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Assessment of the Effectiveness of Nontransdermal Energy Patches on Muscle Endurance and Power

Jacobson, Bert H1; Smith, Doug B1; Stemm, John D2; Warren, Aric J1; O'Brien, Matt S1; Glass, Rob G2

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 869-873
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a83b1
Original Research
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Claims of recently developed energy patches suggest that organic nanoscale biomolecular “antennas” produced by L and D-stereoisomers resonate at frequencies in unison with molecules in the cells inducing electron flow to assists in recruiting calcium ions, allowing greater muscle fiber recruitment during muscle contraction. The purpose of the study was to assess the efficacy of energy patches in the performance of selected muscle power and endurance measures. After a 5-minute warm-up and stretch, 41 college varsity football players (age, 20.37 ± 1.24 years; height, 169.91 ± 7.44 cm; weight, 109.45 ± 19.85 kg) were pre-tested on 102-kg maximal bench press repetitions, standing vertical jump, grip strength, peak torque, torque to body weight, total work, average power, and average torque as measured by 50 repetitions of leg extensions at 180°·s−1. The following week, the players were randomly assigned the experimental or placebo patches. After placement of the patches, the participants again completed a 5-minute warm-up, followed by the identical pre-test protocol. Repeated-measures ANOVAs were used to compare resultant data. No significant group interaction effects were found between experimental and placebo patches for maximal bench press repetitions (p = 0.48), vertical jump distance (p = 0.39), grip strength (p = 0.29), total work (p = 0.26), torque to body weight (p = 0.05), average peak torque (p = 0.08), and average power (p = 0.05). A significant increase occurred in the experimental group for peak torque (p = 0.04). It was concluded that the energy patches significantly improved performance over placebo patches in one of the eight variables tested and registered near significance in two additional variables. However, inconsistency in overall results demands further studies to determine the reliability in improvement of performance in the presence of energy patches.

1Department of Health and Human Performance; 2Department of Athletics, School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Address correspondence to Dr. Bert H. Jacobson, bert.jacobson@okstate.edu.

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Introduction

Recently, manufacturers of ergogenic products have developed energy patches containing liquid crystal, semiconductors derived from L-stereoisomers and D-stereoisomers (7), suggesting that these patches incorporate organic nanoscale biomolecular “antennas” (5), resonating at frequencies in unison with biomolecules in the cells. These frequencies signal specific metabolic pathways. According to the manufacturers of these products, the technology uses bioelectric stimulation produced by specific electrical frequencies in the body's magnetic field. Laboratory testing has confirmed that the patches are nontransdermal in function (1). The patch technology is said to couple the frequency signature of the substance in the patches into the body to modulate the frequency of the subject's magnetic field, thereby transmitting the signal back into the body by resonant energy transfer (5). According to information posted on the Lifewave Website, the patches are thought to work because the magnetic field that is within the body is passed through the patch and causes the patch to vibrate, thus becoming an antenna, modulating the message so that it can be transmitted to the cells within the body (4).

Signal induction occurs the instant the signal comes into contact with the cells in the body, stimulating fat transport to the mitochondria for the production of ATP. It is claimed that the patches themselves do not create energy; they merely serve as passive antennas and reflect back into the body as part of the electromagnetic frequencies that are being transmitted by the body on a regular basis. It is suggested that the atom proton energy associated with human thermomagnetic fields interacts with passive orthomolecular organic materials and that if these materials are arranged parallel to the plane of the field rotation, an increase in electron flow is possible. The human body provides both the oscillating thermomagnetic field and the electrolytes by which the patches passively interact to induce electron flow in the conductive media via field shaping and resonance feedback effects. The increase in electron flow is claimed to have numerous demonstrable benefits, such as an immediate and measurable increase in physical strength, improved stamina, and pain relief (3). Further, the induced electron flow supposedly assists in recruiting calcium ions into the muscle fiber during the contractile process, thereby allowing greater recruitment of number of muscle fibers during contraction, promoting greater force generation by the muscle. Manufacturers claim that more than 99% of users experience significant improvements (10% or greater) in strength and stamina (25% or greater) after only a few minutes of wearing the patches (3). The contents of the patches consist of a blend of water, oxygen, amino acids, and organics applied to a polyester fabric that is sealed within a polymer shell (3).

To date, no published studies have addressed the effect of energy patches; however, in an unpublished double-blind, placebo-controlled study completed at Morehouse College (8), 44 football players were solicited to participate. The participants reported for two separate trials 3 days apart in which maximal repetitions of bench press were recorded at either 185 or 225 lbs. The results showed that the control group had repetition increases of 2.3%, the placebo group had increases of 4.9%, and the group receiving the experimental patches had an average increase of 34% (8). In a similar study, 25 college-aged athletes participated in a placebo-controlled, double-blind study, again using flat bench press with the intent to assess muscular endurance. The weight used by all individuals was 225 lbs. The results of this study showed an increase in muscular endurance for all participants, with the control group showing an 8.9% improvement (0.875 repetitions), the placebo group showing a 13.8% improvement (1.67 repetition), and the test group showing the greatest improvement at 43.2% (2.6 repetitions) (8).

