Blood doping vs high altitude training?

I wonder if anyone has any idea how high altitude training compares in effectiveness to blood doping? High altitude training is fairly common among skiers but it seems it happens among cyclists as well.
 
I am mostly a runner now, train on the track twice a week.

When I came back from a week's xc skiing at 1200m last month, my aerobic improvement was just outrageous. I was timing my track runs all wrong, found myself correcting my laptimes by as much as 10s, because I just failed to sense any effort at all at my usual best pace. And I didn't even do enough running at altitude to keep my legs strong enough for the punishment (new mid foot lander, very long legs and feet).
If the effect of a serious doping program is more, and it has to be, it can transform a donkey into a race horse for sure.
I felt I could have set any of my 2011 target times, already the second week of Januari. It was ridiculous how from one week to the other, I moved up to the very front of our group, mixing it up with some great talents and a national top master runner. And I'm 85kg!
 
I believe the effects of altitude vary widely for different persons. For some folks it takes a week just to get used to altitude, let alone begin training. The anecdotal stories offered by pros over the last few decades must be taken with a grain of salt. "Training at altitude" or "training camp" often meant something else.

Sleeping at altitude supposedly is better than training at altitude (at least in 2000-2001 when I was studying some of this). I see a recent article on PubMed that confirms this is still true (sorry, I've become slightly sarcastic/cynical with respect to trends/fads in exercise science).

Live high, train low

Free Article: Live high, train low
 
One of the benefits of infusion doping, that is often overlooked, is the effect of additional blood volume on heat regulation.

This increased volume not only provides improved oxygen delivery, but also decreases the pulmonary load that occurs when blood is diverted to the skin for thermal regulation.

In theory the additional blood volume acts as a reserve tank for cooling, creating less demand for diversion from the normal blood circulation.
When it is 90+ degrees in the Alps in July, the benfits speak for themselves.

Altitude training alone does not have an effect on overall blood volume, so heat regulation would have a greater detrimental effect on performance than on the blood doped rider.
 
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BroDeal said:
Personally I think altitude training is mostly a bunch of hooey. Altitude training prepares you for altitude.
and it does that beautifully :)
 
Oct 25, 2010
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You train at sea-level and sleep at altitude. It's not "altitude training", it's "altitude resting". Because of the drop in air pressure and (thus) available oxygen), your body will produce more red cells at night to compensate. In the morning, you bring those extra RBC's back down to sea-level with you. It allows you to train harder and longer.

Or you could shell-out some big bucks for an altitude tent and sleep in it. Or, if you're a doper, you can buy one, keep it in your bedroom, never use it, tell people you sleep in it every night, and just inject EPO when needed.
 
BotanyBay said:
You train at sea-level and sleep at altitude. It's not "altitude training", it's "altitude resting". Because of the drop in air pressure and (thus) available oxygen), your body will produce more red cells at night to compensate. In the morning, you bring those extra RBC's back down to sea-level with you. It allows you to train harder and longer.

Or you could shell-out some big bucks for an altitude tent and sleep in it. Or, if you're a doper, you can buy one, keep it in your bedroom, never use it, tell people you sleep in it every night, and just inject EPO when needed.
Spending 2 weeks or more at altitude makes a difference that can definitely be felt, I know this from personal experience. The only disadvantage being that training suffers a bit as you just can't go as hard as at a lower elevation. That is why "altitude training" doesn't work (meaning driving up the hill to ride your bike).
My personal experience with "live high, train low" is somewhat limited what with the logistics being a bit of a bi**h if you actually have a job, but it produces even better results.
No personal experience at all, but everything I have read suggests that the physiological benefit of EPO far exceeds that of the best of the other methods
due to the facts that your body naturally limits the increase in red cell production (unless you can fool it with synthetic EPO) and also no training effect is lost as you are not having to go through the physical process of altitude adjustment.
One can easily see why EPO was such a game changer.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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Each person reacts differently to the stimulus of altitude. Some see an increase in Hct, others see nothing.

The first few days you body tries to adapt so it is best to measure after 10 days. From all the studies I have seen the average Hct increase would take a person from 40 to 41.5/42. Not a huge increase.

By Comparison 2 units of spun PRBC can take a 130 pound climber from 40 to 48 or even 50 quickly and can be used on demand.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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andy1234 said:
One of the benefits of infusion doping, that is often overlooked, is the effect of additional blood volume on heat regulation.

