The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown

Summary

  1. In this book you will discover the fundamental relationship between oxygen and the body.  Improving fitness depends on enhancing the release of oxygen to your muscles, organs,  and tissues. Increased oxygenation is not only healthy

Key Takeaways

  1. The biggest obstacle to your health and fitness is a rarely identified problem: chronic overbreathing
  2. What determines how much of this oxygen your body can use is actually the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood.
  3. The purpose of breathing is to get rid of the excess carbon dioxide, and not to get rid of as much as possible.
  4. I urge you to follow the instructions carefully and measure your BOLT (Body Oxygen Level Test) correctly—by holding your breath only until the first distinct urge to breathe is felt.
  5. In short, the lower the BOLT score, the greater the breathing volume, and the greater your breathing volume, the more breathlessness you will experience during exercise.
  6. Take a normal breath in through your nose and allow a normal breath out through your nose.           
    1. Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.           
    2. Time the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe, or the first stresses of your body urging you to breathe. These sensations may include the need to swallow or a constriction of the airways. You may also feel the first involuntary contractions of your breathing muscles in your abdomen or throat as the body gives the message to resume breathing. (Note that BOLT is not a measurement of how long you can hold your breath but simply the time it takes for your body to react to a lack of air.)           
    3. Release your nose, stop the timer, and breathe in through your nose. Your inhalation at the end of the breath hold should be calm. 
    4. Resume normal breathing.
  7. A common starting BOLT score for an individual who exercises regularly at a moderate intensity will be approximately 20 seconds. If your BOLT score is below 20 seconds, depending on genetic predisposition, you will probably find you experience a blocked nose, coughing, wheezing, disrupted sleep, snoring, fatigue, and excessive breathlessness during physical exercise. Each time that your BOLT score increases by 5 seconds, you will feel better, with more energy and reduced breathlessness during physical exercise. The aim of the Oxygen Advantage program is to increase your BOLT score to 40 seconds, and this can be realistically achieved. Your goal is to maintain a morning BOLT score of 40 seconds for a period of 6 months.
  8. When you undergo the Oxygen Advantage program, you may experience a body detoxification. The extent of the detoxification will depend on your BOLT score and state of health. In general, the higher your BOLT score and the healthier you are, the less likely you will experience a detoxification.
  9. The most important change is to get rid of processed foods in your diet.
  10. The production of nitric oxide in the nasal sinuses can be increased by simply humming.
  11. Nose Unblocking Exercise           
    1. Take a small, silent breath in through your nose and a small, silent breath out through your nose.           
    2. Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold your breath.           
    3. Walk as many paces as possible with your breath held. Try to build up a medium to strong air shortage, without overdoing it.           
    4. When you resume breathing, do so only through your nose. Try to calm your breathing immediately.           
    5. After resuming your breathing, your first breath will probably be bigger than normal. Make sure that you calm your breathing as soon as possible by suppressing your second and third breaths.       
    6. You should be able to recover normal breathing within 2 or 3 breaths. If your breathing is erratic or heavier than usual, you have held your breath for too long.           
    7. Wait 1 or 2 minutes before repeating the breath hold.           
    8. In order to prepare yourself for the longer breath holds, go easy for the first few repetitions, increasing your paces each time.           
    9. Repeat for a total of 6 breath holds, creating a fairly strong need for air.
    10. When you are able to walk a total of 80 paces with the breath held, your nose will remain decongested.
  12. The key to improving the quality of my sleep was incredibly simple: All I had to do was to learn to keep my mouth closed during sleep. Because we are unaware of how we breathe at night, the only sure way to ensure nasal breathing is to wear light paper tape across the lips to prevent the mouth from falling open. The tape that I have found most suitable, as it is simple to use, hypoallergenic, and light, is 3M Micropore tape, which can be bought from most drugstores.
  13. True health and inner peace occurs when breathing is quiet, effortless, soft, through the nose, abdominal, rhythmic, and gently paused on the exhale.