Nazeran and associates (6) found significant differences in heart rate variations during exercise between those wearing energy patches and those wearing placebos. In conclusion, Nazeran et al. suggested that their results warranted further study of the energy patches under different physical conditions. To date, no studies on the effect of energy patches have been published, suggesting that more information is needed to determine selected performance outcomes resulting from the use of the patches. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of energy patches on muscular strength, power, and endurance in trained athletes.

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Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

To ascertain the efficacy of the energy patches, trained varsity football players were recruited during their summer conditioning program. Subjects were pre-tested and subsequently randomly assigned to the experimental or placebo group. Dependent variables included measures of muscular strength, power, and endurance. Subjects were post-tested 1 week later in the exact sequence as the pre-test. Data were compared to determine whether the mean values between the experimental and placebo patches significantly differed.

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Subjects

In the presence of an approved institutional review board (IRB) and human subject protocol and with an agreement with the athletic personnel at a Midwestern university, a convenience sample of trained male college Division I football players (n = 41) were asked to volunteer for the study. Subjects were given an oral briefing and a description of the procedure and were asked to sign a university IRB-approved informed consent document before participation. Inclusion criteria for participation were that the subjects had to be members of the varsity football team, be 18 years of age or older, be cleared for activity by the medical staff, and to have signed the IRB-approved informed consent document. All athletes were undergoing identical summer off-season training. Of the initial 41 subjects, 33 completed the study. Eight subjects did not complete the second session of testing and were excluded from the data.

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Procedure

On the first testing day, subjects reported to the training facility and were briefed on the protocol of the study and asked to read and complete the approved IRB consent form. Subjects also completed a questionnaire containing information relative to age, weight, height, and football position. The protocol was explained to the subjects, and all in attendance agreed to participate. After a 5-minute jog warm-up and a 5-minute stretching session, 33 college varsity football players (age, 20.37 ± 1.24 years; height, 69.91 ± 7.44 cm; weight, 109.45 ± 19.85 kg) were assessed on the following measures: standing vertical jump, dominant hand grip strength, and 102-kg (225 lb) bench press repetition maximum. The aforementioned tests were performed in the athletic weight room. Additionally, peak torque (N·m), torque to body weight ratio (%), total work (J), average power (watts), and average peak torque (N·m) as measured by 50 isokinetic repetitions of knee extensions at 180°·s−1 data were collected in the athletic training room. The first testing session (pre-test) served as the baseline by which the subjects would be compared in the post-test.

The following week, the subjects again reported to the training facility and were randomly assigned to receive either the experimental or placebo patches. Following the recommendations of the manufacturer, the white or positive patch was placed between the anterior deltoid and clavicular portion of the pectoralis major approximately 1 in below the clavicle, and the tan patch was placed on the contralateral or left side in the identical position. After placement of the patches, the participants again completed a 5-minute warm-up and a 5-minute stretch followed by testing using the pre-test sequence and protocol. For the experimental patches, the white patches contained L-stereoisomers and the left patch D-sterioisomers (7). The placebo patches contained distilled water. Administration of the patches followed a random, double-blind design. Testing of the bench press, vertical jump, and grip strength occurred in the university's athletic weight room; leg extension testing occurred in the athletic training room. Both rooms were lit by fluorescent lighting and were at approximately 70°F (∼21°C).

Vertical jump (measured by a Vertec™) and dominant hand grip strength (measured by a Harpenden Handgrip Dynamometer) data were collected and recorded as the best attempt of three trials. Bench press data were recorded as the maximal number of repetitions using an Olympic bar and barbells weighing a total of 102 kg (225 lb). Proper technique in which the bar touched the chest at the down position and with full elbow extension at the top positions was required to complete a successful repetition.

Quadriceps muscle torque, power, and endurance were measured with a Biodex III isokinetic machine for 50 repetitions at 180°·s−1 based on a protocol suggested by Thorstensson (9). Data gathered in the knee extension test were: peak torque (ft-lb), peak torque to body weight (%), total work (ft-lb), average power (watts), and average peak torque (ft-lb).

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Statistical Analyses

Data were obtained on vertical jump, dominant hand grip strength, 102-kg bench press repetitions, voluntary knee extension peak torque, torque to body weight ratio, total work, power, and average peak torque. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) with pre-test means used as covariates were used to compare interactions among variable means. In the presence of statistical significance, Newman-Keul post hoc tests were used to identify the location of significant differences. An α level of 0.05 was used to denote significant mean differences. Furthermore, effect size was calculated using ω2. The index ω2 provides a relative measure of the strength of an independent variable. The numerical value may range from 0.0 to 1.0; however, high ω2 values are rare because of a large contribution of error variance. A value of 0.15 or greater is considered large, 0.06-0.15 is considered a medium effect, and a small effect is ≤ 0.01 (2).

