Moderate hypoxic exposure for 4 weeks reduces body fat percentage and increases fat-free mass in trained individuals: a randomized crossover study

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Purpose: We evaluated whether or not changes in body composition following moderate hypoxic exposure for 4 weeks were different compared to sea level exposure.

Methods: In a randomized crossover design, nine trained participants were exposed to 2320 m of altitude or sea level for 4 weeks, separated by > 3 months. Body fat percentage (BF%), fat mass (FM), and fat-free mass (FFM) were determined before and after each condition by dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and weekly by a bioelectrical impedance scanner to determine changes with a high resolution. Training volume was quantified during both interventions.

Results: Hypoxic exposure reduced (P < 0.01) BF% by 2 ± 1 percentage points and increased (P < 0.01) FFM by 2 ± 2% determined by DXA. A tending time × treatment effect existed for FM determined by DXA (P = 0.06), indicating a reduced FM in hypoxia by 8 ± 7% (P < 0.01). Regional body analysis revealed reduced (P < 0.01) BF% and FFM and an increased (P < 0.01) FFM in the truncus area. No changes were observed following sea level. Bioelectrical impedance determined that BF%, FM, and FFM did not reveal any differences between interventions. Urine specific gravity measured simultaneously as body composition was identical. Training volume was similar between interventions (509 ± 70 min/week vs. 432 ± 70 min/week, respectively).

Conclusions: Four weeks of altitude exposure reduced BF% and increased FFM in trained individuals as opposed to sea level exposure. The results also indicate that a decrease in FM is greater at altitude compared to sea level. Changes were specifically observed in the truncus area.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSleep and Breathing
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1611-1618
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Altitude, Athletes, Training, Body composition, Hypoxia


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