The Placebo Effect

Published: 2021-09-13 11:50:10
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A placebo is basically a control substance when testing for something else. For instance a company is testing their protein shakes and they have a person do a lifting workout and then drink a protein shake. To see that it works they will sometimes mix in the placebo. The placebo is actually just a control that has none of the protein in it, yet the person does not know that. This is how the placebo effect came about. In many of these experiments it was found that the placebo did not throw off the actual substance because the person still thought they were getting the beneficial substance.
When they knew that they were getting a control substance their performance did incline with the protein and did not when they were receiving the placebo. There has been many experiments now, trying to understand why this happens. Caffeine has been tested by weightlifting, testosterone with aggressiveness, performance-enhancing shots, and even sports clothing with performance. So is it a certain product we are using that helps us perform better or possibly just the products of our own mind? There has been much research to find out. Caffeine is a popular substance that is supposed to enhance sport performance.
There have been many tests that show that it does work by using a placebo, yet the problem is that there are also many tests that show something else. A control group is used with the assumption that the placebo is inactive. There was never supposed to be anything such as the placebo effect. Also the subjects in the experiments were not supposed to act differently when they thought they were or were not taking it. To figure things out scientists in the United Kingdom designed an experiment with the placebo effect on weight lifting.
Fifteen males with lifting experience were recruited. Scientists told the men that they were in a study on the effects of caffeine on weightlifting performance. They also told them that they would be consuming two solutions, one containing caffeine and the other a placebo in random order, yet they were actually getting two placebos. The subjects came to the lab three different days all between 9a. m and 12p. m (“Placebo Power”). For the first visit the subjects tested their maximum strength one rep max on single leg extensions.
The second day the subjects all warmed up for five minutes cycling and then tested. They did one set of single leg extensions until failure at sixty percent of their one rep max. All repetitions were counted and the trials were separated by one to three days. All of the data and feedback was noted. The total amount of weight was counted (repetitions multiplied by weight), and the perceived exertion rate (RPE, the measure of work the subjects thought they were putting in) was determined (“Placebo Power”).
To the subjects all three trials were different. In one trial, the control trial, the subjects consumed nothing. In the other two trials the subjects did consume a pill an hour before the trial but they did not know what it was. They were told that they were receiving a caffeine pill on one of the days and a placebo on the other, yet they got a placebo for both trials. Even more, the researchers that interacted with the subjects did not even know the true nature of the research and that there was no caffeine ever used until the end of the study.
After all of the trials the subjects were given a questionnaire asking which trial they thought they received the placebo and which day they received the caffeine. After the result analysis researchers found that the subjects completed an average of 4. 1 more reps when they thought they had taken caffeine before the trial as opposed to when they thought that they took the placebo (“Placebo Power”). As for the total weight lifted, 306 lbs. more was lifted on average when the subjects thought they had consumed caffeine (“Placebo Power”).
As regards to RPE, the subjects were higher when they thought that they had gotten the placebo for the trial instead of the caffeine or the control trial. What that indicated was that the subjects thought that they had to work much harder to lift the weight when they thought they had just taken a placebo. Of the fifteen subjects thirteen of them said that they had expected the caffeine to enhance their weightlifting performance. From this study it is clear that expectation is everything. When someone expects for caffeine to enhance their workout then it will whether it’s a placebo or not.
When the subjects thought they were getting caffeine they lifted more weight and did more repetitions on average. Also when they thought they were receiving the placebo they expected to have to work harder in order to reach their previous goals. In another study about testosterone and aggressiveness a placebo effect was found. There were three groups of male athletes from a university. There was a control group, a testosterone group, and a placebo group where they were told they were getting testosterone but really got nothing.
The subjects were all interviewed about how they were feeling and also tested physically. There was definitely a placebo effect found but also a big surprise of the effects of actual testosterone. With the self-estimated data of the feeling of anger and irritation both graphs looked the same. The control group said that they did not notice any changes. The placebo group noticed many changes. On average the levels of anger and irritation went way up (Bjorkqvist,2010). One man said that he and friends noticed him being on edge and very irritable (Bjorkqvist,2010).
