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oxygen plus in hand

You’ve probably heard of altitude tents, the “live high, train low” philosophy, and maybe even hypoxic training masks. But what about supplemental oxygen?

These are literally canisters of oxygen that you carry around like packets of energy gel. One company that sells these is called Oxygen Plus, and they offer what are considered “recreational oxygen products” in small canisters as well as refillable inhalers.

You can even buy your oxygen in different flavors!

Could this help improve your sports performance? Let’s find out…

The concept

These canisters are filled with 95% enriched oxygen. Compare that to normal air which is around 21% oxygen and it sounds very impressive.

The concept isn’t exactly new. Supplemental oxygen is commonplace in the medical field and no action movie airplane scene is complete without the oxygen masks deploying to scared passengers.

I’m not sure when it became popular with athletes (there’s a study from 1992), but it’s certainly out there now.

The idea is that anytime you need more oxygen for your muscles (like during exercise) or your brain (an important test or long work day), you can take a few breaths of this stuff and feel better and improve your performance. You could also use it anytime you’re subjected to thin air, perhaps during a long flight or when you have a race at altitude (when you don’t live at altitude). Or maybe even recover from a hangover with it.

Oxygen Plus provides some links to more research if you want to dive deeper. Of course, the studies they reference all have positive findings. You’ll have to look harder for the studies showing minimal/no effect.

My opinion

When I first heard about canned oxygen – and worse, oxygenated water – I thought it was just hype and broscience. But at least I now know that they are doing studies on supplemental oxygen used for sports performance.

Going into this test, though, I was still a bit skeptical!

Sure, I can understand the reasoning when you’re climbing Mt Everest, but to improve your workout performance during an ordinary workout, I’m not sure. And just because Olympic athletes are using it, and you often see football players using it on the sidelines, doesn’t mean it’s doing a whole lot.

oxygen plus canister

Your red blood cells carry a finite amount of oxygen. Once they’re saturated, breathing in extra oxygen is a waste. That’s why pros get caught and banned for blood doping… and USADA doesn’t give a crap if you inhale this stuff! It also means that on a regular day when you’re sedentary, you won’t get one bit of benefit from this excess oxygen.

Essentially, breathing in higher oxygen concentrations doesn’t mean your body can transport more of that oxygen to where it’s needed.

The human body is pretty impressive on its own. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been living my life in air with a normal oxygen concentration. And I’m doing just fine. My ancestors apparently did OK, too.

More isn’t always better. For most things, there’s an ideal range. For example, getting your core temperature up is a good thing. But going higher than that ideal temperature will decrease performance. Staying hydrated is good. Drinking too much water, that can be dangerous.

Why should I believe that I need more oxygen?

They say your brain needs oxygen. And yes, it does.

It also needs glucose and requires a steady supply of that. But that doesn’t mean you need a packet of GU energy gel all the time. Imagine if the directions on the GU packet said “one 15 minutes before your workout, one every 45 minutes during your workout… and one every hour the rest of the day for your brain function.”

Canned oxygen may very well relieve headaches and nausea when they’re caused by altitude sickness. That doesn’t mean headaches and nausea caused by drinking too much alcohol will be relieved the same way. There’s no basis for that.

For the price, it better work! The canisters cost approximately $8 each (a 3-pack is $23.97), and a canister probably lasts through 1-2 workouts. Jeez. I don’t even spend that much on premium-priced supplements like GU Roctane gels or Clif organic energy food.

I did some tests on myself.

While I’m not equipped to perform any type of scientific research study, I’m totally ready to do some “flying by the seat of my pants” n=1 studies!

But first, to figure out how to use these inhalers! It sounds fairly simple. Exhale, place the inhaler to your nose or mouth, then press the button and inhale.

Despite the simplicity, it felt really awkward to me! I had never used an inhaler before this so it just seemed weird. The canister doesn’t propel the oxygen into your mouth, so you have to actively inhale and time it right.

After studying the proper technique, I did a few dry runs because I didn’t want to waste any oxygen!

Then I wondered if I’d even be able to tell if it’s working. Would it tingle? Would I get a sugar rush?

According to Oxygen Plus: “After a few breaths, you should feel invigorated — either a mental or physical boost or a sense of calm.”

I conducted my tests, and my findings are as follows:

Before a workout for extra energy

I figured this would be the best time to test it, since there could be a double benefit – I’ll not only get energized before the workout, I’ll be able to forget about the stresses of the day and better focus on the workout itself.

For the workout, I chose kettlebell swings, since they require my lungs to take in lots of oxygen, and I have to stay focused to maintain proper form when I’m getting into the high rep ranges.

I did this twice, about two weeks apart. Before each workout, I took five deep breaths of Oxygen Plus. Then I did a warmup routine to loosen my hips and shoulders, then as many KB swings as possible.

The results were about the same each time. Right after inhaling the Oxygen Plus, I maybe, just maybe felt a refreshing/calming feeling. And during the workouts, I felt pretty good, mentally and cardiovascularly.

I can’t draw any real conclusions though. That initial feeling could have been a placebo effect, or it could have been from calmly inhaling the deep breaths. The pleasant feeling during and after the workout could have been the Oxygen Plus… or it could have been endorphins.

During hill sprints (recovery intervals)

At first, it seems like a logical choice to down some extra oxygen during an interval workout, when you’re huffing and puffing between efforts (and only have a limited time to recover before going again). So I did.

