Clenbuterol diminishes aerobic performance in horses

Charles F. Kearns, Kenneth H. McKeever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this 8-wk study was to examine the effect of therapeutic levels of clenbuterol on aerobic performance and hemodynamics associated with exercise. Methods: Twenty-three unfit Standardbred mares were divided into four experimental groups, clenbuterol (2.4 μg·kg-1 body weight twice daily) plus exercise (20 min at 50% VO2max; CLENEX; N = 6), clenbuterol only (CLEN; N = 6), exercise only (EX; N = 5), and control (CON; N = 6). All horses performed an incremental exercise test (GXT) to measure maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), blood lactate concentration, total plasma protein concentration, and hematocrit. Plasma volume, heart rate, right ventricular pressure (RVP), and pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) were measured before and after the treatment/training. Each horse also performed an exercise capacity test (ECT) in which they ran at their pretreatment VO2max speed until exhausted. Results: There were no significant changes in blood lactate, total protein, or hematocrit for any group during either the GXT or ECT. CLENEX decreased (P < 0.05) VO2max (-6.2%) and velocity to VO2max (-10.0%), whereas both CLENEX and CLEN decreased (P < 0.05) in time to exhaustion (-20.5 ± 4.7 and -20.9 ± 5.6%). EX alone increased (P < 0.05) VO2max (+6.5%), velocity to VO2max (+10.0%), velocity to produces lactate concentration of 4 mmol (+13.5%), and time to exhaustion (+32.3 ± 15.0%). Plasma volume was altered (P < 0.05) in CLENEX (-10%) and EX (+27%) but not in CLEN. Posttest recovery HR was higher (P < 0.05) at 2 min post-GXT in the CLENEX, CLEN, and CON compared with their pretest values; RVP remained elevated at 2 min of recovery in the CLEN and CON groups; however, in the EX, recovery HR and RVP had returned to pre-GXT levels by 2 min of recovery. Conclusions: These data suggest that the combined effect of therapeutic levels of clenbuterol and training decrease aerobic performance and that the resultant reduction in plasma volume may affect improvements in cardiovascular function during recovery normally seen with exercise training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1976-1985
Number of pages10
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


  • Beta-agonist
  • Equine
  • Exercise testing
  • Hemodynamics


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