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Purpose:

To quantify physiological and performance effects of hypoxic exposure, a training camp, the placebo effect, and a combination of these factors.

Methods:

Elite Australian and International race walkers (n = 17) were recruited, including men and women. Three groups were assigned: 1) Live High:Train Low (LHTL, n = 6) of 14 h/d at 3000 m simulated altitude; 2) Placebo (n = 6) of 14 h/d of normoxic exposure (600 m); and 3) Nocebo (n = 5) living in normoxia. All groups undertook similar training during the intervention. Physiological and performance measures included 10-min maximal treadmill distance, peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), walking economy, and hemoglobin mass (Hbmass).

Results:

Blinding failed, so the Placebo group was a second control group aware of the treatment. All three groups improved treadmill performance by approx. 4%. Compared with Placebo, LHTL increased Hbmass by 8.6% (90% CI: 3.5 to 14.0%; P = .01, very likely), VO2peak by 2.7% (-2.2 to 7.9%; P = .34, possibly), but had no additional improvement in treadmill distance (-0.8%, -4.6 to 3.8%; P = .75, unlikely) or economy (-8.2%, -24.1 to 5.7%; P = .31, unlikely). Compared with Nocebo, LHTL increased Hbmass by 5.5% (2.5 to 8.7%; P = .01, very likely), VO2peak by 5.8% (2.3 to 9.4%; P = .02, very likely), but had no additional improvement in treadmill distance (0.3%, -1.9 to 2.5%; P = .75, possibly) and had a decrease in walking economy (-16.5%, -30.5 to 3.9%; P = .04, very likely).

Conclusion:

Overall, 3-wk LHTL simulated altitude training for 14 h/d increased Hbmass and VO2peak, but the improvement in treadmill performance was not greater than the training camp effect.

Philo U. Saunders is with Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.Christoph Ahlgrim is with the Department of Sports Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.Brent Vallance is with Track and Field, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.Daniel J. Green is with the Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.Eileen Y. Robertson is with the Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.Sally A. Clark is with the Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia.Yorck O. Schumacher is with the Department of Sports Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.Christopher J. Gore is with the Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Belconnen, ACT, Australia, and the School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia.