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The Bohr Effect: The Key to Unlocking New Levels of Physical Endurance

The Bohr Effect: The Key to Unlocking New Levels of Physical Endurance

  • 4 min read

Let’s talk  about respiration. In its simplest form, the lungs take in oxygen, deliver it to tissues that need it, and get rid of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is thought of as a waste gas, but that’s not its only purpose. The Bohr Effect shows us how athletes can actually use carbon dioxide toboost their endurance.

Human Respiration 101

To understand how CO2 can give us an athletic edge with the Bohr Effect, we need to take a closer look at respiration. As air is inhaled, it passes through the lungs to bronchial tubes. From there, it moves to the alveoli. These are tiny air sacs in the lungs where gases are exchanged in the capillaries. After passing through capillaries, oxygen molecules are picked up by hemoglobin molecules. 

These hemoglobin molecules within red blood cells are what make blood oxygenation possible. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the entire body. Oxygenated blood then travels from the lungs through the left side of the heart to the rest of the body.

Carbon dioxide moves the opposite way. It is created as a biproduct of the cellular respiration process. This process turns glucose and oxygen into energy, water, and carbon dioxide. Beyond that, red blood cells transport the CO2 from the body back to the alveoli. Then, it can exit through the lungs.

Now that we've gone over respiration, let’s understand how the Bohr Effect works.

Bohr effect fitness

What is The Bohr Effect?

Our blood oxygen levels are usually around 95-99%. But blood oxygen levels and our ability to deliver stored oxygen aren't the same things. Just because we have sufficient oxygen stores doesn’t mean that all of it gets delivered to our cells. 

Enter: the Bohr Effect. Back in 1904, a Danish biochemist named Christian Bohr made a striking discovery. Put in simplest terms, he found that more CO2 in the body allows oxygen to be delivered more efficiently.

The Bohr Effect: The lower the partial pressure of CO2 in arterial blood, the lower the amount of oxygen hemoglobin will release to cells for energy.

Once carbon dioxide is dissolved in the blood, carbonic acid is formed. This is what Bohr refers to that makes the blood acidic, or low in pH. The structure of hemoglobin changes as a result, making it easier for oxygen to be released. Let’s take a closer look at this process in action during exercise.

Bohr effect endurance

The Bohr Effect During Physical Activity

When we exercise, the need for oxygen in the body rises, especially around the muscles you are using. This increases CO2 in those areas, allowing for more oxygen to head to cells that need it most. As a result, the Bohr Effect allows humans to unload oxygen in an enhanced way. 

As more metabolism occurs throughout the body, carbon dioxide partial pressure rises. This causes local pH to become even lower and for a larger amount of oxygen to be unloaded. Lucky for us, we can use it to our advantage.

Bohr effect endurance

Using the Bohr Effect to Your Advantage

The Bohr Effect naturally allows us to perform during periods of physical activity. But we can actually use it to our advantage to further improve our aerobic endurance. This means that we can use the Bohr Effect to help us run, bike, and swim faster, easier, and longer than before. 

So how do we do this? Well, quite simply, if we can increase our body’s CO2 tolerance, we can increase our aerobic endurance. This means that our body will be able to get oxygen to cells more efficiently, leading to less strain on our lungs and heart. Here’s how that translates into better fitness:

  • Increasing your CO2 tolerance leads to higher CO2 levels in your body.
  • More efficient oxygenation means less blood is needed to meet oxygen demands during exercise.
  • The decreased blood requirement leads to a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure. This means you can keep the same level of endurance with reduced effort.

So the question becomes “How do we naturally and safely, increase our CO2 tolerance?” Thankfully, the answer is simple.

<img src="https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2572/8006/files/mouth_taping_at_night_rested_1024x1024.jpg?v=1590767566" alt="Bohr effect endurance" />

Swap Out Mouth Breathing for Nose Breathing

The simplest way to reap the benefits of the Bohr Effect is to stop breathing through your mouth. Mouth breathing is actually over-breathing. It causes the body to get rid of too much carbon dioxide with every breath, making oxygenation harder. As a result, this leads to increased breathlessness and poor oxygen delivery.

With nasal breathing, there is a smaller volume of air and a longer point of time between each breath. This gives the lungs time to hold on to carbon dioxide, deliver oxygen, take care of hemoglobin, and fill up to capacity before the next breath. Your heart rate lowers and performance increases, boosting endurance. The perks don't stop there.

The Additional Benefits of Nose Breathing

On top of the Bohr Effect, nose breathing has a massive amount of health benefits outside of exercise. Here are some additional benefits of nose breathing:

  • Helps maintain homeostasis during rest
  • Boosts performance and recovery after workouts

This means that whether you’re resting, sleeping, or working out, nasal breathing boosts oxygenation in the body.

Bohr effect endurance

Nasal Breathing Doesn’t Have to Be Bohring

Now that you know how The Bohr Effect helps boost athletic performance, you’re probably eager to get started. But sometimes it’s trickier than making sure you’re breathing through the nose. That’s where mouth tape comes in. SomniFix Strips are designed to stop mouth breathing and promote nose breathing during sleep. In turn, this increases your CO2 tolerance, rebalances oxygen levels, and boosts endurance during physical activity. Give them a try tonight risk-free and take your performance to new heights!

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