A Three-Week Traditional Altitude Training Increases Hemoglobin Mass and Red Cell Volume in Elite Biathlon Athletes

University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany
International Journal of Sports Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.07). 07/2005; 26(5):350-5. DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-821052
Source: PubMed


It is well known that altitude training stimulates erythropoiesis, but only few data are available concerning the direct altitude effect on red blood cell volume (RCV) in world class endurance athletes during exposure to continued hypoxia. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of three weeks of traditional altitude training at 2050 m on total hemoglobin mass (tHb), RCV and erythropoietic activity in highly-trained endurance athletes. Total hemoglobin mass, RCV, plasma volume (PV), and blood volume (BV) from 6 males and 4 females, all members of a world class biathlon team, were determined on days 1 and 20 during their stay at altitude as well as 16 days after returning to sea-level conditions (800 m, only males) by using the CO-rebreathing method. In males tHb (14.0 +/- 0.2 to 15.3 +/- 1.0 g/kg, p < 0.05) and RCV (38.9 +/- 1.5 to 43.5 +/- 3.9 ml/kg, p < 0.05) increased at altitude and returned to near sea-level values 16 days after descent. Similarly in females, tHb (13.0 +/- 1.0 to 14.2 +/- 1.3 g/kg, p < 0.05) and RCV (37.3 +/- 3.3 to 42.2 +/- 4.1 ml/kg, p < 0.05) increased. Compared to their sea-level values, the BV of male and female athletes showed a tendency to increase at the end of the altitude training period, whereas PV was not altered. In male athletes, plasma erythropoietin concentration increased up to day 4 at altitude (11.8 +/- 5.0 to 20.8 +/- 6.0 mU/ml, p < 0.05) and the plasma concentration of the soluble transferrin receptor was elevated by about 11 % during the second part of the altitude training period, both parameters indicating enhanced erythropoietic activity. In conclusion, we show for the first time that a three-week traditional altitude training increases erythropoietic activity even in world class endurance athletes leading to elevated tHb and RCV. Considering the relatively fast return of tHb and RCV to sea-level values after hypoxic exposure, our data suggest to precisely schedule training at altitude and competition at sea level.

