Effects of prolonged low doses of recombinant human erythropoietin during submaximal and maximal exercise

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Mar;86(5):442-9. doi: 10.1007/s00421-001-0560-6. Epub 2002 Jan 11.


The aim of this study was to characterise the effect of prolonged low doses of recombinant erythropoietin (r-HuEPO) on the responses to submaximal and maximal exercise. Volunteer recreational athletes ( n=21) were divided into three groups: r-HuEPO+intravenous iron (EPO+IV, n=7), r-HuEPO+oral iron (EPO+OR, n=9) and placebo ( n=5). During the 12 week study, r-HuEPO or saline injections were given three times a week for the first 8 weeks and for the final 4 weeks the subjects were monitored but no injections were administered. The r-HuEPO doses were 50 IU x kg(-1) body mass for 3 weeks and 20 IU x kg(-1) body mass for the next 5 weeks. An exercise test comprising three submaximal intensities and then increments to elicit maximal aerobic power (VO2max ) was conducted during weeks 0, 4, 8 and 12. During week 0, the mean intensity of the submaximal stages was 60%, 72% and 81%. Blood taken at rest was analysed twice a week for haematocrit (Hct). The relative increases in at weeks 4, 8 and 12 were 7.7%, 9.7% and 4.5%, respectively, for the EPO+IV group; 6.0%, 4.7% and 3.1% for the EPO+OR group; and -0.5%, -0.1% and -1.0% for the placebo group, where the improvements at week 12 for the EPO+IV and EPO+OR groups remained significantly above week 0 values. The Hct was significantly elevated by 0.06 and 0.07 units at week 3 in the EPO+IV and EPO+OR groups, respectively, and was stable during the 5 weeks of low-dose r-HuEPO. After 8 weeks of r-HuEPO use, plasma lactate concentration tended to be lower at exercise intensities ranging from 60% to 100%. This study confirmed the ability of low doses of r-HuEPO to maintain Hct and at elevated levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythropoietin / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test / drug effects*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hematocrit
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Placebos
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Reticulocytes
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Erythropoietin
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Lactic Acid
  • Iron