Relations between haemoglobin mass, cardiac dimensions and aerobic capacity in endurance trained cyclists

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Dec;49(4):364-71.


Aim: Chronic endurance exercise triggers increased cardiac dimensions, blood volumes and haemoglobin mass (Hb mass). Cardiac output and Hb mass are considered as independent contributors to aerobic performance. Therefore, increased Hb mass could counterbalance for a relative deficiency in cardiac adaptation. The purpose of the present study is to investigate relations between Hb mass and cardiac dimensions in a group of endurance athletes with respect to aerobic capacity.

Methods: Two groups of highly trained cyclists featuring high (HHB group, N.=13) and low (LHB group, N.=13) Hb mass (measured by a CO-rebreathing method) were compared for measures of aerobic performance, cardiac wall thickness, cavity size and left ventricular mass (determined by 2-D-echocardiography). Lean body mass (LBM) was chosen as anthropometrical reference for Hb mass.

Results: HHB featured higher cardiac wall thickness than LHB, but no difference appeared in cardiac cavity size, left ventricular mass and the performance parameters. Normalising Hb mass for body weight instead of LBM improved correlations between Hb mass and performance parameters.

Conclusions: Our data provides new evidence for a connection between cardiac wall thickness and Hb mass in endurance athletes but no further evidence for a counterbalance between Hb mass and cardiac adaptation was found. Moreover, we postulate that Hb mass loses predictive value for aerobic performance when normalised for LBM.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Blood Volume / physiology
  • Cardiac Output
  • Erythrocyte Volume / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart / physiology
  • Hemoglobins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Hemoglobins