Critically evaluate ads that tell only part of the story. For example, an ad may emphatically proclaim that high-quality protein is required for muscle growth, but make no mention of the importance of the interactions of resistance exercise or total caloric intake.
Be suspicious of a single substance that claims to enhance performance or physique in multiple ways. For instance, a suspicious endorsement may claim that a single substance can build muscle, increase strength training, burn fat, increase stamina, increase concentration, strengthen the immune system, enhance sex drive, and speed recovery. However, some elaborate products may contain a combination of different ergogenic aids and therefore may exert multiple effects.
Be wary of any company that implies that it is okay to eat poorly as long as a person takes his or her supplement. Everyone should recognize that the best sports supplements regimen cannot compensate for the worst dietary habits. For example, using an effective fat-loss supplement will not do a person any good if that person is consuming twice as many calories as he or she should.
Be skeptical of ads that claim it is easy to reduce body fat while making no mention of the importance of proper diet and training. Only when used in the context of a proper diet, exercise, and patience can fat loss be optimal, and even in such an ideal situation, fat loss will be challenging for most.
Recognize that in most instances, a natural supplement is neither more effective nor safer than a synthetic supplement. Regardless of its source, for example, vitamin C is still vitamin C, whether it is was synthesized in a scientist’s laboratory or in a flower’s laboratory. An additional consideration is that many herbal or natural products may contain additional, unidentified substances that may have undesirable effects.
Carefully scrutinize claims of products that promise miraculous results in a brief period of time. A select few products such as those that affect fluid balance or the nervous system show results in relatively short order. However, when using most effective ergogenic aids, success is not achieved overnight, and it is the meticulous application of a longterm strategy that yields the best results.
Look for products that support their claims with only anecdotes and testimonials, as opposed to scientific studies. Testimonials are unreliable and frequently fraudulent. A consumer should ask oneself or a qualified individual if there could be an alternative explanation for a particular result.
Dismiss a product that claims to be equal or superior to anabolic steroids in its ergogenic properties. Such a claim is not only unreasonable, but also unverifiable. Because of the negative side effects and controlled status of anabolic steroids, it is extremely unlikely that these drugs will ever be directly compared against the effectiveness of a legal ergogenic aid in a university study.
Challenge ads that support a product with a single study. Good scientists (and consumers) rely on the data generated by several studies to ensure that the results are reproducible and not a fluke.
Mistrust ads that may cite a scientific study but give inadequate referencing information to locate the study. For example, a publication may state that “A study by Smith et al. revealed that yams increase testosterone production.” A similar tactic could appear as “Researchers at West Virginia University found that our product is absorbed 600% better than that of other brands.” At minimum, citation information should include the last name of the first author, the year of publication, the journal title, and the volume, issue, and page numbers. Also helpful is the inclusion of other authors’ names, and the title of the study.
Whether or not a manufacturer cites any studies, ask the manufacturer for full journal references or actual copies of the journal articles supporting their claims. Evaluate if a supplement claim is measurable. It is difficult to analyze the purported benefits of a substance if it is claimed to make you feel better or feel more energetic. Drug-using athletes may be attracted to a product that claims to detoxify the liver, yet have no means of assessing the supposed effectiveness. Purposefully vague claims do not allow a consumer to determine if the supplement was worthy of the type. In sports supplement ads, look for dubious credentials that are not recognized by mainstream science and education. If a supplement company cannot find anyone with a reputable background to stand behind their product, steer clear of it.
Ignore products that make you self-conscious or vulnerable. Some advertisers may manipulate consumers by alienating them, convincing them that everyone else is using a particular product.
Don’t allow obsession or desperation to cloud one’s judgment. Some athletes, desperate to beat the competition, will use every supplement available to reassure themselves that they’ve explored every option. Stick with scientifically based products.