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What is performance enhancement?

Most people assume "performance enhancement" means taking steroids. This is simply not the case. Performance enhancement is more appropriately referred to as an ergogenic aid. According to the Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance textbook, ergogenic refers to the application of any physical, mechanical, nutritional, psychologic or pharmacologic procedure or aid that improves physical work capacity or athletic performance. So performance enhancement can be anything that improves your abilities for a specified activity. Examples of some ergogenic aids include: studying film of the opposing team, working on body position for cycling, tweaking the mechanics of your jump shot, wearing a squat suit for powerlifting competitions, visualizing yourself succeeding in a sport, etc. Something as simple as water itself could be thought of as an ergogenic aid because I can guarantee that without it, your performance in any situation would suffer. In most collegiate and professional sports however, the only performance enhancing aids that are regulated are in regards to nutritional supplements.

Katch, F. & Katch, V. & McArdle, W. (2007). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, & Human Performance. 6th ed. USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 556. 

Performance enhancement means mentally improving upon the way you currently perform. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are doing something wrong or performing inappropriately. It means that you'd like to increase your knowledge and skills to improve what you currently do. For example, you are really good at recognizing your pre-performance anxiety and have found that taking three deep breaths upon that recognition helps decrease your anxiety level. Performance enhancement helps enhance that level of knowledge and understanding. For example, performance enhancement can help clarify how much pre-performance anxiety is too much anxiety, and what other skills may be appropriate besides three deep breaths to decrease the anxiety. In this situation, performance enhancement can also help athletes determine when else the athlete may be experiencing anxiety, what it feels like, and how the athlete may decrease that as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.