Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "
Relaxation exercise halves cortisol level
Athletes seeking to maximise muscle growth may benefit from simple relaxation exercises. At least, you can deduce this from research done by psychologists at the University of Southern Mississippi, published in Biological Psychology. The results showed that a 15-minute relaxation exercise almost halved the cortisol level [spatial formula shown below] in healthy people.
Cortisol & stress
The dilemma that athletes face, however, is that training schedules that result in more testosterone and growth hormone usually push up cortisol levels as well. That's why trainers and gurus are interested in just about anything that will inhibit cortisol production during training, whether that's taking in sugars during training, using designer supplements or plant compounds like the flavonoid quercetin.
But there are also ways of reducing cortisol production during training that have nothing to do with pills, such as Transcendental Meditation or anti-stress techniques. According to some studies, even chewing gum can reduce cortisol producing during stressful events.
There is a fixed sequence in which you contract and relax the muscle groups. You start with your upper right arm and then go on to your left lower arm, left upper arm, forehead, muscles around your nose, jaw muscles, neck, chest, shoulders, upper back, stomach and then on to your right leg, ending with your left leg.
The test subjects did two sessions, with a week between the two. The researchers measured the cortisol concentration in the test subjects' saliva before and after the sessions. A control group just sat quietly on a chair.
The researchers were primarily interested in finding out whether Abbreviated Progressive Relaxation Training can boost the immune system. Cortisol inhibits the immune system, so the effects measured look promising. "These results indicate that a behavioral manipulation of the body's stress hormone is possible", the researchers conclude. "The clinical implications for possible uses of relaxation as an inexpensive, effective means of improving people's health are enormous."