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Endurance Training With Periodic Carbon Monoxide Inhalation

Endurance Training With Periodic Carbon Monoxide Inhalation

Background: Altitude endurance training stimulates erythropoietin hormone (EPO) release and increases blood hemoglobin (Hb) mass, which may result in improved oxygen (O2) transport capacity. It was hypothesized in the present study that periodic inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO) might elicit similar physiological adaptations compared to altitude endurance training.

Methods: Twelve male college student athletes, who were well-trained soccer players, participated. They performed a 4-week treadmill-training program, five times a week. Participants were randomly assigned into an experimental group with inhaling CO (INCO) (1 mL/kg body weight for 2 min) in O2 (4 L) before all endurance training sessions and a control group without inhaling CO (NOCO). CO and EPO concentrations in venous blood were first measured acutely at the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th hour after INCO, and total hemoglobin mass (tHb), running economy and VO2max were measured before and after the 4 weeks training intervention.

Results: HbCO% increased from 0.7 to 4.4% (P < 0.05) after 1 h of CO inhalation and EPO increased from 1.9 to 2.7 mIU/mL after 4 h post CO inhalation (P < 0.05) acutely before the intervention. After the training, the tHb and VO2max in the INCO group increased significantly by 3.7 and 2.7%, respectively, while no significant differences were observed in the NOCO condition. O2 uptake at given submaximal speeds declined by approximately 4% in the INCO group.

Conclusion: Acutely, EPO increased sharply post CO inhalation, peaking at 4 h post inhalation. 4-weeks of training with CO inhalation before exercise sessions improved tHb and VO2max as well as running economy, suggesting that moderate CO inhalation could be a new method to improve the endurance performance in athletes.


Jun Wang1*, Yunhui Ji2, Li Zhou1, Yang Xiang3*, Ilkka Heinonen4,5 and Peng Zhang6
  • 1The Belt and Road Joint Laboratory for Winter Sports, Department of Exercise Physiology, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China
  • 2Department of Physical Education, Shanxi Medical University, Taiyuan, China
  • 3School of Physical Education, Yan’an University, Yan’an, China
  • 4Turku PET Centre, Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
  • 5Rydberg Laboratory for Applied Sciences, Department of Environmental and Biosciences, Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden
  • 6Department of Exercise Science, East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, East Stroudsburg, PA, United States