  14. Oxygen Advantage Warm-Up           
    1. Begin walking at a pace that is comfortable for you.           
    2. During your warm-up, try to breathe regularly and calmly through your nose, using your diaphragm to maintain a gentle and relaxed breathing technique.           
    3. Feel your abdomen gently moving outward as you inhale and gently moving inward as you exhale.         
    4. As you walk, allow a feeling of relaxation to spread throughout your body. Silently encourage the area around your chest and abdomen to relax (you will find that any tension can be released by silently telling that area of the body to relax). Feel your body relax and become soft. Body relaxation during physical exercise helps to ensure steady, calm, and regular breathing.           
    5. After 1 minute or so of walking at a fairly good pace, exhale normally through your nose and pinch your nose with your fingers to hold the breath. (If you are in a public place, you might prefer to hold the breath without holding your nose.)           
    6. While holding your breath, walk for 10 to 30 paces, or until you feel a moderate need to breathe. When you feel this hunger for air, let go of your nose and resume breathing through your nose.           
    7. Continue walking for 10 minutes, performing a breath hold every minute or so.
  15. You can check whether you are pushing yourself too hard during physical exercise by exhaling normally and holding your breath for 5 seconds. When you resume breathing through the nose, your breathing should remain controlled. If you find that you lose control of your breathing, you are pushing yourself too hard.
  16. Following physical exercise, cool down by walking for 3 to 5 minutes, performing the following small breath holds:           
    1. Exhale as normal through the nose.           
    2. Pinch your nose with your fingers to hold the breath for 2 to 5 seconds.
    3. Breathe normally through the nose for 10 seconds.           
    4. Repeat the first 3 steps throughout your cooldown.           
    5. Resume regular breathing.
  17. Follow these steps to track your progress using your BOLT score:           
    1. Measure your BOLT score before training.           
    2. Perform your physical exercise.           
    3. Measure your BOLT score one hour after you finish training.           
    4. If your BOLT score is higher after exercise than before, your breathing is efficient during exercise.           
    5. If your BOLT score is lower after exercise than before, your breathing is inefficient during exercise. In this situation, it is safer to slow down and ensure your breathing remains controlled throughout exercise.
  18. It seems clear, therefore, that high-intensity training offers several positive benefits to athletes, including:           
    1. Improved anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems, allowing for greater endurance, strength, speed, and power           
    2. Faster VO2 kinetics, allowing the blood to carry more oxygen to the muscles           
    3. Increased tolerance to high-intensity exercise           
    4. Decreased recovery time from less than maximum exercise           
    5. Reduced lactic acid buildup           
    6. Improved oxygenation of active muscles, allowing you to exercise harder and longer
  19. In essence, holding the breath until a medium to strong need for air mobilizes the diaphragm, provides it with a workout and helps to strengthen it.
  20. In a similar way that breath holding delays the onset of fatigue during sports, countless studies have shown that taking the alkaline agent bicarbonate of soda reduces acidity in the blood to improve endurance. Who would have thought that a cooking ingredient found in almost every kitchen cupboard in the Western world could also improve sports performance? Not only that, but it is a very helpful tool to reduce your breathing volume and increase your BOLT score. ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda or bread soda) 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  21. You should be able to recover your breathing within 2 to 3 breaths following a breath hold.
  22. Similar to any intense physical exercise, it is important to practice at least two hours after eating. Just as it is not advisable to go for a jog directly after eating, it is also best to practice breathing exercises on an empty stomach.
  23. Walk and hold: After a minute of continuous walking, gently exhale and pinch your nose to hold your breath. If you feel uncomfortable pinching your nose while walking in public, you can simply hold your breath without holding your nose. Continue to walk while holding your breath until you feel a medium to strong air shortage. Release your nose, inhale through it, and minimize your breathing by taking very short breaths for about 15 seconds. Then allow your breathing to return to normal.           