I used Oxygen Plus to recover between 30 second hill sprints. During the workout, I ended up taking 3 enhanced breaths, 3 times.

Did I notice anything? Nope. I can’t comment one way or another.

However, I thought of something. Say you used this all the time. Could it hamper your body’s ability to pull in oxygen if you keep spoon feeding it oxygenated air like that? Could it lessen your adaptations? I have no idea. But after the studies showing that consuming too many antioxidants could detract from your workout’s effectiveness, I’m a little hesitant on these things.

Now I’m not saying to go buy a training mask or anything. I’m just saying I won’t be carrying O+ sticks with me on my regular training runs.

At altitude

This, to me, would be the most interesting test. Me, going to altitude without acclimating, and attempting to perform at my normal level by sucking down a canister of Oxygen Plus pre-race.

Unfortunately, being based on the East Coast, near the Appalachian Mountains, I don’t regularly train or race at altitude. Thus, I have no test results in this regard.

A cure for sleep deprivation

If you’re out camping or at a 24-hour mountain bike race and need to function on lack of sleep, could the oxygen help?

This is sort of what happened to me one day – I got very little sleep, needed to ride my mountain bike, and caffeine wasn’t helping (actually the caffeine just made things worse by giving me jitters on top of everything else!)

So I started inhaling some of this peppermint oxygen! I took 3 big breaths at 10:00 am and another 3 big breaths at 11:00 am. By 12:30pm, when I needed to perform, I still didn’t feel any different or more alert. Bummer!

At work

I hit that mid-afternoon slump and was also feeling run down from the heat. I needed a breath of fresh air, something invigorating, but not caffeine that would keep me up at night. Could the peppermint oxygen perk me up?

I inhaled 3-5 breaths, and… I’m not sure. I didn’t notice anything happen. There was no noticeable increased alertness. However, I felt pretty darn good the rest of the day! So it certainly didn’t hurt!

The thing is, I’ve inhaled minty air before that made me feel good and invigorated. It was from an Olbas inhaler that cost me about $4 and lasted for years!

That was a lot more potent though. The flavors of Oxygen Plus are pretty weak.

I can barely tell there is a peppermint flavor; it’s very faint. It’s strongest when I’m shooting it up a nostril, but even then, it’s pretty faint, even after a few blasts. That’s not a bad thing, but if they’re going to flavor it, why not really flavor it?

The plain one, called “natural,” it’s just like spraying air on your tongue. There is no flavor, no aftertaste whatsoever. I’d just go with this one since it won’t interfere with the flavors of the energy gels or bars you’re eating during your training sessions.

My final verdict is…

Nothing compares to spending 4+ weeks at altitude if you want to increase your red blood cell count and significantly improve performance for an upcoming event at altitude. But that’s not feasible for most people. So maybe, just maybe, carrying a few of these canisters will help you deal with going from sea level to elevation. (I didn’t test that so I can’t say for sure.)

If you’re looking for slight improvements in your pre-workout energy levels or faster recovery post-workout, I found no solid evidence this actually helps in any way. Your money is probably better spent elsewhere.

Official website: www.OxygenPlus.com

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Oxygen Plus
Product: Oxygen Plus
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 2.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-10-03
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. You’re just wasting your time testing this at sea level!

    • @Nathan

      Haha yeah I think you’re right! Which is how I felt from the beginning, but I still had to test my assumptions, just in case!

      I would certainly like to carry some of this with me whenever I decide to make a trip to 14,000′ elevation!

  2. Good to have around for chest pain but wont use o plus company again. Their sneaky ! Don’t use anything but a low $ prepaid card. Don’t even feel like giving them my name. Who knows what they will do with it. Caught them in bold faced lies. True story.

  3. I don’t know what part of the Appalachians you are near but you might try heading up to some trails at 5-6000 ft. and experimenting with the stuff there.

    I live near sea level and had to do some vigorous hiking above 10,000 ft. I’m not a young guy anymore. The occasional puff off one of those cans might have helped until I got acclimated. Or might not.

  4. There is one area of the recreational oxygen usage question that doesn’t seem to get answered. I can’t seem to find any meaningful research findings to help with the answer. Here’s my question: There are two people in this household with COPD, the nearest ambulance service is 20 minutes away (that’s an eternity when you’re not breathing well), the doc says the conditions aren’t serious enough to warrant a prescription for supplemental oxygen. Okay, wouldn’t having a can or two of recreational 95% oxygen be at least a fairly good idea if a person has a flare of COPD and is only waiting for EMS to provide the real thing? Seems like ten or twenty dollars of well spent money if the stress, panic and anxiety are in such a situation were greatly reduced.

    • @Richard

      You would think so, yes.

      But I can understand why you wouldn’t find any meaningful research on the matter. The recreational oxygen companies won’t want to fund this research because they have a different target market (and are probably strictly prohibited from advertising their products in any relation to COPD or similar). So it wouldn’t benefit them. And the medical oxygen companies, they certainly don’t want anyone to buy recreational oxygen instead of their products, so they have no incentive to fund the research, either.

  5. I am 65 former long distance competitive runner low 2:20’s for 26.2 in early 1980’s. I also am ashmatic and hve worked with asbestos. At sea level I just tried two puffs ans airways seem more clear. I will try it on hill repeats within next month and get back. I think if someone is predisposed to a pulmonary issue there will be some benefit.

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