A nice study was published about two weeks ago by McLean and colleagues from Australia on 30 elite Australian Football players. Twenty one of them completed 19 days of living and training at moderate altitude (around 2130 m) whereas the remaining 9 served as the control group (sea level training). Time-trial running performance in 2000m and hemoglobin mass were assessed before, immediately after the intervention as well as 4 weeks after returning from altitude in both groups.
Running performance improved in both conditions. However, the improvement in 2000 m performance was 1.5% greater after altitude training compared with sea level.
This beneficial effect was maintained after 4 weeks of altitude training cessation.
Hbmass increased by 2.8% with altitude training but returned to baseline values at 4 weeks after returning to sea level.
Conclusion & comments
As the authors suggest the maintenance of running performance improvement at 4 weeks after returning from altitude suggests that altitude training may be beneficial to performance in team-sport athletes. It is worth noting, however, that no testing was conducted in the control group at that time. Hence, we don’t know if the performance maintenace at 4 weeks postdescent was due to altitude training per se.
Finally, whether this benefit translates into improved match running performance in football (soccer) remains to be proven.
McLean, Buttifant, Gore, White, Liess and Kemp (2013). Physiological and performance responses to a preseason altitude-training in elite team-sport athletes. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 8:391-399.