This increased volume not only provides improved oxygen delivery, but also decreases the pulmonary load that occurs when blood is diverted to the skin for thermal regulation.

In theory the additional blood volume acts as a reserve tank for cooling, creating less demand for diversion from the normal blood circulation.
When it is 90+ degrees in the Alps in July, the benfits speak for themselves.

Altitude training alone does not have an effect on overall blood volume, so heat regulation would have a greater detrimental effect on performance than on the blood doped rider.
Very interesting. I have always heard the exact opposite when it comes to transfusions.

As I understand it the increase blood volume that aids in cooling comes from a increase in plasma volume, not RBC. Would a transfusion the plasma percentage would decrease and the blood pressure would increase, both detrimental to cooling.
 
Race Radio said:
Each person reacts differently to the stimulus of altitude. Some see an increase in Hct, others see nothing.

The first few days you body tries to adapt so it is best to measure after 10 days. From all the studies I have seen the average Hct increase would take a person from 40 to 41.5/42. Not a huge increase.

By Comparison 2 units of spun PRBC can take a 130 pound climber from 40 to 48 or even 50 quickly and can be used on demand.
For me 2 weeks at altitude made me feel like Eddy Merckx, I can only imagine that EPO would have made me feel like Superman.
 
May 7, 2009
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Watch the 2009 Leaville 100 MTB race to see how LA smokes the Powerline climb and Dave Weins (from Gunnison) who presumably spends time at relatively high altitude on a year-round basis doesn't have the power LA does to ride that climb. Weins has to push his bike up the climb that LA makes look way too easy.

Assuming LA is on dope (not a huge assumption, IMHO) and does not live year-round in his Aspen trophy mansion; I think it shows quite a contrast between the very human performance of a fully altitude-trained, probably clean DW and a partially altitude-trained, probably drug-enhanced performance of LA.
Real people get tired, robots don't.
 
Oct 25, 2010
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Race Radio said:
Very interesting. I have always heard the exact opposite when it comes to transfusions.

As I understand it the increase blood volume that aids in cooling comes from a increase in plasma volume, not RBC. Would a transfusion the plasma percentage would decrease and the blood pressure would increase, both detrimental to cooling.
Thinking back to Physics 101, water has a high specific heat, and the increased volume of a transfusion would require more time to rise in temperature, but once "at" temperature, would also tend to stay there longer.

A transfusion is not going to increase the efficiency of your blood in cooling. It's just going to add to how long it takes to reach, maintain and lose temperature. Unless it comes with cooling fins, I can't see a transfusion having a positive impact on keeping one cool.
 
Race Radio said:
Very interesting. I have always heard the exact opposite when it comes to transfusions.

As I understand it the increase blood volume that aids in cooling comes from a increase in plasma volume, not RBC. Would a transfusion the plasma percentage would decrease and the blood pressure would increase, both detrimental to cooling.


Two investigations have studied the potential ergogenic effects of blood doping for persons exercising in the heat. Sawka and colleagues(50) had unacclimated men walk in the heat both before and 48 h after being infused with 300 ml of RBC. Blood doping reduced heat storage and increased sweating sensitivity but did not alter core temperature during exercise (50,51). In addition, blunted heart rate (50) and cortisol (23) responses were observed. The significance of the small thermoregulatory advantage and reduced physiologic strain after blood doping appeared questionable in light of the pronounced benefits conferred by heat acclimatization.

Subsequently those investigators (52) examined whether blood doping would provide any thermoregulatory advantage to heat acclimated persons exercising in the heat and whether dehydration would obviate any benefit (or perhaps illuminate an unrecognized disadvantage) resulting from blood doping. Before and after (2-4 d) being infused with≈300 ml of RBC, heat acclimated men walked in the heat, once while normally hydrated and, on a separate day, while dehydrated by 5% of their body weight. Blood doping provided a substantial thermoregulatory advantage regardless of hydration status. This was demonstrated by lowered core temperatures, sweating thresholds, and heart rates and increased sweating sensitivity during exercise following blood doping both when euhydrated and hypohydrated(51,52).

Thus, blood doping can be an ergogenic aid for people exercising in the heat. Blood doping confers a thermoregulatory advantage which appears greatest for heat acclimated persons and is only slight for unacclimated people.
 
