Iron is integral for erythropoietic adaptation to hypoxia, yet the importance of supplementary iron compared with existing stores is poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to compare the magnitude of the hemoglobin mass (Hbmass) in response to altitude in athletes with intravenous (IV), oral, or placebo iron supplementation.Methods
Thirty-four, nonanemic, endurance-trained athletes completed 3 wk of simulated altitude (3000 m, 14 h·d−1), receiving two to three bolus iron injections (ferric carboxymaltose), daily oral iron supplementation (ferrous sulfate), or a placebo, commencing 2 wk before and throughout altitude exposure. Hbmass and markers of iron regulation were assessed at baseline (day −14), immediately before (day 0), weekly during (days 8 and 15), and immediately, 1, 3, and 6 wk after (days 22, 28, 42, and 63) the completion of altitude exposure.Results
Hbmass significantly increased after altitude exposure in athletes with IV (mean % [90% confidence interval (CI)], 3.7% [2.8–4.7]) and oral (3.2% [2.2–4.2]) supplementation and remained elevated at 7 d postaltitude in oral (2.9% [1.5–4.3]) and 21 d after in IV (3.0% [1.5–4.6]) supplementation. Hbmass was not significantly higher than baseline at any time point in placebo.Conclusions
Iron supplementation appears necessary for optimal erythropoietic adaptation to altitude exposure. IV iron supplementation during 3 wk of simulated live high–train low altitude training offered no additional benefit in terms of the magnitude of the erythropoietic response for nonanemic endurance athletes compared with oral supplementation.