Capnography. The Science Of Better Breathing.
Capnography is a very fascinating area of physiotherapy. Essentially it involves optimizing carbon dioxide levels in the blood by fine tuning breathing habits. What is important to realize is the way we breathe both on and off the bike are vitally important to performance. We can negatively effect our performance 8 hours later by having altered blood pH as a result of poor breathing habits. Millions of people do not breathe optimally, and many thousands breathe poorly enough to create chronic symptoms, even exacerbations of disease. Here is a link to Peter Litchfield’s article that summerizes what capnography is all about. Breathing and Physiology
Capnography and Cycling.
As cyclists, learning about our breathing can lead to increased performance in 3 ways.
1. Better oxygen release to the muscles and brain.
The biggest mistake that people make when it comes to breathing is to think that the point of it all is to get as much oxygen in as possible and to get rid of as much carbon dioxide as possible. The fact is that this is not true. This video explains a concept called the bohr shift and how it relates to oxygen distribution.
2. Decrease Unwanted Smooth Muscle Activity
Improper breathing mechanics lead to widespread constriction of the smooth muscles in the body. This has a wide variety of negative ramifications in both general health and sports performance. This video explains how.
3. Increase Lactic Threshold
Tolerance to lactic acid in the bloodstream is negatively affected when we do not breath correctly. Blood pH changes caused by decreased CO2 levels cause changes in kidney function which leaves unable to cope with high levels of lactic acid. Here is more information on the subject.
How To Fix It.
Capnography uses specialized equipment to non-invasively measure the amount of CO2 in your blood by analyzing your expired air. This is a vital step in learning more efficient breathing, without it we have know way of knowing if the changes you make are helping or not. This video talks a bit more about the process and will also discuss what kinds of symptoms are common to those who are overbreathers.