I've lived something of a double life over the last 4 or so weeks. By all appearances, I've ducked out to the gym at lunch as I sometimes do. But that's not entirely true. I've actually been hitting the treadmill wearing a semi-airtight wetsuit attached to a series of tubes forcing positive and negative air pressure around my stomach and love handles. This is Hypoxi weight loss and it actually works. This is my sweaty story.
I first heard about Hypoxi when my colleagues over at POPSUGAR tried the program in Sydney earlier this year. Alison reported amazing results using Hypoxi's L250 machine: a bum-smoothing, thigh reducing cycle capsule used while wearing a compression skirt.
Intrigued by the technology, I wanted to see if Hypoxi was also suitable for guys. I don't think I could rock a skirt. For me -- and men looking to get rid of our beer belly -- Hypoxi suggested the Vacunaut system.
Apparently it's quite popular with celebrities, including Robbie Williams. So there's that I guess.
I was asked to bring along a small towel, runners, a comfortable gym t-shirt and knee length tights or bike pants. A record scratched in my mind.
Still not entirely sure what I was getting myself into, I headed over to my first appointment.
First impressions are everything, and thankfully, the staff were incredibly welcoming and professional. I was surprised that Hypoxi's various studio locations tend to be large suites in office buildings about the country, but discretion and privacy wasn't a problem.
At Hypoxi's North CBD location near Wynyard in Sydney, studio-owner Bohdana and I sat down in a private room. What were my goals? Were good eating habits a challenge? What could Hypoxi offer me? I bared it all, quite literally, stripping down to my underwear for first measurements. I took an optional 'before' selfie on my own smartphone. I confronted myself in the mirror. It was time for a change. In for a penny, in to lose pounds...
Tethered To The Machine
Next step was to get zipped into the special vacunaut suit I'd be wearing while power walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes. The need for the compression running shorts I had to go out and buy soon became clear: they're to avoid chafing around your man bits. I later learned this the hard way when I foolishly forgot them for a session and toughed it out with normal shorts. That was fun.
The Vacunaut suit is a neoprene wetsuit customised with a network of 122 integrated pressure chambers around your midsection. Connected by air tubes to the Vacunaut machine, these pockets receive alternating negative and positive air pressure to help target stubborn areas (my gut). And that's the central premise of Hypoxi. Understanding that good circulation, exercise and healthy eating are the key components to weight loss, an Austrian sports scientist patented the method to encourage circulation in a targeted way while you exercise. More on the research here.
So I became a Vacunaut.
Hypoxi fat burning training is effectively moderate aerobic training. Session lengths are designed so the majority of energy you use comes from metabolising fat. And you wear a heart rate monitor to stay within 50-60 per cent of your maximum heart rate during your session. Everyone is different, so this is individually calculated using the (German scientist) Stranzenberg method: 180 minus age. For me that meant power walking to stay within a range of 130 to 145 heart beats-per-minute. The way Hypoxi sees it, at this level the body has optimal oxygen supply for efficient fat metabolism while not being too strenuous. This also provides a short regeneration time.
So there I was sweating in my wetsuit. I felt a little like Ivan Drago in Rocky.
Focusing on my treadmill coordination. Feeling my waist get squeezed then released by air pressure. Cooking like a chicken in an oven basting bag.
So hungry. I was going to eat the hell out of lunch after this. But I'd have to kill the carbs.
After the gym -- especially during the day -- is arguably the best time for fitness fans to consume carbohydrates. Think bread, bread, pasta, cereal, and so on. Carbs help fuel your brain and recover focus when you're back at the desk. However, Hypoxi advised me to have those (up to 1-2 hours) beforehand and avoid for the rest of the afternoon/evening on session days.
As you'd expect, Hypoxi emphasises that best results come from positive lifestyle adjustments that can be maintained. Avoid sugar, alcohol, foods high in fat. Stick to a nutritional and balanced diet. Drink enough water. Hypoxi isn't a shortcut or an excuse to eat what you want. Like any sensible program, it's about being realistic and consistent -- and for me that meant allowing myself a few cheats here and there, without feeling guilty.
My Hypoxi Results
It's important to stay motivated and find exercise you enjoy doing. Whatever that may be. I've always enjoyed running and getting into the zone to put aside work stress. But as we all know, on-the-job realities can sometimes make it hard to get away consistently. That had been my lunchtime gym experience. I found the 30 minute nature of Hypoxi sessions really achievable for that reason. I could feel my metabolism firing up and not only stuck to a good eating regimen, but gradually shifted towards eating less, but more often -- with plenty of protein in each meal.
Inspired, I even carved out time for a weekly weights session with a trainer. Free weights use several muscle groups (which is great for fat burning), but my main focus there was to begin the process of adding mass to my chest and arms. My main weight loss/cardio came from Hypoxi. For 14 sessions: 30 minutes, three times a week, for four and a half weeks. (Normally you do 12 initial sessions in four weeks, but my busy schedule at Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Kotaku meant we had to shift things around a little).
I'm 35 years old and 185cm tall. I first weighed in at 86kg. That gave me a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the overweight range. Putting aside the debate around BMI as an assessment tool, I clearly stood to benefit from losing a little of the old tyre. My waist was 87cm. Hips: 92cm. Stomach: 93cm.
And so the results! I'm now 80.7kg. That's 5.3kg in four and a half weeks, almost entirely down to Hypoxi and eating smarter. My BMI is now squarely in the healthy range even for guys younger than me. And I've already added a little bulk to my biceps and triceps with the weights. My waist was 87cm; it's now 82.5cm. Hips: down from 92 to 88cm. Stomach: 87.5cm. That's 14cm across the three measurements and I'm chuffed that I need to buy new jeans.
Could I have achieved similar results by hitting my gym's treadmill or elliptical for an hour, three times a week, over the same period? Probably. But I keep asking myself why didn't I do that months ago? And I wonder if the results in targeted areas like my stomach would be the same. I've actually paid for a couple of extra 'maintenance' Hypoxi sessions, but from a cost-perspective, do see myself migrating back to the gym at lunch now that I'm fired up and motivated. I'm determined not to fall back into my old cycle.
To encourage you to keep coming back, Hypoxi's ongoing session rates are cheaper than the initial $690 for 12 sessions over four weeks (prices may vary slightly from location to location). You can sign up for a free trial, but my advice is to look out for deals that pop up from time-to-time on sites like Groupon. An introductory block of three sessions sometimes gets listed for around $79.
Hypoxi is suitable for most men and women, regardless of your current size or fitness level. Given the cost, I feel it's best geared to those who have already tried the gym or boot camp, but still find certain spots hard to shift. Or those who, like me, have found it hard to get to the gym for an hour and need a general kick start (and kick up the arse).
Follow me on Twitter at @danny_allen if you have any questions or want to keep track of my progress.