when the blood has abnormally low level of oxygen. Hypoxemia has many causes, often respiratory disorders, and can cause tissue hypoxia as the blood is not supplying enough oxygen to the body.
Call to action!
- Start breathing with NOSE
- Know your BOLT SCORE and try to improve it for the next coming months.
- Check out and follow at least one of the resources
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Thank you for reading and listening! You are awesome! :)
Peter is Podcaster, CrossFit Coach, Security Professional and productivity expert. He is the founder of FLAWD.se and the author of Security Encyclopedia: SakerhetsBibeln.se. Peter blogs about health, technology and productivity. Peter is on a mission to help you to Focus, implement success disciplines and to Win in life!