PHIL HEATH A MILE HIGH ABOVE THE REST
Muscular Development|February 2021
Numerous factors contribute to fat loss.
Daniel Gwartney

Achieving the level of definition acquired by professional bodybuilders requires more than consulting a calorie chart. Reaching the pinnacle demands that every accountable factor be taken into consideration, as the entire field has dedicated equal effort, and has comparable genetic advantages by the time they reach the Mr. Olympia stage.

There is one factor that may have gone unrealized until the reign of Mr. Olympia champion Phil Heath, a resident of the Mile High city– Denver, Colorado. As realtors (annoyingly) repeat, “location, location, location.” It has been proposed that Heath may enjoy certain physiologic advantages by living and training at high altitude; Denver is situated at an altitude of 5,280 feet, one mile above sea level. The atmospheric consequence of sitting amongst the clouds is reduced air pressure, and reduced partial pressure of oxygen. The common way of saying this is that the “air gets thin.” An interesting choice of words, as people tend to get thin as well.

Studies have shown improved aerobic power in athletes who trained at 6,000 feet for 10 days then performed at low altitude. Lower oxygen levels at altitude stimulate EPO, leading to increased red blood cells or hematocrit. This effectively allows more oxygen to be carried to the tissues. This is something that Phil Heath has known for years; in more ways than one, he is a mile high above the rest. “I’ve been training at altitude since I was 18 years old. I came from Seattle, at sea level, to Colorado to play college basketball. You have to think about the red blood cell count that I’ve acquired in that time,” Phil told MD recently.

One can track across various nations and see a trend toward greater body mass index (a general measure of obesity) among low-altitude populations, as compared to those who live at higher altitudes (e.g., mountaind-welling tribes). It is possible that there may be cultural bias toward size, or issues relating to food availability. However, even in the United States, a similar observation relating to altitude and obesity can be noted by comparing state obesity rates with altitude.1 There is a cluster of higher prevalence obesity risk along the Gulf Coast (essentially sea level); the lowest ranked obesityrisk is in the mountain states, including Colorado. The communities in Colorado are very active; hiking, skiing and other recreation participation rates are impressive. It is interesting that the rates of total inactivity (absolutely no exercise or recreational activity) are highest in the same areas with the highest obesityrates, despite having all that oxygen to breathe. Colorado, Utah, and Idaho rank at the top for active participation in sports or recreational activity.2

High Altitude and Fat Loss

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