Physically he said that he felt better than ever. Not only did he think that his body was able to work harder and lift more weight effortlessly, he also said that he became more self-confident in competition. The most interesting thing in this experiment was the effects of the testosterone, or should I say lack of effect. The group that actually received the testosterone said in their self evaluations about anger and irritability that they noticed no change. Before the treatment, before the exercise, and after the exercise they said that they stayed the same behaviorally.
The difference that was found was in what they thought about how they were able to work physically. They all on average thought that the testosterone had enhanced their physical performance (Bjorkqvist,2010). In reality the data that was collected in all of the tests showed that physically all of the groups showed no differences. There were no enhancements or weaknesses. Although there was a definite placebo effect found, it differs completely. In the first experiment, the placebo effect was shown in self evaluation and also with data from weightlifting.
In the second experiment, the only changes were with the placebo group in the self evaluation. There could be many expectation factors that make this experiment have a questionable outcome. Some may want the testosterone to have positive effects by saying that they experienced enhanced physical performance and no negative personality traits that have been accused before. There is a question mark at the end of this experiment on everything but the placebo effect. The placebo effect can be seen with anything.
It is not necessarily always an oral intake of a substance, it could even be clothing. For swimmers, their suits may mean the difference in winning and losing. A swimmer may take a while to get suited up but it is for a good reason. The said new and improved speed suit covers the body from shoulders to ankles and is tighter than skin tight. The reason these suits are so important is because it reduced jiggle. The more jiggle a swimmer has, the more time it takes for their body to move through the water (Barone,2008).
These suits are said to condense the breasts and buttocks for less drag. In an experiment with the placebo effect in sports wear a professional swimmer was tested. This swimmer was known to always buy the latest “performance enhancing” suits and did believe in them. The suit brands are very careful with their claims now. These suits were supposed to reduce drag and nothing else. The speed enhancement was just assumed. Science shows that a suit may be able to shave of a fraction of a second traditionally so for this experiment that was the hypothesis of the scientist (Barone,2008).
The actual conclusion was quite different though. The swimmer ate what he normally would before a meet and did the same warm up. The timer started and the swimmer was off. Seems that the swimmer was quite a positive thinker because it turned out that he shaved over an unheard of fifteen seconds off his time (Barone,2008). The placebo effect is shown because statistically swimwear would not be able to make that huge of a marginal change. The placebo has been proven to work in pain killing more than anything (“How To Cheat Without Cheating”).
A scientist once saw research of people that had been injected with morphine for two days saw pain relief for those two days and also after that when they were injected with nothing but a placebo. This led him to test it in sports performance. He and colleagues simulated a tournament of four teams of athletic men in pain endurance competitions. In one their forearm was strapped with a tourniquet as they squeezed a hand spring repeatedly until pain forced them to stop. All of the scores were taken and averaged over the whole team.
One of the teams was injected with morphine two weeks before the competition and also one week before and then on the big day they got saline solution thinking they were still receiving morphine. This is the legal way to use them. Another team was injected with saline that was combined with an opiate-blocking drug. The other two teams received no treatment at all but one with a placebo on competition day. The team that received morphine and then the placebo on competition day endured a lot more pain than the other three groups.
The group injected with the mixed saline did no better than to two control groups (“How To Cheat Without Cheating”). What this show is that the placebos actually do reduce pain because the person believes that it does. The brain is encouraged to produce more natural opiates than customary (“How To Cheat Without Cheating”). The placebo effect has been proven in many different ways. Even if the conclusions about the other groups they were tested are not accurate the placebo effect was accurate. The placebo effect is actually just a mind effect.
I think an athlete wants to see enhancement of performance whether they are actually getting a substance or not as long as it is legal. Whether it is the brain or biology the placebo effect is real.

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