Friday, April 8, 2011

Does This Stuff Work?

Caffeine, drag-resistant swimsuits, anabolic steroids: Ethical or not, banned or not, and legal or not, each enhances physical performance in some way. That's why athletes use 'em. But once everyone else finds out about a particular performance booster, the hunt for the Next Big Thing is on. Serious competitors are always on the lookout for new products that might give them an edge over the competition. Some of the best-known tools are pharmacologicalnutritional or psychological -- but others are mechanical aids with varying degrees of usefulness, like lifting straps, Big Bertha drivers or Nip Guards.

It's no surprise, then, that savvy marketers have amassed fortunes hawking ergogenic aids to unwary, driven athletes. But how do we know what actually works? Which products are legit, and which are snake oil?

Sometimes, a little common sense is all you need. (It doesn't take much to figure out, for instance, that the Hawaii Chair isn't going to enhance your physical fitness.) But what if a number of pro athletes are using or endorsing a product? Or if “experts” have declared a performance booster to be safe and effective? Why not shell out some money to see if you, too, can gain an incremental boost in output?

Just for kicks, let's take a look at a small subset of products that are marketed (and therefore marked up in price!) as ergogenic aids: Stuff you can wear, like spring-loaded shoes, nasal strips, Power Balance bands, compression wear and Kinesio Tape.

[Continued over at The Five Tribe...]