BotanyBay said:
Thinking back to Physics 101, water has a high specific heat, and the increased volume of a transfusion would require more time to rise in temperature, but once "at" temperature, would also tend to stay there longer.

A transfusion is not going to increase the efficiency of your blood in cooling. It's just going to add to how long it takes to reach, maintain and lose temperature. Unless it comes with cooling fins, I can't see a transfusion having a positive impact on keeping one cool.
Additionally, the increased arterial oxygen content, induced by blood doping, might allow systemic oxygen transport requirements for a given level of submaximal exercise to be achieved with lower muscle blood flow. This should alleviate some competition between circulatory requirements of metabolism and heat dissipation and enable redistribution of blood flow to skin. Furthermore, if blood doping increased blood volume, that might serve as a reserve to support thermoregulation.
 
Oct 25, 2010
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ingsve said:
For those that have experience of a positive effect of high altitude training, how long does the effect last?
As long as the ability to train harder (or longer) is of benefit to your particular program.

But just living at altitude and training at sea-level alone is not the key. The increased RBC production needs to be part of a structured program.

In other words, racers from Colorado aren't fundamentally "better" than racers from SoCal. It doesn't work that way.
 
Deagol said:
Watch the 2009 Leaville 100 MTB race to see how LA smokes the Powerline climb and Dave Weins (from Gunnison) who presumably spends time at relatively high altitude on a year-round basis doesn't have the power LA does to ride that climb. Weins has to push his bike up the climb that LA makes look way too easy.

Assuming LA is on dope (not a huge assumption, IMHO) and does not live year-round in his Aspen trophy mansion; I think it shows quite a contrast between the very human performance of a fully altitude-trained, probably clean DW and a partially altitude-trained, probably drug-enhanced performance of LA.
Real people get tired, robots don't.
Remember that the key is to sleep high and train low to get the best performance. So based on this the doping from blood transfusion or EPO makes it even better because you don't have to travel anywhere to get the altitude benefits.
 
Race Radio said:
Each person reacts differently to the stimulus of altitude. Some see an increase in Hct, others see nothing.

The first few days you body tries to adapt so it is best to measure after 10 days. From all the studies I have seen the average Hct increase would take a person from 40 to 41.5/42. Not a huge increase.

By Comparison 2 units of spun PRBC can take a 130 pound climber from 40 to 48 or even 50 quickly and can be used on demand.
This is what I thought. This what I learned from a PHD in physiology / hematology from this forum. :D You can only bump your hematocrit 2 to 3 points by being at altitude. I think it was Big Boat who said it long time ago. I thought that was too low compare to what you can boost with EPO or a blood transfusion.
 
This thread makes you wonder, why did ONCE (Zülle, Jalabert and Breukink) and Mapei (Rominger and Escartín) go all the way to Colorado for altitude training in 1994, when they could get the same effect from EPO (which they presumably did freely)? Why cross an ocean, face the jet lag, go through altitude adjustment and all that? Does altitude training provide additional benefits?
 
Dec 7, 2010
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on3m@n@rmy said:
This does not answer your question of altitude training compared to doping, but the article explains some things about how EPO is produced naturally in the body (which I thought was interesting) and has performance results of runners tested under different conditions of training and living.

Altitude Training for Sea-Level Competition
Not sure if anyone noticed but the first name attached to this article is "A. Baker." That would be the same Arnie Baker from San Diego that worked so closely with FL.

Here's an interesting article from Wired magazine that I read a few years ago. Some interesting things here.
For starters, there's the house itself. Research shows that sleeping at high altitude increases the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which, when combined with intense, low-elevation workouts, dramatically improves athletic performance. Of course, it's logistically tricky to live high and train low - unless Nike makes you a special mock-altitude house. Which is exactly what happened. Molecular filters inside the house remove oxygen, creating the thin air found at 12,000 feet. Runners eat, sleep, watch TV, and play videogames at what their bodies think is high elevation. Meanwhile, they train at Portland's sea level.
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.08/nike.html
 
Jun 19, 2009
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BroDeal said:
Personally I think altitude training is mostly a bunch of hooey. Altitude training prepares you for altitude.
That's why Willy's old-style "sleeping at altitude" is the most used method I've seen. Training hard requires oxygen.
 
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