Steiner, T., Boutellier, U., & Wehrlin, J. P. (2009). Does hemoglobin mass increase with several years of endurance training? A controlled cross-sectional study with 16, 21, and 28 years old elite XC-skiers and triathletes. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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This study evaluated if there are differences in hemoglobin mass between endurance athletes at the age of ~15.9 years (N = 15), ~21.3 years (N = 14), and ~27.5 years (N = 16). Ss were from national teams in XC-skiing and triathlon and compared to three age matched control groups (less than two hours of endurance training per week); control16 (~15.9 years, N = 16), control 21 (~21.3 years, N = 15), and control28 (~28.1 years, N = 16).

Hemoglobin mass and VO2max were lower in the youngest group of athletes when compared to the two older groups. There were no differences between the two older groups of athletes or any of the control groups. When the youngest group of athletes was compared to its cohort control group, only VO2max was different. For both the two older classifications, athletes were significantly higher than their cohort control groups in hemoglobin mass and VO2max.

Implication. Endurance training in maturing athletes influences VO2max more than hemoglobin mass. Young athletes still have room to improve in both hemoglobin mass and VO2max. Once maturity is achieved (somewhere between 16 and 21 years of age), further capacity development does not occur. The belief that serious and concerted endurance training after maturity increases endurance-related capacities in elite athletes is not supported by this study. It is erroneous to advocate that performance improvements after maturity occur due to changes in endurance capacity factors that are assumed to eventuate from "hard" training.

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