Rising up the red blood cells! Altitude Training


For the next twenty days or so, I’ll be staying days and nights above 2600m (8660 ft).

I know that doing any sport in the first days of arrival is usually more tiring than at sea level.

The amount of oxygen in the composition of the air remains the same even at extreme altitude (over 8000m). However, the air pressure decreases exponentially with altitude, therefore the partial pressure of oxygen decreases with altitude. At 2500m the oxygen pressure has reduced to 73% of the sea-level oxygen pressure.

Is there any impact on blood cell generation?

At high altitudes, there is a decrease in oxygen hemoglobin saturation. In order to compensate for this, erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone secreted by the kidneys, stimulates red blood cell production from bone marrow in order to increase hemoglobin saturation and oxygen delivery. It is uncertain how long this adaptation takes because various studies have found different conclusions based on the amount of time spent at high altitudes.

Yet several studies state that some effects are noticeable from 20 days of altitude exposure above 1500m (usually altitude training occurs around 2000m to 2500m).

And what about the duration of this effect? Since you don’t stay at this height the body does not maintain the high production level of cells and gets back to what’s necessary for the local air density and oxygen saturation.

Several references state that:

Altitude training can produce increases in speed, strength, endurance, and recovery by maintaining altitude exposure for a significant period of time. A study using simulated altitude exposure for 18 days, yet training closer to sea-level, showed performance gains were still evident 15 days later.[11]

So, by living and doing extensive training at this altitude, I would not necessarily improve my performance. The lack of oxygen may prevent ideal training, providing similar or better results than training at sea level.

However this may reveal an improved resting period with reduced amount of training, producing red blood cells ; followed by better training at sea-level for the next 15 days.

We will figure it out when going back to sea level in 20 days.



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