Although pulse oximeters are ubiquitous in medical settings, only recently have they become available for athletes. These small but powerful devices can give you a snapshot of your body’s ability to process oxygen, which is a key factor in performance if you live or train at altitude, or tend to overtrain. Here we’ll investigate how these devices work, and how you might use them to optimize your performance.

What is a pulse oximeter?
A pulse oximeter is a device that measures blood oxygen levels (oxygen saturation or SpO2) by estimating the percentage of oxygen bound to hemoglobin in the blood. Pulse oximeters are small, portable, non-invasive and painless; they’re so convenient that they’re often used by pilots and people who work or train at high altitudes. Simply clip it to your (or your athlete’s) finger, and it will give you an accurate data reading.

How does a Pulse Oximeter work?
At the point when oxygen is breathed in into the lungs, it connects to hemoglobin (a protein in red platelets). The red platelets at that point transport oxygen into the circulation system, enabling it to be scattered to tissue. The vast majority of us need around 550 liters of oxygen for every day to work, yet that volume can twofold or triple amid exercise. As you train, your body will most likely use more oxygen, all the more effectively.

To discover how much oxygen is in your blood, a pulse oximeter produces light (normally red and infrared) through one side of your finger onto a photodetector on the opposite side. As it goes through your finger, the light hits your platelets, and is consumed distinctively by the hemoglobin without oxygen (deoxyhemoglobin) than by the hemoglobin with oxygen (oxyhemoglobin). The nature of the light that influences it to the photograph identifier to can disclose to us how much oxygen is in your blood—ordinary reaches are regularly from 94 percent to 100 percent.

Distinctive oximeters are made for various purposes. Some are planned only for use in medical clinics, however others can be increasingly valuable for athletic execution. The SantaMedical specifically offers four different measurements notwithstanding the standard blood oxygen immersion (SpO2). With pulse (HR), breath rate (RR), Perfusion Index (PI), and Pleth Variability Index (PVI), you can keep point by point tabs on your preparation movement, which can all be matched up to Training Peaks.

Using Pulse-Ox For Recovery
Using Peripheral Saturation of Blood Oxygen (SpO2) readings with your usual training metrics can, first and foremost, help you gauge whether you’re recovering properly.

Take the athlete below, who woke up feeling “not right” after a hard training block. You can see the block in his Training Stress Score (TSS) for Tuesday. To make things worse, he was sleeping less than 7 hours a night. Sure enough, he found that his morning SpO2 was low—just 93%.

This is a great case of an athlete who may feel well enough to go train, but his low sleep hours and low SpO2 corroborate his sense of “not feeling right.” Instead of continuing his training as planned, this athlete focused on recovery and sleep for the next two days (you’ll see he got 9 hours of sleep for two consecutive nights). Subsequently His SpO2 normalized and the following training days went very well.

Simply paying attention to the right numbers can result in a good training block and even help avoid an over-training scenario.

Using Pulse-Ox for Altitude Acclimatization
At height, where the air is more slender, it is progressively troublesome for your body to get sufficient oxygen to your muscles and tissues. For instance, in case you're hustling or preparing at 10,000 feet (3000 m), the measure of powerful oxygen noticeable all around is around 15 percent (contrasted with 21 percent adrift dimension). In case you're accustomed to living adrift dimension, this adjustment in oxygen accessibility will commence a course of physiological adjustments, some of which are invaluable regardless of where you're dashing.

To begin, there will be an expansion in your respiratory and pulses; and the volume of blood catapulted from the heart (stroke volume) will be diminished. Over your initial 24-48 hours at elevation, blood plasma volume will likewise be diminished to improve the oxygen-conveying limit of your blood by volume. These adjustments won't really feel better—in actuality you'll presumably feel like you're accomplishing more work for less reward.

Nonetheless, delayed introduction to height will make your body increment generation of red platelets with bigger hemoglobin, taking into consideration a halfway or full reclamation of the blood volume and blood vessel oxygen content. Following a month or more, your maximal pulse reaction will be lower, as will your pinnacle cardiovascular yield—your blood is conveying more oxygen, so your heart won't have to siphon as quick or hard.

Once completely acclimatized, your pinnacle oxygen take-up will be equivalent to adrift dimension, however the immersion of blood vessel oxygen will be expanded for example you will have progressively total oxygenation of the blood in the lungs. That implies you'll have the capacity to race and prepare as ordinary at height, and will probably appreciate some additional oxygen consuming perseverance adrift dimension.

To comprehend what period of acclimatization you're in, and upgrade your preparation around it, the SantaMedical can quantify a large portion of the adjustments referenced previously. This is what to search for specifically:

Blood Oxygen and Heart Rate
In the first couple of days at altitude you want to see a lower Peripheral Saturation of Blood Oxygen (SpO2) and an elevated heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR). This is your body attempting to balance out the lack of oxygen in the air by moving it faster through your body.
With prolonged stays at altitude, most people’s SpO2 will stay about the same or increase slightly; but your heart and respiratory rates should normalize, as well as the your ability to perform exercise at altitude. A SpO2 of 88 to 92 percent will give you the most beneficial training adaptations without causing undue fatigue.

Another common problem at high altitudes is dehydration. Luckily the Mighty Sat has a parameter called the Pleth Variability Index (or PVI). It is a complicated measurement, but ultimately shows your body’s hydration status, or ability to respond to additional fluids, way more accurately than the standard pee color test. For most people, if the PVI is 25 or above, it is safe to say that you should drink more. If it is below 20, you are probably fine. This is a great metric to use if you commonly find yourself dehydrated, or experience headaches at altitude.

Respiratory Rate Change
The Respiratory Rate (RR) work gives you a chance to measure recuperation after higher power exercises. For instance, in the event that you know the time it returns your RR to come to gauge in the wake of playing out a 5 minute interim adrift dimension, you will see that your RR takes more time to recoup at elevation. As you adapt, you should see the ideal opportunity for recuperation float back towards your pattern.

Note: If you find that you are not adjusting at all following half a month, you may need to investigate what's going on your body. A few things could be continuing, including deficient iron admission, hidden ailment and overtraining (every great knowledge to have in case you're not seeing execution upgrades!)

Regardless of whether you utilize a pulse oximeter for height preparing or simply checking your recuperation status, it is a basic and simple to-utilize apparatus that can give you some extremely important bits of knowledge.

Dr. Jonathan Edwards contributed to this article.

Author's Bio: 

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures blood oxygen levels (oxygen saturation or SpO2) by estimating the percentage of oxygen bound to hemoglobin in the blood.