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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    • "Normal physiological increases in the red blood cells count occur at high altitudes or after strenuous physical training [41]. According to literature 2-weeks at moderate altitude exposition the hemoglobin concentrations and hematocrit increased their values in elite athlete [42] [43]. Although the AT group showed higher hemoglobin concentration values after training, these have not been significant in the statistical tests due to the variability of the results (Table 3). "
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    ABSTRACT: This randomized and controlled trial investigated whether the increase in elite training at different altitudes altered the oxidative stress biomarkers of the nervous system. This is the first study to investigate four F4-neuroprostanes and four F2-dihomo-isoprostanes quantified in 24-hour urine. The quantification was carried out by Ultra High Pressure Liquid Chromatography-triple Quadrupole-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UHPLC-QqQ-MS/MS). Sixteen elite triathletes agreed to participate in the project. They were randomized in two groups, a group submitted to Altitude Training (n=8) and a group submitted to Sea Level Training (n=8), with a Control group of non-athletes (n=8). After experimental period, the Altitude Training group triathletes gave significant data: 17-epi-17-F2t-dihomo-IsoP (from 5.2 ± 1.4 µg/mL 24 h-1 to 6.6 ± 0.6 µg/mL 24 h-1) , ent-7(RS)-7-F2t-dihomo-IsoP (from 6.6 ± 1.7 µg/mL 24 h-1 to 8.6 ± 0.9 µg /mL 24 h-1), and ent-7-epi-7-F2t-dihomo-IsoP (from 8.4 ± 2.2 µg/mL 24 h-1 to 11.3 ± 1.8 µg/mL 24 h-1) increased, while, of the neuronal degeneration-related compounds, only 10-epi-10-F4t-NeuroP (8.4 ± 1.7 µg/mL 24 h-1) and 10-F4t-NeuroP (5.2 ± 2.9 µg/ mL 24 h-1) were detected in this group. For the control group and sea level training groups, no significant changes had occurred at the end of the 2-weeks experimental period. Therefore, and as the main conclusion, the training at moderate altitude increased the F4-NeuroPs- and F2-dihomo-isoPs-related oxidative damage of the central nervous system (CNS) compared to similar training at sea level.
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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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    • "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.
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