High altitude training is a widely used strategy for improving aerobic exercise performance. Both Rhodiola crenulata (R) and Cordyceps sinensis (C) supplements have been reported to improve exercise performance. However, it is not clear whether the provision of R and C during high altitude training could further enhance aerobic endurance capacity. In this study, we examined the effect of R and C based supplementation on aerobic exercise capacity following 2-week high altitude training. Alterations to autonomic nervous system activity, circulatory hormonal, and hematological profiles were investigated. Eighteen male subjects were divided into two groups: Placebo (n=9) and R/C supplementation (RC, n=9). Both groups received either RC (R: 1400 mg+C: 600 mg per day) or the placebo during a 2-week training period at an altitude of 2200 m. After 2 weeks of altitude training, compared with Placebo group, the exhaustive run time was markedly longer (Placebo: +2.2% vs. RC: +5.7%; p<0.05) and the decline of parasympathetic (PNS) activity was significantly prevented in RC group (Placebo: -51% vs. RC: -41%; p<0.05). Red blood cell, hematocrit, and hemoglobin levels were elevated in both groups to a comparable extent after high altitude training (p<0.05), whereas the erythropoietin (EPO) level remained higher in the Placebo group (∼48% above RC values; p<0.05). The provision of an RC supplement during altitude training provides greater training benefits in improving aerobic performance. This beneficial effect of RC treatment may result from better maintenance of PNS activity and accelerated physiological adaptations during high altitude training.
Keywords: athletes at altitude; erythropoietin; exercise; hypobaric hypoxia; parasympathetic nervous system.