Increasing your blood oxygen is a powerful way to enhance your mental focus and boost your physical endurance in the gym.
Back in 2013, Lance Armstrong, the world’s best cyclist, admitted that he’d been doping for years. He announced he’d been taking a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) to gain superhuman endurance and motivation.
Lance understood the power of increased blood oxygen. EPO works by expanding the amount of oxygen your blood can contain. With more oxygen, your body can deliver more energy to your cells, allowing you to push harder and go longer, both physicallyhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30188362/ and mentally.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611105307.htm
You probably don’t want to take a banned prescription drug to increase your blood oxygen. However, there are several legal compounds you can take to enhance your blood oxygen levels and measurably upgrade your performance.
Here’s a look at the benefits of increased blood oxygen, and how you can enhance your oxygen saturation for more physical and mental endurance.
Note: If you found this article because your blood oxygen levels are low, call your doctor ASAP. Low oxygen can send your body into a downward spiral quickly, and supplements won’t help. This information is for people who want to support healthy oxygen transport.
The Performance Benefits of Increased Blood Oxygen
Blood oxygen is just what it sounds like: the amount of oxygen your red blood cells are carrying through your body.
Ideally, you’ll go through your day with a blood oxygen level of 95-100%— that is, more than 95% of the red blood cells heading to your heart have been oxygenated by your lungs.
But during times when you’re using a lot of oxygen— like in the middle of an intense workout— your blood oxygen levels can drop. Your brain and muscle cells will be hungry for more oxygen, and when they can’t get it, they’ll become less effective and you’ll start to fatigue.
That’s why some athletes cheat by taking oxygen-enhancing drugs, like Lance Armstrong did with EPO. EPO increases your blood’s ability to carry oxygen, which means you can push harder for longer without fatiguing. The more oxygen your blood can carry, the more endurance you’ll have.
There may also be a mental component to increased blood oxygen. A 2012 study found that increasing blood oxygen in mice led to a sizable increase in their mental capacity and motivation.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120611105307.htm That’s valuable when you’re competing at a professional level.
But let’s say you’re not an elite athlete. You just want a little extra energy in the gym and the ability to focus better at work. Can you increase your blood oxygen without prescription drugs?
It turns out you can.
4 Compounds that Increase Your Blood Oxygen Levels
There are several common compounds that increase your blood oxygen and offer performance benefits. Here’s a look at each of them.
If you drink coffee or tea in the morning, you’re already boosting your blood oxygen.
Several studies have found that caffeine increases oxygen saturation in your tissues.
- In a 1999 study, men breathed in 100% oxygen to increase their blood oxygen levels, then drank either a caffeinated drink or a placebo. drinkhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10372428/ The men who drank caffeine had significantly more oxygen saturation in their tissue and maintained their oxygen levels for longer.
- Another study found that people who drank caffeine had higher oxygen saturation in their muscles, as well as better peak cardio performance on a workout bike test.https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bcp.14189
Caffeine may be the most common (and convenient) way to increase your blood oxygen levels.
EPA and DHA
EPA and DHA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re most common in seafood, particularly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna. You can also find them in certain types of algae.
A 2014 study found that people who took EPA and DHA daily had better oxygen transport during exercise, meaning their blood oxygen levels stayed more stable and lasted longer.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25835232/ They also had increased blood flow, which means their blood could deliver more oxygen to tissues faster.
Several other studies have sound similar benefits in people who took EPA and DHA.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19034030/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25144572/
Better blood oxygen transport is one of the many reasons to take an omega-3 supplement. Just make sure you get the right kind. Generally speaking, you can only find EPA and DHA in animal foods. Plants contain another kind of omega-3 called ALA, but you only absorb about 5% of it.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1825498/
The one exception in the plant world is algae, which is rich in EPA and DHA. That’s what you find in high quality nootropic formulas.
You may have heard that beet juice is a good natural pre-workout and focus enhancer.
It sounds odd, but it turns out there’s some truth to it. Beets are an excellent source of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is a vasodilator— it opens up your blood vessels and allows more blood to flow through, increasing oxygen transport.
Your body contains natural nitric oxide, and it’s so good at increasing blood flow that some researchers have suggested naming it the third essential gas in your respiratory system, along with oxygen (which you breathe in) and carbon dioxide (which you breathe out).https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23737185/
A recent scientific review found that taking a nitric oxide supplement increases oxygen transport, improving both cardio and strength performance in the gym.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260513/
You can increase your nitric oxide with a couple different supplements, including L-arginine and glycine propionyl-L-carnitine (GPLC).https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22260513/
Iron can also increase your blood oxygen levels, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Iron is only helpful if you’re anemic— that is, if your iron levels are low.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21456305/
If you already have enough iron, taking more won’t help you, and could potentially be harmful.
That said, a lot of people have an iron deficiency. Women are particularly prone to low iron levels because of menstruation— you lose a lot of blood, and iron with it, every month. About 10-20% of women and 2% of men have low iron levels.https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0301/p671.html
It’s worth getting your iron levels tested, especially if you’re a woman. Anemia could be impacting your day-to-day performance.
Nootropic Ingredients for Blood Flow to the Brain
Certrain nootropic (cognitive enhancing) supplement ingredients work by increasing blood flow to the brain. Better circulation means more efficient delivery of oxygen to brain cells, which may enhance cognitive performance. Some ingredients that improve circulation include ginkgo biloba, lion’s mane mushroom, vinpocetine, and others.
Increase Blood Oxygen to Enhance Your Performance
Boosting your blood oxygen will help you push harder in the gym without running out of energy, and it may increase your mental resilience as well.
That’s one of the reasons you see caffeine, EPA and DHA in certain nootropic formulas. The right supplements will help you become a better, faster, stronger version of yourself.
Give the compounds in this article a try— and if you want even more of a boost, take our formula quiz to discover the perfect supplement combination for your unique body and mind.