News items Does altitude training take you to new heights?

9 July 2024

Not only UEFA EURO 2024 is approaching an exciting climax, but the cyclists in the Tour de France are also preparing for a tough final week, during which they will climb the Tourmalet, d'Aubisque, and d'Aspin in the Pyrenees. Do they actually benefit from the altitude training camps they have completed?

Suzanne van Dorp, hematologist: 

‘With increasing altitude, there's less available oxygen. This immediately affects your endurance, since muscles and organs also receive less oxygen. To adapt to less available oxygen, our kidneys produce more EPO, a natural growth hormone that stimulates our bone marrow to produce extra red blood cells. More red blood cells can transport more oxygen to muscles and organs. Recombinant EPO is known for its use as doping by certain cyclists. This adaptation takes a few days to weeks. Once those red blood cells are produced, they have a lifespan of up to four months. This makes altitude training interesting for athletes, because even when they are back at normal altitude, they can benefit from those extra red blood cells for a longer period of time. We might not notice much after a period at altitude, but for athletes, even a small increase in performance can mean a great victory. And in elite sports, that’s what it’s all about.’ 

More information

Annemarie Eek


Matthijs Kox

senior researcher IC

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Pauline Dekhuijzen

wetenschaps- en persvoorlichter

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