You may remember Dr. Johnathan Edwards, MD: an endurance athlete, private practice anesthesiologist, physiologist and sports medicine physician based in Las Vegas, and a guy who consults with a huge number of professional athletes in many different disciplines in North America and Europe, including cyclists in the Tour de France, AMA motocross athletes and UFC fighters.
A few weeks ago, here at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, Dr. Edwards wrote The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, Hypoxia, Elevation & Altitude Training, and in that article, Dr. Edwards touched on the surprising things you can do to enhance physical and mental performance if you know how to use oxygen the right way. In that article, you learned that if you want a shortcut to maximizing lung capacity and recovery you can (and should) increase the amount of oxygen available to your body via a protocol called “Exercise With Oxygen Therapy”, or “EWOT”.
Problem is, it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to get an oxygen concentrator, how to “hack” it to be efficient enough for EWOT, and then what to do with it once you have your oxygen concentrator all setup. This stuff can be confusing and can be expensive if you don't know the exact parts you need. That’s probably why Dr. Edward’s original article received plenty of comments and questions about EWOT.
But it’s actually not that difficult and quite inexpensive to make yourself an oxygen concentrator that rivals what is used in fancy sports science and exercise physiology labs.
So now, without further ado, I present to you…
…a new article from Dr. Edwards that shows you exactly how to get, how to biohack, and how to use an oxygen concentrator.
If you’re one of the guys or girls who simply isn’t technically or engineer minded, but who wants all the biohacking benefits of exercise with oxygen therapy, I’d recommend you post this article to Craiglist to find someone to make it for you, or give this article to your closest friend who you know loves to do projects like this, and have them make it for you. You’re still going to literally save thousands and thousands of dollars.
Finally, please note that this is not medical advice or medical device, and the information you’re about to read is meant for educational purposes only.
The popularity of oxygen therapy has skyrocketed in recent years.
Athletes are now using concentrated oxygen for recovery and to gain an athletic advantage. Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Mario Lemieux, Olympic athletes, multiple players in the NBA, NFL and professional baseball all use some type of oxygen therapy.
As an anesthesiologist, I have a unique perspective on oxygen, having spent much of my career providing oxygen to patients during surgery. I also use oxygen therapy outside the operating room for sports and medical applications such as healing diabetic wounds, treating firefighters with carbon monoxide poisoning and other ailments. And I have other patients who use it simply because they believe it will enhance their physical or mental performance. Supplemental oxygen has even been touted to improve sex!
But getting access to oxygen therapy can be an expensive and difficult endeavor. Your two main options are hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy or mask oxygen. These both produce an increase in tissue oxygen concentrations in your body. Hyperbaric therapy increases the oxygen via increases in atmospheric pressure in a sealed space. A mask system delivers oxygen with a tank or oxygen concentrator machine and increases oxygen via a sealed mask. The first option, hyperbaric oxygen therapy units, is a very expensive option. But the second option, an oxygen concentrator, is much less expensive and quite easy to use in your own home.
I am not going to delve into the micro details about the amazing things that happen to your body and tissues when you use supplemental oxygen. For that, please go back and read The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Exercise With Oxygen Therapy, Hypoxia, Elevation & Altitude Training.
Instead, I want to dive into the nitty-gritty of how to hack your oxygen levels using an oxygen concentrator.
So how can you optimize the amount of oxygen delivered to your body?
As stated above, you could use a hyperbaric setup or you could use an oxygen concentrator. An oxygen concentrator is a machine that basically pressurizes room air, separates the oxygen from the nitrogen, and delivers a high concentration of oxygen through one port and a hypoxic mixture of air through another port. You may recall that in the article I wrote for BenGreenfieldFitness a couple weeks ago, I mentioned:
“You can buy a refurbished oxygen concentrator online for as little as 300 dollars, but I suggest looking up an oxygen concentrator repair shop in your area and inquire about buying a new or refurbished oxygen concentrator. You’ll notice that many places require a doctor’s prescription for new oxygen concentrators, but not refurbished ones. This is because refurbished machines are considered as replacement parts and do not require a prescription. In any case, get one that puts out at least 5 liters per minute. My friend Andy Champagne from O2CRS, a local shop in Las Vegas, is very knowledgeable and has reasonably priced units. Mention this article and he'll give you a 5% discount.”
So, let’s say you’ve got your oxygen concentrator. Often the oxygen port will be on the top of the machine. A hypoxic port is inside in the machine. Here’s what the average oxygen concentrator looks like:
Figure 1. A typical oxygen concentrator. There is a dial for adjusting the flow of oxygen and the port is located on the upper right of the machine.
Most oxygen concentrators deliver about 5 liters per minute, and some as high as 20 liters per minute. To obtain high oxygen levels, a sealed mask system connected to a reservoir is essential. Regular mask systems allow too much of something called “air entrainment.” The volume of the reservoir is important and needs to be at least 100 liters.