    1. Continue walking for 30 seconds and repeat: Continue walking for around 30 seconds while breathing through your nose, then gently exhale and pinch your nose with your fingers. Walk while holding the breath until you feel a medium to strong hunger for air. Release your nose and minimize your breathing by taking short breaths in and out through your nose for about 15 seconds. Then allow your breathing to revert to normal.           
    2. Repeat breath holds 8 to 10 times: While continuing to walk, perform a breath hold every minute or so in order to create a medium to strong need for air. Minimize your breathing for 15 seconds following each breath hold. Repeat for a total of 8 to 10 breath holds during your walk.
  24. Breath holding can also be incorporated into a jog, run, or bike ride. While you may not be able to hold your breath for as many paces during a jog as you can during a walk, the quality of the exercise will be better because of the greater accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood.
  25. Run and hold: Ten to fifteen minutes into your run, when your body has warmed up and is sweating, gently exhale and hold your breath until you experience a medium to strong air shortage. The length of the breath hold may range from 10 to 40 paces and will depend on your running speed and BOLT score.           
    1. Break for 1 minute and repeat: Following the breath hold, continue to jog or run with nasal breathing for about 1 minute, until your breathing has partially recovered.           
    2. Repeat breath holds 8 to 10 times: Repeat the breath hold 8 to 10 times during your run, followed each time by a minute of nasal breathing. The breath holds should be challenging but should also allow breathing to recover to normal within a couple of breaths.
  26. A still mind can be attained through having a high BOLT score, using meditation, and developing awareness of the mind—nothing else.
  27. We are conditioned to believe that in order to be productive and successful we must be constantly doing something. This belief, which forms the basis of modern society, is quite insane. We are not human doings; we are human beings.
  28. My life was completely transformed by three simple techniques: breathing lightly, merging with my inner body, and bringing my attention into the present moment.
  29. To reduce and eventually eliminate breathing through the mouth at night, follow these guidelines:           
    1. Avoid eating within the 2 hours before sleep, as the process of digestion increases breathing.           
    2. Keep your bedroom cool and airy (but not cold). A hot and stuffy room will only serve to increase breathing.           
    3. Sleep on your front or left side; sleeping on your back is by far the worst position, as there is no restriction to your breathing.           
    4. Ensure that your mouth is closed while you try to get to sleep (you can wear 1-inch Micropore tape across the lips as described in chapter 3 to help ensure this).           
    5. A most important practice to discourage heavy breathing at night is to Breathe Light to Breathe Right for 15 to 20 minutes before going to sleep. This exercise is especially good for calming the mind and helping you to experience deep sleep during the nights leading up to competition.
  30. Along with beet juice, essential nitric oxide–producing, heart-protecting food sources to include in your diet include fish, green vegetables, dark chocolate, red wine (a glass per day—not the bottle!), pomegranate juice, green or black tea, and oatmeal. Food sources to be limited in your diet include the usual culprits of meat and processed foods. Along with eating the right foods, supplementing your diet with the amino acid L-arginine has been proven to increase nitric oxide production, although results vary depending on age and genetics. These simple changes to your diet, in addition to simply breathing lightly through your nose, may provide the key to lifelong cardiovascular health.
  31. Body Oxygen Level Test (BOLT) summary exercises
    1. Nose Unblocking Exercise   
    2. Breathe Light to Breathe Right   
    3. Breathe Light to Breathe Right—Jogging, Running, or Any Other Activity
    4. Breathing Recovery, Improved Concentration   
    5. Simulate High-Altitude Training—Walking   
    6. Simulate High-Altitude Training—Running, Cycling, Swimming   
    7. Advanced Simulation of High-Altitude Training
  32. The only way to know you are reducing your breathing volume is feeling as if you would like to take in a bigger breath.
  33. The most common mistake is to deliberately tense the muscles of the chest or abdomen to restrict breathing movements.

What I got out of it

  1. Some good remidnres about the importance of breathing correctly and improving your oxygen:carbon dioxide levels. Some actionable and concrete steps you can take to improve and train yourself. See also Wim Hof