My fascination with the placebo effect began many years ago in a small but serious gym in Trinidad.
Dutifully every week, Greg and the guys would assemble in the men’s locker room to administer his shot.
A placebo as applied by medical science is defined as a preparation which is pharmacologically inert (such as a sugar pill) but which appears to have a therapeutic effect based solely on the power of suggestion.[1] In a medical setting, the placebo effect occurs when a patient or individual takes an inert substance, with some degree of suggestion either from a person or institution of authority, or from information about the pill that states that the pill will have a positive effect in the individual’s healing process and there is an improvement in their condition. From a marketing perspective, this view is encouraged, as it puts the emphasis back on creating the need for a drug, pill or powder for everything from the common cold to weight loss. As ineffective as they were all shown to be when everyone else was using it, we all felt that we saw some results.
In my personal training practice, I have seen the placebo effect as a powerful psychological tool for weight loss. Please note that all material is copyrighted and DMCA Protected and can be reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the author. Kevin Richardson is an acclaimided helth and fitness writer, a natural bodybuilding champion, one of the most sought after personal trainers in New York City and the creator of Naturally Intense™ High Intensity Training. It was always an event, with most of them bursting at the seams trying hard not to laugh as he was injected with diluted vegetable oil and (hopefully) sterilized water. Credible studies proving the placebo effect have been around since the late 1930’s, and yet it is largely ignored by the public.
Over the years, it has been shown that the placebo effect is in fact getting stronger and that it differs greatly from culture to culture.[3] One reason why the placebo effect continues to grow could be the omnipresence of marketing for both pharmaceutical drugs and pseudoscience products here in the United States.
With the right pricing, the right athletes or celebrity endorsements and the right advertising campaign, they could make outlandish claims about their products and always find an audience who would swear that their products work. I have always maintained a strict no supplement or fat loss supplement policy with my clients as they either don’t work or are potentially harmful. Everyone knew where you could get it and who you could get it from, but dealers were very discriminating in who they would or would not sell their wares to.


It is so powerful that the FDA requires it as a part of all drug trials and physicians regularly use it today as part of standard treatment. Since 1997 when the FDA lifted its restriction on direct-to-consumer advertising, we have been deluged by ads promoting the effectiveness of numerous pharmaceutical drugs. However, a number of bodybuilders and fitness models who I worked with in preparation for competitions or high end photo shoots, would complain that other athletes had an edge over them since they were using fat burners. One day, about two or three months from our Carnival, one of the young guys at the gym (who we will call Greg) decided that he was going to use steroids to get in shape for the coming festivities.
In spite of the fact that Greg was receiving a weekly dose of watered down vegetable oil, he put on a solid fifteen pounds of muscle in the course of two months, and when from being able to squat 225 lbs for six repetitions to 315 lbs for 12 repetitions. Almost 50% of the doctors polled in a 2007 survey admitted to prescribing medications that they knew were ineffective for their patients’ conditions or in doses too low to produce any possible therapeutic benefit but to provoke a placebo response.[2] It is disheartening that rather than viewing our innate ability to positively influence medical outcomes and changes in our bodies solely from suggestion as a positive aspect, most ignore it or see it as some sort of trickery. Ads designed in part to increase the placebo response of the drugs themselves and in some cases the marketing has backfired. Over the years, everything from boron to bee pollen has been marketed to improve muscle building and fat loss. He was not particularly liked and all of the steroid dealers had refused to sell to him at one time or another.
The weight on all of his lifts when up and not only did he get bigger, leaner and stronger, but he also developed an acne problem. They were then given a placebo pill that they were told had properties similar to codeine, a powerful pain medication.
So strong has the placebo response become for some popular antidepressants and statin drugs,  that if they were tested today against inert substances they wouldn’t pass the FDA requirements for working better than a placebo.[2] To counter this, many companies have moved their test trials to other countries with lower placebo responses to get their drugs approved. He was however, annoyingly persistent, and so, partly to shut him up and partly because they didn’t really like him very much, they conspired to give him fake drugs. The pill given was completely inert and half of the patients were told that their treatment cost $2.50 per pill.


After the contest or photo shoot, I would inform them that not only the supplements they used were worthless in terms of fat burning, but that even if it could work the dose was far too low for them to experience any significant effect. Thinking that it would be worth a laugh, they agreed to give him an injection of what they told him was testosterone propionate every week for two months.
The other half was told that their pills had been purchased at a discounted price of ten cents per pill. Back in the 90’s, as an impressionable teenager, I used everything from Mexican sarsaparilla to linseed in the quest to get bigger and stronger without resorting to anabolic steroids or prohormones.
They eventually came clean and gave him his money back, flabbergasted and apologetic for having pulled a prank that didn’t pan out as expected, but Greg would not have it! When they were then given a second series of electric shocks, and asked to rate the pain, 85% of the patients taking the $2.50 pill reported that the second set of shocks were less painful. The best part of my little trick is that for all other shows or shoots in the future, they never felt like they needed anything else to help them get into shape as they understood that the power always came from within.
He was so looking forward to starting his cycle, and while I was appalled that they would play such a cruel trick on him, for purposes of self preservation (I wasn’t big and muscled back then) I held my tongue. He firmly believed that they were simply envious of his remarkable gains, how else could he have done what he did?
The answer has fascinated me for decades and I have seen the astounding effects that placebos can have.
The conclusion was unmistakable: the more expensive the pill, it seems, the larger the perceived effect — even when the pill clearly actually has no effect whatsoever. Yet, aside from using it to sell supplements, snake oil and even pharmaceutical drugs, it isn’t studied as much as it should be.



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