Journal of Sport Science and Medicine
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
The influence of low natural altitudes (< 2000 m) on erythropoietic adaptation is currently unclear, with current recommendations indicating that such low altitudes may be insufficient to stimulate significant increases in haemoglobin mass (Hbmass). As such, the purpose of this study was to determine the influence of 3 weeks of live high, train high exposure (LHTH) at low natural altitude (i.e. 1800 m) on Hbmass, red blood cell count and iron profile. A total of 16 elite or well-trained runners were assigned into either a LHTH (n = 8) or CONTROL (n = 8) group. Venous blood samples were drawn prior to, at 2 weeks and at 3 weeks following exposure. Hbmass was measured in duplicate prior to exposure and at 2 weeks and at 3 weeks following exposure via carbon monoxide rebreathing. The percentage change in Hb mass from baseline was significantly greater in LHTH, when compared with the CONTROL group at 2 (3.1% vs 0.4%; p = 0.01;) and 3 weeks (3.0% vs -1.1%; p < 0.02, respectively) following exposure. Haematocrit was greater in LHTH than CONTROL at 2 (p = 0.01) and 3 weeks (p = 0.04) following exposure. No significant interaction effect was observed for haemoglobin concentration (p = 0.06), serum ferritin (p = 0.43), transferrin (p = 0.52) or reticulocyte percentage (p = 0.16). The results of this study indicate that three week of natural classic (i.e. LHTH) low altitude exposure (1800 m) results in a significant increase in Hbmass of elite distance runners, which is likely due to the continuous exposure to hypoxia.