So the Mrs. has just finished a book titled “Breath”, by James Nestor, suggested to her by her ENT to help address inflamed turbinates that restrict airflow through her nose.
Discussing it with her, I came across a number of studies involving endurance athletes like cyclists and nose- vs. mouth-breathing efforts with potential performance benefits. In a nutshell, nose breathing lead to a 6-7bpm decrease in HR for comparable effort, but was only generally sustainable up to 80-85% of VO2 max, at which point they couldn’t get enough oxygen volume without mouth breathing.
And THEN I saw this article in an old Peloton Magazine:
Curious any thoughts or input from the forum. Coaches?
Where is the actual scientific research on this product? Anybody who is peddling (pardon the pun) a product is not to be completely trusted with their research. As the article noted, one experiment is hardly conclusive.
As with most cycling research is almost impossible to do double-blind experiments. Also, there is a great deal of medical research where scientific explanations as to why something should work turned out not to actually achieve the expected result.
Try breathing out through your mouth and in through your nose on a cold day for a few minutes, its very unpleasant and shows the importance the nose has on pre warming air before it hits our lungs. I make a point of nose breathing whenever I’m working out at Z2 or below.
I think the gimmicks are just that, perhaps they work for a small number of people, remember BreatheRight nasal strips/sticky plasters they appeared over 20 yrs ago a small number of pros are still using them.
I have used these to open up nasal passages at night if I am really congested, and they certainly do work for me. It never occurred to me that they may help during exercise.
I have lost them at moment but after reading that article I’ll give them a go my next workout. I have a hard time getting enough air flow through my nose, and I will have a sore throat any time I do lot of mouth breathing during exercise. Like JGreengrass says, you notice how important it is on cold days, or days with a lot of particulates in the air.
I have a runny nose already for the first bit of any exercise, so we’ll see how it goes
So with breathing, be it mouth or nose, the air is all going the same place, the lungs. That’s where perfusion occurs and oxygen enters the blood stream and heads to the working muscles. Funnily enough, with the nasal passage being smaller, it is likely that that would restrict airflow if anything and increase HR. The benefit of breathing through the nose while riding easy (as oxygen demands are not as high) is air filtration. So the nose basically is better at removing pollutants and pollen from the air than the mouth is (before it gets to the lungs anyway) because the mucus and hairs in there help filter and trap anything. So it can supposedly decrease the chance of upper respiratory infections (URI). This is of a higher importance for world tour riders who are on the limit of healthy body fat percentages and more likely to experience URIs. For the rest of us, we’re most likely equipped with a more rugged immune system, and anyway, at low intensities we tend to breath through our nose naturally. As oxygen demands increase and we ride harder, we switch to mouth breathing because it’s what’s needed.
In terms of marketing, Chris Froome had his nose turbines, Sagan had his breathing glasses, and Are had nose surgery to improve his performance. All 3 either didn’t get faster, or didn’t use the products until the next product came to market to push. Magazines are often sponsored to show these advertisements.
I will note that during periods of extreme pollen flows (which seems to have been the last two months), nose breathing is REQUIRED or I end up with a persistent cough (commonly referred to as Persuiter’s Cough). So, if I mouth breathe I end up with allergic symptoms AND a cough that won’t quit. Once I get out of allergy season, then I have to deal with Desert weather! Heat and dust almost every day.
I coincidentally bought the ‘Breath’ book mentioned by the OP the day before seeing this come through on the forum. Still busy going through it (audible, daily dog walk, it’ll take a while), but it seems like the benefits of nose breathing will accumulate over time. There are physiological changes that take place through consistent nose breathing that will improve airflow & breathing performance.
As someone who grew up as a mouth breather due to allergies and a permanently congested nose, a lot of the symptoms mentioned in the book (bad teeth, snoring, etc) apply to me. I also struggle to get enough air in via the nose when cycling (especially indoors and pushing it).
So I’m giving it a go, and will try for the long term. I’ll report back in a month or two with any notable results…
The nose also has effects beyond filtration, and is the prime regulator of temperature and humidity of the air-flow into the lungs. There are a number of features that aid with temperature and humidity regulation with both inhalation and exhalation. HR will be correlated to oxygen update, but this is effected by both of those factors in addition to simple volumetric considerations (all other things being equal), and actually the size is another partial factor that aids turbulence generation in the nasal airways which is useful for HT regulation and mixing. As demand increases, there is clearly a limit that leads to breathing switching more to the mouth, but for efforts below that there may well be performance, as well as comfort, benefits to nasal breathing and for which there appears to be a certain amount of data.
I am a Pilates/movement teacher and have studied Breath work extensively as well as being on courses with Brian Mckenzie - Power Speed Endurance and Patrick McKeown.
I teach nasal breathing for movement and parasympathetic nervous system (calming)
I teach and practise it for endurance sports.
When you exhale via your nasal cavity, you release No2 (Nitric Oxide) when you inhale this back into the lungs via your nose, you’re red blood cells are able to absorb 8% more oxygen.
You’re also building up a greater tolerance to carbon dioxide by breathing more slowly, essential for transporting and absorbing oxygen into the cells/muscles.
The faster you breath, via your mouth, the more oxygen is lost in transit. The lower your tolerance to Co2, the less your cells are able to absorb.
Nasal breathing initiates the parasympathetic nervous system - calming… so try hill climbing nasal breathing and notice how much less your body is tensing and therefore conserving energy…
But, changing from mouth breathing to nasal breathing is like any muscle adaptation, it takes 6/8 weeks of small increments and be prepared for lots of snot rockets!!
As your tolerance to C02 builds, you nasal cavity will naturally be more open anyway as it’s a vaso dilator (Opens your blood vessels)
I’m able to nasal breath up to around 182 BPM …
One last point… if you’re someone who wheezes a lot after a long ride… shut your mouth You’re probably causing your lungs to be irritated/inflamed/exercise educed asthma and I bet you with nasal breathing, it’ll be drastically improved.
Start on the turbo trainer and then once you’ve nailed a few minutes, 1/2 a session - have a go out doors… Have fun!