Schmidt, W. F., Doerfler, C., Wachsmuth, N., Voelzke, C., Treff, S., Steinacker, J., Niess, A., & Prommer, N. (2009). Influence of body mass, body composition, and performance state on total hemoglobin mass. ACSM 56th Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington. Presentation number 2790.

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This study attempted to define the separate impact of lean body mass and endurance performance state on total hemoglobin mass and to evaluate its influence on VO2max. Males (N = 114) categorized into seven performance groups characterized by markedly different inter-group body dimensions and endurance performances participated at the study [German elite rowers (N = 15), German elite runners (N = 13), Kenyan elite runners (N = 10), body builders (N = 20), leisure athletes (N = 14), fit but untrained Ss (N = 10), and 10.4 2.4 years-old fit boys (N = 32)]. Total hemoglobin mass was determined using the optimized CO-rebreathing method and VO2 max was measured on discipline-specific ergometers. Lean body mass was determined using skin fold measurement and was calculated by age-adjusted formulas.

Absolute VO2max was highly related to total hemoglobin mass, except in body builders. Total hemoglobin mass was best related to lean body mass (r = 0.964) and slightly less to body surface area (r = 0.935) and body mass (r = 0.919). At identical body mass levels, groups characterized by high performance state (elite rowers, elite runners, and Kenyan runners) showed ~25% higher total hemoglobin mass than those with low performance (leisure athletes, untrained Ss, and young boys). Comparing both subgroups at identical lean body mass levels, the difference in total hemoglobin mass was reduced to 11.5%.

Implication. In athletes and fit sedentary Ss, VO2max was closely related to total hemoglobin mass over the whole physiological range indicating that a change in 1gm hemoglobin is associated with a change of 4.4 ml in VO2max. Total hemoglobin mass mostly depended on lean body mass (16.8 gm hemoglobin per 1 kg lean body mass), whereas endurance performance had only a minor impact. Body builders differed from all other groups. Although their total hemoglobin mass was very high due to high lean body mass, that beneficial precondition was not converted into high aerobic performance. It was concluded that although high total hemoglobin mass is a prerequisite, metabolic adaptations are necessary for high VO2max.

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