Simple math tells you that you will run out of oxygen pretty quickly without a large reservoir. Breathing normally, you inspire about a half a liter per breath, and this increases significantly during exercise. This is the reason for those high-capacity reservoirs from companies like LiveO2. I have found that at least 100 to 200-liter reservoir is needed for most 30-60 minute exercise with oxygen therapy (EWOT) sessions. The LiveO2 Adaptive Contrast System reservoir is 600 liters.
OK, now, here are the instructions for biohacking your oxygen concentrator:
Step 1: Obtain an oxygen concentrator. Scroll up and read again, search the internet, or contact Andy at O2CRS. If possible, consider buying a 10-liter machine, but a 5-liter machine does the job just fine.
Step 2: Make the reservoir.
This step was amended on September 28, 2017. The original post outlined steps to make your own reservoir. Please read the amendment below, as we’ve gained more information since the original publication.
Primarily, the most readily available plastic films and sheets you can use to create your own reservoir will contain Vinyl Chloride, a known carcinogen, along with a long list of manufacturing agents that reactively contaminate the breathing air inside.
As you can imagine these types of materials used in reservoirs can very quickly create some serious adverse reactions.
That being said, we do not recommend making your own reservoir due to the danger of breathing contaminated air deeply into your body.
As mentioned you can buy reservoirs – I use LiveO2’s – and be confident your air is free of any harmful chemicals that you otherwise may expose yourself to in a DIY reservoir.
Step 3: Attach the oxygen tubing and fill the reservoir. Use oxygen tubing that will connect to the machine to the oxygen outlet on the CPAP adaptor. This is usually a thin, plastic tubing that should come with the oxygen concentrator. Also, cover the open end of the CPAP adaptor with the ½ inch PVC cap.
Step 4: After the reservoir is filled, connect the CPAP tubing to the CPAP adapter. You can buy CPAP tubing from most medical stores. Again, depending on your situation and how far your treadmill, exercise bike, etc. is from the actual oxygen concentrator, you will need at least 10 feet or more of CPAP tubing. At this point you may want to attach the reservoir to the wall (use double sided tape) or just leave it on the ground or perhaps under your bed. Be creative!
Step 5: Connect the CPAP tube to the mask. The mask is a dual one-way valve that is quite easy to get from a medical store. Be sure to connect the CPAP tubing to the intake port of the mask, you will exhale out of the out-take port.
Figure 10. Dual valve oxygen mask.
Again, once everything is connected, simply turn the machine on and let it run. Be sure the reservoir is capped off. The oxygen concentrator has to fill the reservoir bag, so if you are filling at, say five liters per minute, this will take about sixty minutes for a 200-liter bag.
OK, so now you’re probably wondering how to use this contraption. Here goes…
The mask should fit comfortably on your face. Adjust the straps until you have a good fit. If there is any pain or there are any leaks, then the mask is not fitted correctly. A good seal is very important and you should be able to breathe comfortably. If you have a 200-liter reservoir, breathing normally at sixteen times a minute will give you about thirty minutes of oxygen.
Using the mask oxygen system during exercise will deplete the reservoir much sooner, but it is still enough to do a good session.
One interval session that I use often on my bicycle trainer goes as follows:
-Be sure to fill the oxygen reservoir adequately before you start
-Warm up without oxygen until you reach your target pulse rate (usually 10-15 minutes)
-Put on the oxygen mask
-Sprint at 90 to 100% of your maximum power or heart rate for 30 seconds
-Rest about 1 to 1.5 minutes
-Repeat at least 8 to 10 times
-During the session, use a fingertip pulse oximeter to monitor your pulse rate and O2 saturation. You should see consistently high levels of oxygen saturation (96+). Ideally, you should feel that your recovery between intervals is quicker than you would experience without the oxygen, and your perceived exertion at any given intensity will be a less than normal. Note, that it generally does not improve your peak performance or power output.
I also like to use an oxygen concentrator for enhancing recovery by literally just sitting on the couch and wearing the mask after a really hard workout or a race. In fact, a recent article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that supplemental oxygen quickened recovery and improved muscle contractility after exercise. It has also been shown to speed up muscle tissue metabolism and increases tissue blood circulation.
For more ideas on hyperoxia and exercise with oxygen therapy protocols, you can check out plenty of tips on the internet. One site I particularly like for this is LiveO2.com.
So that’s it! Voila, you now have a system that will deliver oxygen at a high rate to your body during exercise, and in doing so, you’ll get all the performance-enhancing benefits I outline here.
And like I mentioned, if you need to get your hands on a used oxygen concentrator to build what you've just learned about, just look up my friend Andy Champagne from O2CRS.com, who is very knowledgeable and has reasonably priced units. Mention this article and he'll give you a 5% discount.
Do you plan on using any of these oxygen biohacks? Was any of this confusing for you or do you need clarification on the design of the oxygen concentrator or the exercise protocol? Leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below, and I promise to reply.
Update: I now own and use a “LiveO2” unit for hyperoxia/hypoxia training in my own home. You can get a free pulse oximeter and free shipping on this extremely easy-to-setup and easy-to-use unit with code GREENFIELD by clicking here. Getting an Adaptive Contrast system allowed me to skip all the complexity of buying every, single part on my own as well as remain confident I’m not putting anything harmful in my body.