Your body’s ability to absorb oxygen or exhale carbon dioxide is all about pressure gradients. Gases move from high pressure and high concentration to lower pressure and lower concentration.
As long as the pressure and concentration of oxygen in your environment and outside your body (in the air you breathe) is higher than the oxygen concentration inside your body, oxygen will move down that gradient into your body from your lungs, into your bloodstream, and eventually into your cells.
The amount and speed of oxygen moving down this gradient are dependent on the amount of pressure that exists. This is why training at altitude works and this is also why hyperbaric oxygen works.
See, there is 21% oxygen in the air no matter what altitude you are at. The pressure of the atmosphere is what changes. At sea level, the pressure of air is 760mmHg and our oxygen pressure is 159 mmHg. At 8000 ft above sea level, the pressure of air is 564 mmHg and the pressure of oxygen is 118 mmHg. That difference in pressure is what makes the air “thinner” at altitude.
The same but opposite phenomenon occurs below sea level. As you descend below sea level the pressure increases and therefore the ability to absorb air and oxygen also increases. The deeper you go, the more pressure, the more your body can absorb.
In a hyperbaric environment, the amount of pressure exerted on a person and the amount of time they are in this pressurized environment can be controlled, enabling control over the amount of increased oxygen absorption that can be taken into one’s cells. Once absorbed, this extra oxygen can be used for making ATP and energy, increasing the capacity for working tissues to perform, or increasing the capacity of healing and recovery. It’s important to understand that you cannot achieve this effect by simply breathing a higher amount of oxygen or parking yourself at one of those popular “oxygen” bars or taking a shot of liquid oxygen: unless you combine this added oxygen with actual pressure, you’re not going to absorb any extra oxygen!
So why else would you want to increase your oxygen levels?
There are times that red blood cells might be fully saturated with oxygen, but due to trauma to the circulation system, the human body cannot deliver the oxygen to where it needs to go. This trauma can be macro trauma from an accident or injury and/or microcirculation damage from a long list of things including chronic inflammation, toxicity, overuse injuries and exercise.
Studies have shown that if you could increase the oxygen level within the body beyond “normal” oxygen levels you can increase…
• Free-floating oxygen delivery to muscle tissue
• The speed, efficiency and amount of ATP our cells can make
• Total amount of mitochondria
• Capacity for complex brain/motor function
• The speed of recovery of muscle tissue from exercise or other damage