Ergogenic Aids


Blood Doping

What is it?

Refers to any means by which a person's total volume of red blood cells can be increased. This is often achieved by removing blood, cooling it down, then re-introducing it to the athlete just before the event. Used by endurance athletes.


temporarily increases red blood cell count (polycythemia), this therefore increases the oxygen carriers in the blood and thus VO2 Max increases


risk of HIV or hepatitis, mismatching can causes a transfusion reaction or an allergic reaction, major risk of thrombosis and heart failure due to increase in blood viscosity, reduces resting heart rate to dangerously low levels during sleep


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WADA is the World Anti-Doping Agency and is responsible for enforcing the international regulations on doping and drug taking. They aim to bring together governments, the IOC, International Governing Bodies, and National Governing Bodies to sort any the difficulties posed by by athletes on the international stage.

They have introduced the 'Athlete Passport' which contains an on-going collection of an individual's urine and blood profiles which have been collected and testing during the their performance lifespan. Samples are stored and made available for retro-testing if needed.

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Caffiene has many effects that can be beneficial for competition. It used to be illegal in large doses but in 2002 the rules changed, so drinking large amounts of coffee is now allowed.


  • It is a stimulant so therefore can reduce reaction times
  • Can be used as a substance to promote fat metabolism and can help reduce adipose tissue
  • Due to the increased fat metabolism, glycogen reserves are spared for later in exercise


  • It acts as a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration and heat related conditions
  • It produces a state of nervousness
  • It can disrupt normal sleeping patterns therefore contributing to fatigue
  • Abrupt ceasing of caffiene intake can lead to severe headaches
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Fluid Intake

Possible benefits of sports drinks

They are designed to supplement energy, fluid, and protein needs of athletes.

When taken during exercise the CHO concentration of a sports drink should not exceed 7% to maximise both sugar and fluid intake and absorption. This is know as an isotonic sports drink because the dilute level of glucose is the same level of concentration as in the blood. An isotonic sports drink is an important source of energy during exercise and reduces the risk of dehydration.

During recovery, hypertonic drinks contain a much higher level of glucose (up to 20%). The highly concentrated drink is used to replenish depleted glycogen stores. These should be drunk as soon as possible after exercise has finished.

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What is it?

It reduces the concentration of substances by diluting urine and therefore increasing urine flow. Used by gymnast and combat sports where there are bodyweight categories. Also used as a masking agent to dilute concentration of illegal substances in urine.


reduces weight quickly


loss of water leads to dehydration and heat loss impairment, loss of water-soluble vitamins leads to impaired performances


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Alcohol is legal in competition however there can be serious side effects and consequences of using it.

It is a relaxant in quite small quantities so for sports with fine motor skills such as darts, it can be useful in aiding performance. However even small quantities can lead to a drastic loss of performance.

It is absorbed into the body as an alternative to water and therefore causes dehydration.

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Ergogenic Aids

What are they?

Ergogenic aids are any substance or method that enhances performance. This includes any method used in training including training equipment, balancing your nutrition, as well as doping and using supplements.

They are put into two categories, legal (such as carbo-loading) and illegal (such as steroids).

They tend to be either physiological, nutritional, or mechanical.

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What is it?

Recombinant erythropoietin cloned through genetic engineering and is a form of blood doping. It mimics the body's naturally occurring hormone, EPO, that stimulates red blood cell production. Used by endurance athletes.


increases the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, therefore increases aerobic capacity, aids recovery in endurance based activities (such as marathon running and long distance cycling like the Tour-de-France)


taking rEPO decreases the production of naturally occurring EPO, major risk of thrombosis and heart failure due to increased blood viscosity, reduces resting heart rate to dangerously low level when asleep


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Fluid Intake

Modern athletes frequently use isotonic sports drinks just prior to competition to maintain rehydration and alertness.

Fluid loss during exercise depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise, temperature and humidity, body size and fitness levels. The longer and more intense the exercise, the more the need to drink before, during, and after the event.

Due to the fact that water makes up 60% of the total body mass, it is important that water balance is maintained during exercise.

Water balance depends on electrolyte balance and vice versa. For optimal performance, the body's water and electrolyte contents should remain relatively constant.

At rest, water loss occurs mainly via the kidneys along with excess electrolytes (Na and Cl)

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increase alertness, reduce fatigue, increase competitiveness and hostility


can drive competitor beyond safe boundaries, can cause lasting tissue and organ damage, can mask injury, are very addictive, known to cause death


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Pre-competition nutrition

  • Fluids for hydration
  • Light complex CHO such as pasta at least 3 hours before activity
  • Fruits that contain complex CHO (such as bananas)
  • Small amounts of glucose

The effect of this is to provide the slow release of blood glucose and reduce hunger sensations.

Post-competition or training nutrition

  • Hypertonic sports drink imediately after exercise has finished
  • This begins the replenishment of blood glucose and glycogen stores
  • A high CHO meal within 15 minutes of exercise ending to continue glycogen replenishment
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What is it?

Recombinant Human Growth Hormone, it is a hormone cloned through genetic engineering and it mimics the body's naturally occurring hormone HGH which is produced by the pituitary gland which increases protein synthesis and lean muscle mass. Used by power athletes.


stimulates bone growth, increases blood glucose levels, enhances healing after musculo-skeletal injuries


muscle joint weaknesses, acromegaly (giantism) causes bone thickening of hands, feet, and jaws, enlargement of internal organs, causes glucose intolerance, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease


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Anabolic Steroids

What is it?

