About 35 times per week people come to see me to find out ways to get the most out of their fitness training. Without question, athletic results are a mixture of hard work, consistency, motivation, good technique, proper rest, good nutrition, some good luck in terms of natural ability, as well as the amount of time one can dedicate to training. In light of this, here an interesting story about a modern performance enhancer that seems to work, and according to some is a safe and reliable way to improve athletic performance.
Xenon (Xe) is an inert gas which was first discovered in England 1898. On the periodic table it is found in line with the noble gasses such as helium, neon, argon, and has little tendecny to reacact with other chemicals. It was first used industrially in the 1930s by an American engineer who used Xenon gas for strobe light technology for photography, and more recently in high priced automoble headlights. In 1939 American physician who was investigating the causes of "drunkenness" in deep-sea divers discovered that Xenon inhalation affected divers to perceive a change in depth. This also directly led to a discovery that xenon gas could be used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures.
In modern application, Xenon gas has been used in a safely in medicine to treat lack of oxygen, help protect body tissues from trauma, deal with cold temperatures, and stimulate a body to naturally secrete a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). Most notably, xenon gas has been used as a treatment for babies when deprived of oxygen at birth, instead of injecting synthetic EPO to stimulate red blood cell production, the administeration of xenon gas has saved many lives in it's application.
You might have heard of EPO, which has become a buzz word in athletics and made notorious for its scandals in the international cycling communities and Olympic Games. Its use when injected into the body is known to increase blood cell production in the months before the sporting events. It improves the heart and lungs capacity to bring oxygen to working muscles, and therefore increases aerobic performance, and warding off fatigue in hard working athletes. However, its use in competition is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) due to the health concerns of creating too much red blood cells, or in laymen’s terms EPO used as a performance enhancer can make the blood too thick to pump through the heart, and sometimes can result in serious medical emergencies such as heart attacks.
However, Russian sport authorities have argued (and successfully so far) that xenon shouldn't be regarded appreciably different than the widely accepted practice of placing athletes in low-oxygen chambers to stimulate the production of red cells. Just as the deep water divers in 1939 sensed a change in depth, today’s athletes can get the same high altitude training affect without having to relocate to places like Nepal, Colorado or Kenya. And additionally as high altitude training effects wear off within a few hours, conversely xenon gases effects are reported to last for several days.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has laid out guidelines for its administration, recommending a dose of 5% oxygen and 50% xenon as a way to increase cardiopulmonary capacity and prevent muscle fatigue, but also suggests that it can be a curative for pre-competition anxiety, sleep disorders and to aid in recovery after an event. On its website, Atom-Med Centre, the Russian company that produces xenon, claims it has been constantly working with sports federations of Russia in the preparations and participation of athletes in team competitions at an international level since the summer of 2003. In my opinion, it points to some of Russia’s success in the Socci winter games of 2014.
The final word on Xenon as a performance enhancer will ultimately will come from WADA, who is in the process of formally reviewing it. Ben Nichols, WADA’s senior manager of media relations and communications, has mentioned it was on WADA’s radar and will likely added to the prohibited list on September 1st 2014. So, in closing I'm not sure that I'll be seeking to huff Xenon anytime soon, as well as I'm unaware of where you could find any commertially sold in Canada, but if you're looking for the most recent edge on performace enhancement Xenon is your answer. However, untill there is a study on the longterm after effects of it's use, I think I'll just have to resort to training harder, and maybe take a little more time to catch my breath.