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Individual variation in the erythropoietic response to altitude training in elite junior swimmers
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  1. B Friedmann1,
  2. F Frese1,
  3. E Menold1,
  4. F Kauper1,
  5. J Jost2,
  6. P Bärtsch1
  1. 1Department of Sports Medicine, Medical Clinic and Policlinic, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  2. 2Olympic Training Centre Rhein-Neckar, Heidelberg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Birgit Friedmann
 Department of Sports Medicine, Medical Clinic and Policlinic, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 710, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; birgit_friedmannmed.uni-heidelberg.de

Abstract

Objectives: Inter-individual variations in sea level performance after altitude training have been attributed, at least in part, to an inter-individual variability in hypoxia induced erythropoiesis. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the variability in the increase in total haemoglobin mass after training at moderate altitude could be predicted by the erythropoietin response after 4 h exposure to normobaric hypoxia at an ambient Po2 corresponding to the training altitude.

Methods: Erythropoietin levels were measured in 16 elite junior swimmers before and after 4 h exposure to normobaric hypoxia (Fio2 0.15, ∼2500 m) as well as repeatedly during 3 week altitude training (2100–2300 m). Before and after the altitude training, total haemoglobin mass (CO rebreathing) and performance in a stepwise increasing swimming test were determined.

Results: The erythropoietin increase (10–185%) after 4 h exposure to normobaric hypoxia showed considerable inter-individual variation and was significantly (p<0.001) correlated with the acute erythropoietin increase during altitude training but not with the change in total haemoglobin mass (significant increase of ∼6% on average). The change in sea level performance after altitude training was not related to the change in total haemoglobin mass.

Conclusions: The results of the present prospective study confirmed the wide inter-individual variability in erythropoietic response to altitude training in elite athletes. However, their erythropoietin response to acute altitude exposure might not identify those athletes who respond to altitude training with an increase in total haemoglobin mass.

  • EPO, erythropoietin
  • Hb, haemoglobin concentration
  • Hct, haematocrit
  • MCV, mean corpuscular erythrocyte volume
  • RBV, red blood cell volume
  • THM, total haemoglobin mass
  • athletes
  • erythropoietin
  • hypoxia
  • total haemoglobin mass

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests: none declared

  • The study was supported by Deutscher Sportbund

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