030: The Oxygen Advantage: Maximize your breath to perform higher and live longer with Patrick McKeown

“Mindfulness” has become a buzzword over the last few years, and one of the many aspects of it is breathing. While there is a multitude of techniques to choose from, not many of them are backed by science. Tackling this issue is world-renowned breathing coach and best-selling author, Patrick McKeown. We start by discussing how Patrick fell into the world of breathing, from his challenges as a teenager, to how the idea of the Oxygen Advantage was birthed. Join us today to find out what the science says about breathing and the areas that we need more data. Discover the link between mouth breathing and sleep, and how this affects your mental wellness and physical performance. Learn about the underlying physiology of nasal breathing compared to mouth breathing, and how the BOLT score works. Andrés describes the breathing techniques he uses to help improve his free-diving and cycling, while Patrick breaks down the physiology behind breath holds. We touch on what VO2 Max means, and how it is linked to your breathing and EPO. Find out why Patrick trusts those with grey hairs (experience), the lessons he’s had to learn along the way, and how his perspective has changed over time. For all this and more, tune in today!


Key Points From This Episode:

  • An introduction to today’s guest: Patrick McKeown, world-renowned author and breathing expert. 
  • How Patrick fell into teaching breathing. 
  • The birth of The Oxygen Advantage: targeting athletes’ breathing. 
  • How sleep quality is impacted by breathing, and how to identify if you’re not breathing properly. 
  • The impact of dysfunctional breathing patterns on mental health, and physical performance. 
  • How nasal breathing can improve athletic performance. 
  • Andrés’s experience of how nasal breathing impacts his training. 
  • The physiology behind nasal breathing: activating the upper chest, increasing carbon dioxide tolerance, and optimizing alveolar ventilation. 
  • How exercise-induced bronchoconstriction can be caused by mouth breathing. 
  • Unpacking what the BOLT score is. 
  • The impact of mouth breathing in the formative years on facial structure and school performance. 
  • The different types of breathing exercises available, and why breathing science needs to be better disseminated. 
  • How breath holds, hematocrit, and VO2 max impact EPO: the underlying physiology and the techniques you should use. 
  • Why Andrés’s breath holds when diving, how it affects his overall wellness, and why he advises against Wim Hof breathing. 
  • The mechanism underlying the Wim Hof technique, and why it can cause underwater blackouts. 
  • Learning from experience: why you should look for the person with grey hair.
  • Why starting really easy (three-second breath holds) is key in those with anxiety disorders. 
  • Achieving the flow state: mindfulness in the context of today’s society. 
  • Patrick’s take on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and what’s missing. 
  • A case study from Andrés on how Patrick’s work has transformed this patient’s life. 
  • How Patrick’s perspective has changed over time: what The Breathing Cure and Atomic Focus are about. 
  • The impact of undiagnosed sleep apnea on cardiac recovery.
  • Bringing the science underlying heart rate variability and Vagus nerve stimulation into the limelight. 
  • What VO2 Max means, what it is, and how it paints a picture of your overall wellbeing. 
  • Why the link between VO2 Max and breathing needs more research and a summary of the research to date. 



“If I was to say what’s the most important function, I would say sleep quality is number one. But sleep quality is influenced by how you breathe. So, you cannot isolate the two of them.” — @OxygenAdvantage [0:05:10]

“I’ve learned from experience. 20 years and a few grey hairs give you a fair bit of experience when you’re working with thousands of people. So, if you’re looking for somebody to get the right job done, look for the guy or the girl with the grey hairs.” — @OxygenAdvantage [0:33:21]

“Mindfulness says ‘Don’t change your breathing’. Well, I say ‘Do change your breathing’. And the other thing I’ll say is mindfulness is not going to work for the very person who needs it the most.” — @OxygenAdvantage [0:39:09]

“I think it’s dreadful that we send our kids to 16 years of formal education, but we do not teach these kids how to concentrate.” — @OxygenAdvantage [0:46:08]


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Patrick McKeown

The Oxygen Advantage 

The Breathing Cure

Dr. George Dallam on LinkedIn

Invincible Athletics program: aerobic exercise and performance without strain

Breathing Re-Education and Phenotypes of Sleep Apnea: A Review

The Breathing Cure: Develop New Habits for a Healthier, Happier, and Longer Life

Atomic Focus: Harness the True Power of Your Brain, Develop Resilience Against Stress, and Get Focused with Simple Breathing Exercises to Change Your Mental and Physical State

Andrés Preschel

Know Your Physio Podcast

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