The contribution of haemoglobin mass to increases in cycling performance induced by simulated LHTL

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Jun;111(6):1089-101. doi: 10.1007/s00421-010-1732-z. Epub 2010 Nov 27.


We sought to determine whether improved cycling performance following 'Live High-Train Low' (LHTL) occurs if increases in haemoglobin mass (Hb(mass)) are prevented via periodic phlebotomy during hypoxic exposure. Eleven, highly trained, female cyclists completed 26 nights of simulated LHTL (16 h day(-1), 3000 m). Hb(mass) was determined in quadruplicate before LHTL and in duplicate weekly thereafter. After 14 nights, cyclists were pair-matched, based on their Hb(mass) response (ΔHb(mass)) from baseline, to form a response group (Response, n = 5) in which Hb(mass) was free to adapt, and a Clamp group (Clamp, n = 6) in which ΔHb(mass) was negated via weekly phlebotomy. All cyclists were blinded to the blood volume removed. Cycling performance was assessed in duplicate before and after LHTL using a maximal 4-min effort (MMP(4min)) followed by a ride time to exhaustion test at peak power output (T (lim)). VO(2peak) was established during the MMP(4min). Following LHTL, Hb(mass) increased in Response (mean ± SD, 5.5 ± 2.9%). Due to repeated phlebotomy, there was no ΔHb(mass) in Clamp (-0.4 ± 0.6%). VO(2peak) increased in Response (3.5 ± 2.3%) but not in Clamp (0.3 ± 2.6%). MMP(4min) improved in both the groups (Response 4.5 ± 1.1%, Clamp 3.6 ± 1.4%) and was not different between groups (p = 0.58). T (lim) increased only in Response, with Clamp substantially worse than Response (-37.6%; 90% CL -58.9 to -5.0, p = 0.07). Our novel findings, showing an ~4% increase in MMP(4min) despite blocking an ~5% increase in Hb(mass), suggest that accelerated erythropoiesis is not the sole mechanism by which LHTL improves performance. However, increases in Hb(mass) appear to influence the aerobic contribution to high-intensity exercise which may be important for subsequent high-intensity efforts.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Bicycling* / physiology
  • Blood Volume / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Exercise Test / methods*
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Hemoglobins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Young Adult


  • Hemoglobins