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Available from: Walter Schmidt, Oct 02, 2015
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    • "Based on the raise in tEV upon ascent to high altitude and by training in normoxia it was concluded that effects of training and high altitude exposure on tHb might be additive, and that training at simulated altitude or by ascent to moderate or high altitude should cause an even further increase than training in normoxia. However, results are inconsistent ranging from no effect (Svedenhag et al., 1997; Friedmann et al., 1999) to a pronounced increase after 3–4 weeks of training at altitudes between 2100 and 2400 m (Levine and Stray-Gundersen, 1997; Friedmann et al., 2005; Heinicke et al., 2005). Lack of effects has in part been explained with lower training intensities at high than at low altitude, which is due to the decrease in performance with increasing altitude (Cerretelli and DiPrampero, 1985). "
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    ABSTRACT: During exercise the cardiovascular system has to warrant substrate supply to working muscle. The main function of red blood cells in exercise is the transport of O2 from the lungs to the tissues and the delivery of metabolically produced CO2 to the lungs for expiration. Hemoglobin also contributes to the blood's buffering capacity, and ATP and NO release from red blood cells contributes to vasodilation and improved blood flow to working muscle. These functions require adequate amounts of red blood cells in circulation. Trained athletes, particularly in endurance sports, have a decreased hematocrit, which is sometimes called "sports anemia." This is not anemia in a clinical sense, because athletes have in fact an increased total mass of red blood cells and hemoglobin in circulation relative to sedentary individuals. The slight decrease in hematocrit by training is brought about by an increased plasma volume (PV). The mechanisms that increase total red blood cell mass by training are not understood fully. Despite stimulated erythropoiesis, exercise can decrease the red blood cell mass by intravascular hemolysis mainly of senescent red blood cells, which is caused by mechanical rupture when red blood cells pass through capillaries in contracting muscles, and by compression of red cells e.g., in foot soles during running or in hand palms in weightlifters. Together, these adjustments cause a decrease in the average age of the population of circulating red blood cells in trained athletes. These younger red cells are characterized by improved oxygen release and deformability, both of which also improve tissue oxygen supply during exercise.
    Frontiers in Physiology 11/2013; 4:332. DOI:10.3389/fphys.2013.00332 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    • "Previous researchers have demonstrated mixed results about the longevity of increased tHb following LHTL altitude, with some reporting a decline within 1–2 weeks of a return to sea-level (Brugniaux et al. 2006) while others found no such decline (Clark et al. 2009). In fact, a similarly equivocal response to Classic altitude training has been demonstrated (Garvican et al. 2008; Heinicke et al. 2005). While the poor correlations between changes in tHb and swimming performance in the present study appear to oppose haematological changes as the primary mediator of performance, small but worthwhile changes in swimming performance should theoretically result from tHb increases of the magnitude (*4%) shown here. "
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    ABSTRACT: We compared changes in performance and total haemoglobin mass (tHb) of elite swimmers in the weeks following either Classic or Live High:Train Low (LHTL) altitude training. Twenty-six elite swimmers (15 male, 11 female, 21.4 ± 2.7 years; mean ± SD) were divided into two groups for 3 weeks of either Classic or LHTL altitude training. Swimming performances over 100 or 200 m were assessed before altitude, then 1, 7, 14 and 28 days after returning to sea-level. Total haemoglobin mass was measured twice before altitude, then 1 and 14 days after return to sea-level. Changes in swimming performance in the first week after Classic and LHTL were compared against those of Race Control (n = 11), a group of elite swimmers who did not complete altitude training. In addition, a season-long comparison of swimming performance between altitude and non-altitude groups was undertaken to compare the progression of performances over the course of a competitive season. Regardless of altitude training modality, swimming performances were substantially slower 1 day (Classic 1.4 ± 1.3% and LHTL 1.6 ± 1.6%; mean ± 90% confidence limits) and 7 days (0.9 ± 1.0% and 1.9 ± 1.1%) after altitude compared to Race Control. In both groups, performances 14 and 28 days after altitude were not different from pre-altitude. The season-long comparison indicated that no clear advantage was obtained by swimmers who completed altitude training. Both Classic and LHTL elicited ~4% increases in tHb. Although altitude training induced erythropoeisis, this physiological adaptation did not transfer directly into improved competitive performance in elite swimmers.
    Arbeitsphysiologie 01/2012; 112(9):3275-85. DOI:10.1007/s00421-011-2291-7 · 2.19 Impact Factor
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    • "Other researchers, considering mainly the haematological indices, which have the strongest influence on endurance capabilities in sports such as running, speed skating, cycling and swimming, the recommended choice of altitude is between 1500 and 3000m (Friedmann et al., 1997). The duration of time spent at AT camps averages 3 weeks (Miyashita et al., 1988; Bailey, 1997; Heinicke at al., 2005), and endurance improvement at sea level might be noted after reacclimatization to sea level conditions, with blood plasma volume alignment, which decreases its volume in high-mountain conditions as a result of increased water excretion (Bailey, 1997). "
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    ABSTRACT: It is possible to plan an altitude training (AT) period in such a way that the enhanced physical endurance obtained as a result of adaptation to hypoxia will appear and can be used to improve performance in competition. Yet finding rationales for usage of AT in highly trained swimmers is problematic. In practice AT, in its various forms, is still controversial, and an objective review of research concentrating on the advantages and disadvantages of AT has been presented in several scientific publications, including in no small part the observations of swimmers. The aim of this article is to review the various methods and present both the advantageous and unfavourable physiological changes that occur in athletes as a result of AT. Moreover, AT results in the sport of swimming have been collected. They include an approach towards primary models of altitude/hypoxic training: live high + train high, live high + train low, live low + train high, as well as subsequent methods: Intermittent Hypoxic Exposure (IHE) and Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT). Apnoea training, which is descended from freediving, is also mentioned, and which can be used with, or as a substitute for, the well-known IHE or IHT methods. In conclusion, swimmers who train using hypoxia may be among the best-trained athletes, and that even a slight improvement in physical endurance might result in the shortening of a swimming time in a given competition, and the achievement of a personal best, which is hard to obtain by normal training methods, when the personal results of the swimmer have reached a plateau.
    Journal of Human Kinetics 06/2011; 28(-1):91-105. DOI:10.2478/v10078-011-0026-9 · 1.03 Impact Factor
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