Would you use a performance enhancer?

Everyday athletes are going to some extreme measures to get fitter. Get the download.

It's not exactly Lance Armstrong-level blood doping, but average exercisers and athletes are employing certain tricks to boost their performance. “We had one client who wore a high altitude training mask while training because he wanted a cardiovascular competitive edge over the guys in his pick-up basketball league,” says Chris Grys, general manager at Equinox South Beach. The fact is if it gives you a leg up, it’s tempting to try the latest meds, gear or supplements. Who wouldn’t want to be faster or stronger? But there are a few trends popping up in gyms that are either more hype then health or in one case, downright dangerous. We take a look at three below.

asthma inhalers

There have been murmurings in the running crowd about athletes without asthma taking advantage of inhalers like albuterol or salbumatol to increase lung function and aid their race performance. Logistically, this seems to make sense—inhalers relax the bronchial smooth muscle in the lungs to open airways and allow in more oxygen—but a new study found that it actually has no effect on performance. According to British Journal of Sports Medicine, even though lung function improved in all athletes, it didn’t make their effort feel any easier. Unless you have asthma, you’re better off doing long intervals to increase your VO2 max if you want to improve your time.

altitude training masks

These gas mask-looking contraptions restrict the amount of air you breathe in as you work out, supposedly mimicking high altitude training. Altitude training is beneficial to athletes because breathing less pressurized air means you get less oxygen, which bolsters red blood cell density, increases VO2 max and performance. Hypoxic training restricts the amount of air you breathe in and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Studies have shown that it results in reduced speeds, power output, oxygen flux, which means zilch when it comes to long-term benefits. Plus, they’re loud. If you want the benefits of altitude training, you’ll have to pony up for a hyperbaric tent or altitude training generators, or move to higher ground.

low t products

Dosing your testosterone via patch, pill, gel or injection to your previous levels as a twenty-something may seem innocent, but there’s a reason low T products are under investigation by the FDA. A recent study found that men taking the drug were more likely to have heart attacks. And the benefits—small increases in libido, sexual satisfaction and lean body mass—don’t seem to outweigh the risks.