|Image 1: If you start thinking about whether or not the product you just bought at your local supplement store works, it is - for a non-negligible amount of supplements - unlikely that you will see any results (photo Scientific American)|
Your test booster works, but mainly on your brain
About 12 years ago, Constantinos N. Maganaris, Dave Collins and Martin Sharp from the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh tried to elucidate how potent these pla- or brocebo effects (whatever you want to call them) really are (Constantinos. 2000). In a well-controlled, yet relatively small-scale trial, the supplied a group of 11 national level powerlifters, who had been training in a team that was coached by the lead author of the study for two years. The latter may initially sound insignificant, the level of trust the previously non-using athletes had in their coaches must yet be considered one of the determinants of the strength of the placebo effect - specifically in view of the fact that the lifters who were selected for the trial had previously "approached the coach as a group and asked him for advice on effective use of AS", which, by the way, had instigated the whole investigation.
How to Spot a Nutraceutical Rip-Off - I want to use this chance for a shout-out, not just because I owe it to my friend Sean Casey from CasePerformance that I originally took notice of this study, but also because Sean has a nice compilation of tips on how to spot a neutraceutical rip-off on his website... a compilation, by the way, you should better not read too carefully, if you like to use test-boosters, pump-supplements and the like. After all, this could totally compromise their brocebo-powered muscle building, fat burning effects ;-)To test the hypothesis that the mere belief in taking an anabolic steroid would already elicit profound effects on the performance of the lifters, Constantinos, and his colleagues came up with a two-part testing + supplementation regimen that looked as follows:
- Trial 1: Bench press, deadlift, squat and 1-RM test after the ingestion of a capsule of which all participants were told that it contained a powerful anabolic steroid
- Two training weeks: In the subsequent two training weeks the subjects were instructed to take the rest of the steroids they had been given at the first trial.
- Trial 2: Half of the subjects were informed that the tablets they had taken contained nothing but sugar, while the others performed the 2nd trial in the belief that they had been taking steroids for two weeks now.
|Figure 1: Increase in bench press, deadlift and squat 1-RM (in kg) in trial I and trial I of the study; lifters who still believed they were taking steroids on the left, lifters who were informed about the placebo nature of their "steroids" before the second trial on the right (data adapted from Constantinos. 2000)|
Increase your bench, deadlift, and squat by 5% within days!
With baseline bench press, deadlift, and squat 1-RMs, of 205kg, 260kg and 240kg, the relative placebo-induced increases amounted to ~5% - pretty impressive for an "all-natural" anabolic like sugar, right?