Sex difference in maximal oxygen uptake. Effect of equating haemoglobin concentration

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1986;54(6):656-60. doi: 10.1007/BF00943356.


Ten men and 11 women were studied to determine the effect of experimentally equating haemoglobin concentration ([Hb]) on the sex difference in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max). VO2max was measured on a cycle ergometer using a continuous, load-incremented protocol. The men were studied under two conditions: 1) with normal [Hb] (153 g X L-1) and 2) two days following withdrawal of blood, which reduced their mean [Hb] to exactly equal the mean of the women (134 g X L-1). Prior to blood withdrawal, VO2max expressed in L X min-1 and relative to body weight and ride time on the cycle ergometer test were greater (p less than .01) in men by 1.11 L X min-1 (47%), 4.8 ml X kg-1 min-1 (11.5%) and 5.9 min (67%), respectively, whereas VO2max expressed relative to fat-free weight (FFW) was not significantly different. Equalizing [Hb] reduced (p less than .01) the mean VO2max of the men by 0.26 L X min-1 (7.5%), 3.2 ml X kg-1 min-1 (6.9%) or 4.1 ml X kg FFW-1 min-1 (7.7%), and ride time by 0.7 min (4.8%). Equalizing [Hb] reduced the sex difference for VO2max less than predicted from proportional changes in the oxygen content of the arterial blood and arteriovenous oxygen content difference during maximal exercise. It was concluded that the sex difference in [Hb] accounts for a significant, but relatively small portion of the sex difference in VO2max (L X min-1). Other factors such as the dimensions of the oxygen transport system and musculature are of greater importance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bloodletting
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Hemoglobins
  • Oxygen