Placebo or the Real Deal? 5 recovery tools CrossFit athletes might be wasting their money on...

Ravenous. CrossFit athletes are ravenous for any legal gadget or substance that promises to make them stronger, faster, or that will help them recover quicker. I have a friend who swears he can’t get through a competition without 2L of N.O. XPLODE. 



Interestingly, many are willing to pay a lot of money, and dedicate much time to their recovery with tools built on conflicting science—yet they complain when their gym suggests they need to start paying more for the competitor’s class or an individual program. It’s interesting to me that $300 a month for a program and individual coaching is something competitive CrossFit athletes bitch about, yet they’ll pay $80 for a cupping session or $60 for a bottle of some useless pre-workout shit mix.

5 Trendy Recovery Tools that Might Not Work as well as you think

 5. NormaTec Recovery  

The first time I saw this was at the CrossFit Games in 2014. Lauren Fisher and some of the other Invictus athletes hung out between events in these giant compression pants. It looked relaxing; I think Fisher might have even fallen asleep a couple times during the treatment.




This compression treatment claims to help aid in recovery and rehab via NormaTec’s patented PULSE technology. 

I’m not the only one who questions whether this technology really works: This study from the International Journal of Sports Medicine also does. During the research, 10 volunteers were put through NormaTec compression treatment. The results? Well, there really weren’t any.

The point is only to say if you enjoy NormaTec for the relaxation/meditation/mental training aspect of it, by all means. I have tried it myself (3 or 4 times in 2015) and I’ll admit it felt great! It was emotionally relaxing, which was definitely valuable. But did it help my physical recovery? I’m less certain about that. 

4. Electric Muscle Stimulator


My very own sister is a physiotherapist. When I ask her questions like, ‘Does ultrasound really work?’ ‘Does laser really do anything?’ ‘What about those electric muscle stimulator machines? Do they help with healing and recovery?’

Her reply is to shrug and say: “I don’t really know. It might. It might not. We’ve just been doing it for so long so we keep doing it. And people like it.”

Truthfully, I think machines like the electrode stimulator just buys the physiotherapist time—a great business tactic, as it allows him/her to hook a patient up to a machine, and then disappear to work with another patient for a bit, ultimately a clever way to get through more bookings, and earn more money, in an hour.

So even though you see every Games athlete with their Compex device (since they were given to them), doesn’t mean this should be a staple in your recovery toolkit.

3. Compression Clothing

While he isn’t a PhD researcher, the well-respected CrossFit Games athlete—Lucas Parker—with an unmistakable critical mind said this: “I’ve moved away from compression tights. They are mostly tailored to a runner’s body, and in my opinion the bulky hip and thigh musculature of a Games athlete can nullify the bottom-up compression effect that you’re paying through the nose for.” - Lucas Parker



A jar of pickles might be his secret to quality recovery: "My pickle consumption isn't fit for social media." - Parker

He might be onto something. According to the University of Calgary’s kinesiology department, there haven’t been any studies that look at compression gear and injury prevention or recovery.

2. Cupping 

Just because Michael Phelps and Jennifer Aniston do it doesn’t mean it works as well as it promises to. 

This Breaking Muscle story takes a look at cupping at length—and the author concludes it does seem to work for some athletes. The why or how is less clear.  

I guess what raises my skeptical brows here is cupping’s BOLD CLAIMS: It promises to cure anything from depression to cellulite to muscle pain. I’m not saying don’t try it, and that it might not work for some people; I’m just suggesting being critical in your assessment before making it part of your weekly routine.

 1. Myer's Cocktail

This is when you get pumped all sorts of vitamins—namely B vitamins—through an IV (also called intravenous nutrient therapy).

From cancer patients to athletes, once again the claims are bold, but the science is less so. Believers claim intravenous nutrient therapy is effective to guard against asthma attacks, migraines, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, respiratory tract infections, chronic sinusitis, cardiovascular diseases—the list goes on!. Like I said, bold claims.

I have had Myer's cocktails administered multiple times. I still like the idea of healthy vitamins getting pumped directly into my blood, and I swear I always felt like a million bucks the next day. I’m also the first to admit this might have been placebo. On the one hand, if I DID feel like a million bucks, so who cares if it’s placebo that helped me get there? On the other hand, spending money on a coach to work on my mental game is more beneficial at this point...