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The Fundamentals of the Oxygen Advantage

The Fundamentals of the Oxygen Advantage

  • 5 min read

The Oxygen Advantage is an increasingly popular breathing method centered around improving oxygen intake through several tried and true techniques. But what exactly are those techniques and why are they so beneficial to our health?

What is The Oxygen Advantage?

The Oxygen Advantage was created by Patrick McKeown, a former asthmatic who is now a practicing breathwork master. He has spent his career focused on optimal breathing techniques that promote better health, improved wellbeing, and optimal fitness. 

He is an accredited Buteyko breathing practitioner. Buteyko breathing is a method of self-help treatment for improving the quality of breath, decreasing asthma symptoms, and even healing from chronic congestion

 

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The Oxygen Advantage, one of his latest books, is backed by four years of scientific research. The philosophy of the techniques described in the book were designed with sports performance in mind. 

At its core, The Oxygen Advantage addresses dysfunctional breathing patterns and teaches readers how to push harder and faster for longer with less effort. 

Here are some of the core fundamentals of the book: 

Core Fundamentals of The Oxygen Advantage

One of the main messages of The Oxygen Advantage is that you can’t improve your breathing until you know how you are breathing in the first place. 

The BOLT (Body Oxygen Level Test) measures how much carbon dioxide we can build within our blood while oxygen concentrations decrease. 

To test your BOLT score, hold your breath after a normal exhale until you feel like you need to breathe again. The length of time between breaths is your BOLT score. 

woman breathing

Most people have an average BOLT score of about 20 seconds. Based on research, McKeown says we should aim to build up to a BOLT score of 40 seconds. 

To increase your BOLT score, you have to lower carbon dioxide losses, increase your tolerance for carbon dioxide, and practice breathing exercises that simulate high-altitude situations where less oxygen is naturally available. 

The maximum breathlessness test is similar, but instead tests your ability to tolerate carbon dioxide during movement. 

To test maximum breathlessness, hold your breath after a normal exhale by pinching the nose. Then, begin walking, counting each stride. When you feel a hunger for air that you can no longer fight, stop walking and breathe in. 

man walking

Your number of paces is your maximum breathlessness score. Athletes should strive to build their score up to around eighty to one hundred paces. 

The premise of both of the tests is that the blood already has the appropriate amount of oxygen needed at an oxygen saturation of 95 to 99 percent. Increasing saturation to 100 percent has no proven additional health benefits. 

Due to this phenomenon, taking bigger breaths isn’t always better and won’t increase oxygen within the blood by much. 

Increasing your oxygen rate will do very little to boost your performance. Instead, oxygen delivery is what you have to focus on. The core issue is not that the blood lacks oxygen. Instead, it’s that the blood isn’t releasing the oxygen to the tissues appropriately. 

Breath-hold exercises help to build this tolerance and improve oxygen delivery within the body. They lead to both hypoxic (low oxygen) and hypercapnic (high carbon dioxide) responses. 

In turn, the body responds with higher endurance, lower carbon dioxide sensitivity, and the ability to push harder and faster for longer (without extra effort). 

The scientific explanation of this reaction is known as The Bohr Effect

The Bohr Effect, Explained

The release of oxygen within the body depends directly on carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide loosens the bond between hemoglobin and oxygen, allowing it to be released for delivery. 

If we over-breathe, we exhale far too much carbon dioxide. Since carbon dioxide can’t build and allow oxygen to release properly, we end up low on oxygen, too. 

The main issue? Nearly everyone over-breathes. In fact, research shows that over 95% of people do it. 

Breathing lighter helps us boost carbon dioxide in the blood, which helps boost oxygenation levels. When we exercise, our need for oxygen rises. 

This is especially true when it comes to specific muscle groups you are using. For example, when lifting weights, the tissues and muscles in the arms need more oxygen than the rest of the body. 

woman lifting weights

As a result, CO2 increases in those areas, allowing for more oxygen to reach those cells. The pH of the blood becomes lower and lower, helping the body to unload even more oxygen. 

Put simply? When you breathe efficiently and you avoid over-breathing, the body delivers oxygen appropriately and less strain is put on the lungs and heart. 

That can result in better fitness since less blood is required to meet those oxygen demands while you’re pushing your body to its limit. 

So, how can you naturally boost your tolerance for carbon dioxide, avoid over-breathing, and improve oxygenation? The answer is right under your nose. Technically, it is your literal nose

Nose Breathing is Essential for Optimal Health

When you breathe through the nose, you’re not over-breathing in comparison to breathing through your mouth, which most of the general population does. 

Aside from helping us avoid over-breathing and boosting oxygenation rates, breathing through the nose protects the respiratory system by warming and humidifying the air before it enters the lungs. 

man breathing

Mucus and nose hairs work to trap airborne particles and harmful bacteria, which protects the immune system from illnesses like pneumonia or the common cold. 

Breathing through the mouth, on the other hand, irritates the airway and lungs because the air remains dry and unfiltered. This leads to wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and more. 

Nasal breathing is also largely beneficial for oral health. Our saliva works to coat the teeth and protect them from plaque. Mouth breathing dries this saliva out, leading to cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and more. 

Simply closing the mouth and breathing through the nose protects the teeth from preventable damage. 

Furthermore, the nose releases nitric oxide, an astonishing molecule that serves as a vasodilator. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, improving blood circulation throughout the body. 

This lowers blood pressure, increases brain function, boosts immunity, and aids in the improved oxygenation rates associated with nasal breathing. 

McKeown makes it known that we should breathe through the nose morning, noon, and night. How can you make sure that you’re nasal breathing while you’re asleep? Easy: Mouth tape. 

Where Mouth Taping Comes In

“Unless you breathe calmly through your nose at night, you have no idea what it feels like to have a great night’s sleep,” McKeown says. 

The easiest way to benefit from proper breathing and oxygenation is to nasal breathe 24/7. Mouth tape helps us with nasal breathing during exercise (to boost endurance) and during sleep (to ensure nasal breathing all night long). 

Mouth tape adheres to the lips and ensures a proper lip seal so that you can nasal breathe without any added effort and without having to give it a second thought. 

Select your tape with comfort in mind. Not all tape can provide a comfortable lip seal without irritating the skin. SomniFix can. 

Improve Oxygenation (and Your Health) With SomniFix

Before you slap some duct tape over your lips at night, consider that the chemicals in the adhesive can lead to irritation and harsh rashes. 

Micropore tape, which is better suited for the skin, isn’t always the proper choice for those with sensitive skin and/or skin allergies. 

SomniFix Mouth Strips are hypoallergenic, latex-free, and gluten-free. Our gel-like adhesive is safe for even the most sensitive of skin, so you’ll rest easy both literally and figuratively. 

Mouth tape is essential in achieving the fundamentals of The Oxygen Advantage. Add SomniFix to your exercise and sleep regimen to push harder and rest better than you ever have before. 

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