A synthetic version of the naturally occurring testosterone in the body. Used by power athletes and by athletes participating in agressive sports.


increases the synthesis of protein within cells, increases fat free mass, increases strength and power, reduces recovery time between sessions, increases muscle strength and bulk, promotes aggressiveness


excessive aggressive behaviour outside the activity, testicular atrophy in men, masculinisation in women, liver damage, cardiovascular diseases, causes acne, causes pituitary failure


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What is it?

Carbo-loading aims to raise muscle glycogen stores above their normal resting levels prior to endurance competitions with over 90 minutes of continuous activity. This process is best used for activities with a low anaerobic and high aerobic components.

How does it work?

The athlete starves themselves of CHO 4-7 days before the competition. This depletes the stores of in the muscle and liver. A high CHO diet is then undertaken 3 days before competition and is maintained. This replenishes the stores of glycogen in the body, and the body reacts to this by vigorously replacing it to a level above normal (can be up to 4%). This is known as supercompensation.

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Creatine Supplements

What is it?

Creatine is a substance found in skeletal muscle and is stored as phosphocreatine. Using creatine supplements increase the level of phosphocreatine stores to enhance the resynthesis of ATP using the ATP-PC system. It helps improve anaerobic power and lengthens the time over which they can apply maximal power.

It is often used by power and anaerobic athletes such as sprinters, weight lifters, and gymnasts. It is not a muscle developement 'drug', and instead just enables the athlete to train at the highest intenisty for longer to help build and train muscle.

Creatine supplements can cause muscular cramps and can also be responsible for weight gain.

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Cooling Aids

Cryotherapies are popular ergogenic aids for cooling core body temperatures. They reduce the effect of DOMS and are well established in the treatment of acute sports injuries. They work by being able to decrease cellular metabolism, reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, and promote vasoconstriction. They do this by absorbing heat from the injury, the more heat absorbed, the faster the pain relief and healing.

Cooling Jackets - used in an attempt to reduce the core temperatures of sports participants in very hot conditions

Wet-Ice Packs - water is a much better conductor of heat energy than air or plastic. By being wet, wet-ice packs allow for greater heat transfer out of the body compared to gel or chemical packs

Ice Baths - the use of ice baths is very popular during the recovery phase of a training session as it assists the removal of lactic acid and aids the healing process of damaged tissue

Cold Therapy - used in acute sports injuries as well as in rehabilitation. The impact of an injury is greatly reduced by the use of cold therapies and the sooner it is used, the more effective the therapy. Examples include ice packs, ice towels, ice massage, frozen gel packs, and ice baths.

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Resistance Training

Resistance training equipment such as weight training machines or pulley machines (with stacks or hydraulics), are designed to add extra resistance to the performer through a range of motion. Many devices are designed to mimic the sports movement, which make the movement specific to the sport and so provide an alternative method of training.

Resistance aids form an integral part of land-based training drills for elite athletes such as swimmers, rowers, and canoeists, as well as providing specialist equipment for individual athletes and team players.

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Mechanical Aids

Swim Ergometer

Operates on a pulley system and simulates swimming actions on land. It provides the tools necessary to develop aerobic endurance and anaerobic power for swimming without getting wet. An example of a type of swimbench is the expensive Vasa ergometer which is equipped with an electronic monitor that provides instant feedback on performance.

Rowing Ergometer

The Concept II ergo rower is a specialist resistance training machine that has been used for rowing in the traininf and preparation of athletes for many years. More recently, indoor rowing has grown from a tool for off-the-water training for the serious rower to a sport in its own right

Latex Tubing

A cheaper alternative is to use extendable latex tubes, which consist of tubes made of rubber with varying degrees of thickness and strength. This type of resistance training is known as a stretchcord resistance training and the idea is to pull on the tube for the selected movement pattern.

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Mechanical Aids


Otherwise known as speed chutes, this type of resistance training device is towed behind a running athlete to provide resistance to forward motion. It is designed to improve maximal speed, start acceleration, and speed endurance. It is used in a variety of sports where speed is an essential physical fitness component.

Towing Sledges

A training device that includes a powder coated steel sledge and belt attached to a shoulder harness. The user is required to add weights to the sledge to vary the training load or intensity. Sledge resistance training is thought to improve speed, acceleration, and leg strength.

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Fluid Intake

Water intake will depend on climate and body mass. The modern fashion of carrying water bottles for ready consumption reflects modern concerns about water balance.

During exercise, urine production declines as electrolyte loss occurs primarily alongside water loss through sweating. The need to replace body fluid is greater than the need to replace electrolytes because sweat is very dilute compared to urine (has a lower concentration of electrolytes).

The thirst mechanism does not match the body's hydration state, so more fluid should be consumed than thirst dictates. Only by replenishing water can the electrolytes return to normal concentrations.

During one hour's exercise, the average person can expect to lose 1 litre of body fluid. In warm or humid conditions, this can be as much as 2 litres.

Excess loss of fluid impairs performance as blood plasma volume decreases and body temperature rises. Heart rate is kept constant if suitable fluids are taken in during exercise.

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