Increased Erythropoietin (EPO) Naturally
EPO is a naturally-occurring hormone produced in the kidneys that stimulates the bone marrow to release more red blood cells into circulation. Because red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles, having a higher concentration in the circulation can greatly improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity.
EPO that is produced in a lab (sometimes used in doping) is almost identical to the naturally occurring hormone that is produced in the body.
1. Increase EPO by 24%
Results showed that EPO concentration increased by 24%, which peaked at three hours after the final breath hold and returned to baseline two hours later.
Exercise: “Three sets of five maximum duration breath holds, with each set separated by ten minutes of rest.”
See: de Bruijn R, Richardson M, Schagatay E. “Increased erythropoietin concentration after repeated apneas in humans.” Eur J Appl Physiol 2008; 102:609–13. Epub 2007 Dec 19.
2. Increase EPO by 24 to 36% by lowering blood oxygen saturation to lower than 91% for 24 seconds and 26 seconds respectively
Researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory, University of Calgary, Canada, conducted a study to investigate the relationship between a decrease of oxygen concentration during exercise and erythropoietin (EPO) production. Five athletes cycled for three minutes at an intensity greater than maximal (supramaximal) at two different elevations: 1,000m and 2,100m.
Oxygen saturation of hemoglobin was lower than 91 percent for approximately 24 seconds during exercise at 1,000 meters and for 136 seconds during exercise at 2,100 meters, with EPO levels increasing by 24 percent and 36 percent, respectively following the exercise.
Roberts D, Smith DJ, Donnelly S, Simard S. Plasma-volume contraction and exercise-induced hypoxaemia modulate erythropoietin production in healthy humans. Clinical Science.2000 ;(Jan;98(1):39-45
3. Breath Holding Increases EPO Naturally
Korean researchers Choi et al. carried out a study on 263 subjects to determine the relationship between hematocrit levels and obstructive sleep apnea (involuntary holding of the breath during sleep). Patients with severe sleep apnea had significantly higher levels of hematocrit than mild and moderate OSA.
Study findings showed that hematocrit levels were significantly correlated with per cent of time spent at oxygen saturation of below 90 percent, as well as average oxygen saturation.
See: Jong Bae Choi, José S. Loredo, Daniel Norman, Paul J. Mills, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Michael G. Ziegler and Joel E. Dimsdale. Does obstructive sleep apnea increase haematocrit?. Sleep and Breathing.2006 ;(Sep;10(3)):155-60