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10 Nutritional and Mechanical Ergogenic Aids

By Steve Glass, Brian Hatzel, Rick Albrecht

Ergogenic refers to something that helps you generate more work. An ergogenic aid may be something that helps make the work easier to perform (like a shoehorn helps you put on your dress shoes) or provides a boost to your physiology so that you can do more work. Some ergogenic aids are legal and common in sports; others are banned.

Five Common Nutritional Ergogenic Aids
Aid Possible Effect Possible Side Effect Legality
Caffeine Increases use of fat as fuel
Stimulates the central nervous system (CNS)
Dehydration
Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
Legal up to 15 micrograms/ml (the equivalent of drinking 10
cups of coffee in 1 hour)
Anabolic steroids Increases protein synthesis and muscle mass
Accelerates recovery from heavy exercise
Possible disorders of the heart, liver, and kidney
Reduction in size and function of testes
Increased risk of heart disease
Controlled substance
Prescribed for individuals with low testosterone, HIV, and sexual
dysfunction
Detected levels above normal are illegal in sports that test for
it
Carbohydrates Increase exercise performance
Accelerate recovery from heavy exercise
Essential for fat burning and most high-intensity activities
Can add non-nutritious calories to the diet and promote fat
storage, if the carbs eaten are simple sugars
Legal
Strive to get 40–60% of your calories from complex carbs that
have fiber and nutrients.
Erythropoietin Stimulates the production of red blood cells
Increases oxygen transport capacity of the blood, thereby improving
performance in aerobic activities
Thickens the blood, increasing blood clot risk
May damage kidneys and blood vessels
Is a danger to pregnant women and fetuses
Is prescribed by doctors for patients with anemia (low red
blood cell count)
Can be naturally increased through exposure to altitude, but
supplementation is Illegal in sports
Creatine May increase muscle stores of creatine phosphate, a high-energy
source of ATP in the muscle
May result in improved performance for short duration,
high-intensity activities
According to most studies, safe in doses of
5–20g/day
May be dangerous to those with kidney disease
Other side effects possible, so caution is advised
Legal
Five Common Mechanical Ergogenic Aids
Aid Possible Effect Legality
Wicking clothing Transfers moisture from the skin through clothing, to be
evaporated
Aids in cooling the skin for temperature regulation during
exercise
Legal and sold at most sporting goods stores
Compression garments May prevent post-exercise tissue swelling (edema) and aid in
recovery from exercise
Limited information on performance enhancement potential
Legal
Clap skates (a type of speed skate designed to keep more
surface area of the skate on the ice)
Provides added acceleration and speed during the push-off
phase
Legal and widely used in speed skating
Aerodynamic cycle and helmet Reduces drag and allows for greater race speed Legal
Drag-resistant swimsuits (specially designed compression
suits)
Increases buoyancy and reduces drag, greatly improving speed in
the water
Regulated by the International Swimming Federation for
international competition
Specially designed running shoes (many varieties are available,
depending on the activity)
Improves running speed due to improved traction and better foot
support
Reduces injury
Legal