Before we can answer that question let’s begin with ‘What is Portable Oxygen?’. You may have images of small oxygen tanks on the back of a scuba diver or being in hospital with a mask or someone trying to carry a very small molecule! It’s none of those. Portable oxygen is a small can, the size of a hairspray, with pure oxygen inside, which is sprayed into the mouth, like an asthma inhaler, during exercise. booost, Europe’s No.1 portable oxygen company, sell what they call ‘tanks’, which are 10 litre cans of 99.5% pure oxygen with 0.5% natural peppermint flavouring, to add a little flavour.
A review paper in 2003 looked at 22 studies from 1927 to 2001 and concluded that exercise performance improved from +1% to +57% with an average improvement of 18.7%. ‘Hyperoxia’, which is the use of enriched oxygen, was studied because the air contains about 21% oxygen and they wanted to understand the effects of using a higher percentage of oxygen in sport. Though this isn’t new because for almost 100 years scientists and sports people have been looking to gain the edge and oxygen is yet to have its day.
Serious Sports People use portable oxygen such as booost because they want to beat their personal best, or as many sports people call it, ‘Get through their wall’. That famous event, the 100 metre sprint, is a case in point. In 1912 D. Lippincott ran the 100 metres in 10.6 seconds. And in the 1930’s saw our next gain to 10.3 seconds, shaving 0.3 seconds off the World Record. 1968 saw the next leap with J. Hines breaking the 10 second barrier. Then it took nearly 40 years for Usain Bolt to achieve 9.7 seconds in 2008. Whilst our understanding of the body, exercise and nutrition has made more gains in the last 30 years than ever before, the challenge is becoming harder and harder to achieve the same gains in performance. The next milestone will be 9.5 seconds and ultimately breaking the 9 second barrier – Possible? Maybe with a higher percentage of oxygen it is.
Whilst canned oxygen has been used and studied for many years, and even Sir Roger Bannister published his own paper on the subject in 1954, the need for improvement is greater than ever. Therefore, whilst energy drinks, energy gels, powders, and other sports supplements, continue to grow modestly as new brands bring something a little new, sports oxygen is due to take the market by storm. As serious sports people begin to make the link between the oxygen debt, tired muscles and trying not to give up as they gasp for air, portable oxygen helps them to achieve more, recover quicker and make better decisions about what is and is not possible. Watch this space!