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Training and Performance

Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies clearly demonstrate that maximal endurance performance (VO2max) is closely related to tHb-mass and blood volume. The change in tHb-mass of 1g is associated with a change in VO2max of approximately 4ml/min (Schmidt & Prommer 2010). Therefore, the aim of endurance athletes is to increase tHb-mass by training at sea-level or altitude or, in some cases, by blood doping. In training studies lasting up to 12 weeks and using red cell or haemoglobin labelling techniques no significant increase has been detected. In the longest ever conducted training study with leisure athletes, however, an increase of tHb-mass with a simultaneous increase in VO2max was found after a training period of nine months. tHb-mass increased by 6.4% and VO2max by 250ml/min, respectively (Schmidt & Prommer 2008).

In endurance trained athletes however, changes in tHb-mass are small. Prommer et al. (2008) showed a variation of only 2.2% of tHb-mass in the course of 1 year including recovery and competition periods. Also in the study of Garvican et al. (2010), who monitored elite female cyclists during a competitive season (10 months) tHb-mass varied by only 3.3% although training load varied by up to 30%.

In trained adolescents (11-15 yrs; ~ 6h of cycling /week) tHb-mass increased as a function of growth, however, relative tHb-mass did not change during 1 year (Eastwood et al. 2009). It seems that in trained athletes the training stimulus at sea level is not high enough to accelerate erythropoiesis significantly. However, Vogt et al. (2007) provides evidence that the hyperplasia of the haemapoietic bone marrow in elite athletes is due to stimulated erythropoiesis.