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Results

Pre- and post-test means and standard deviations are presented in Table 1. Results of repeated-measures ANOVAs yielded no significant group interaction effects for the vertical jump (p = 0.39), grip strength (p = 0.29), or 102-kg repetition bench press (p = 0.48). Further, no significant differences were found between experimental and placebo patches for torque to body weight ratio (p = 0.05), total work (p = 0.26), average power (p = 0.05), or average peak torque (p = 0.08). However, ANCOVA analysis yielded significant mean differences between placebo and experimental patches for peak torque (p = 0.04) (Figure 1). Although torque to body weight ratio and averaged power differences were not significant at the p < 0.05 level, the experimental patches resulted in near-significant gains for the experimental patches. Effect size as established by the indices of ω2 yielded the following values (in order from highest to lowest): vertical jump ω2 = 0.002; grip strength ω2 = 0.006; bench press ω2 = 0.014; average peak torque ω2 = 0.032; total work ω2 = 0.040; torque to body weight ratio ω2 = 0.075; average power ω2 = 0.075; peak torque ω2 = 0.096.

Table 1

Table 1

Figure 1

Figure 1

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Discussion

No previously published studies have been conducted to assess the efficacy of energy patches on physical performance. Although anecdotal and unpublished information exists, and although the patches have been and are being worn by high-profile athletes, little empirical evidence exists to support the use of energy patches. For the present study, the experimental patch group improved in all variables tested with the exception of the vertical jump in which the pre- and post-test means were identical (pre mean, 72.31 cm; post mean, 72.31 cm). In contrast, half of the tested variables showed improvement in the placebo patch group. Interestingly, in comparing gain scores for the variables tested by the Biodex III isokinetic machine (50 repetitions at 180°·s−1), the experimental patch group out-gained the placebo group in all variables: peak torque (experimental, 5.37 N·m; placebo, −9.31 N·m ), peak torque to body weight (experimental, 1.45%; placebo, −2.81%), total work (experimental, 239.15 J; placebo, −40.46 J), average power (experimental, 21.97 W; placebo, 6.57 W), and average peak torque (experimental, 6.79 N·m; placebo, −0.09 N·m).

The phenomenon illustrating a poorer performance by the placebo group was also observed by Smith and associates and is reported on the Lifewave website (8). Smith concluded that although no significant difference between placebo and experimental patches was found for performance, the experimental group demonstrated a 3% increase while the placebo exhibited a 12% decrease in aerobic performance. Similarly, in the present study, for the Biodex III isokinetic knee extensor exercise, the experimental group increased an average of 4.8% across five data points compared with the placebo group, which averaged −2.51%.

In another study conducted by Schmidt and Shaughnessy found on the Lifewave web site (4), college athletes demonstrated improved muscle strength and endurance by wearing the energy patches. A study by McGill (5) measuring perceived energy concluded that participants wearing energy patches reported and recorded energy increases ranging from 18% to 50% compared with placebo patches. A study by Fenstra Research included on the Lifewave website (4) concluded that wearing the energy patches for 30 days resulted in a 22.3% increase in the lipid side of the ATP cycle of energy production and that 30% of the subjects reported an increased perception of well-being.

As previously noted, significant differences were found between the experimental patches and the placebo patches in one of the eight variables assessed, and three other variables reached near-significance. ANCOVA yielded a significant difference for peak torque between the experimental and control groups. Interestingly, the data attained by the isokinetic assessment leaned toward more favorable results for the experimental patch than the more basic field tests of vertical jump, grip strength, and bench press. It may be that such field tests afford little in data discrimination. For instance, only one complete repetition of the bench press was recorded. No attempt was made to give credit for a half or three-quarters of a repetition. Also, given that the patches may be placed in several locations to parallel the acupuncture meridians, the patches may yield different results if placed on other recommended sites. At the time of this writing, no solidly determined placement for the patches relative to the activity exists. Recommendations for future investigations should include voluntary strength measures at greater maximal repetition percentages, evaluation of beta oxidation through aerobic activity, determination of differences in recovery time, and the establishment of the most beneficial placement of the energy patches based on the activity to be performed.

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Practical Applications

The inconsistency in overall results in the present study allows only for continued speculation regarding the efficacy of the energy patches. Consequently, the discrepancy of the comparative results demands further investigations to determine the reliability in improvement of performance in the presence of energy patches.

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References

1. Brown, RS. Patch Permeability. MVA Scientific Consultants; 2004.
2. Cohen, J. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1998.
3. Lifewave: Software for the Human Body. Available at http://www.lifewave.com/Research.asp. Accessed May 1, 2006.
4. Lifewave: Software for the Human Body. Available at http://www.energypowerpatch.com/lifewave/studies.htm#top. Accessed May 1, 2006.
5. McGill, ER. Investigative study of long term effects of Lifewave® patches using Electro Meridian Analysis System®. Presented at the Lifewave® Convention, Las Vegas, NV, September 10, 2005.
6. Nazeran, H, Chatlapalli, S, and Krishnam, R. Effect of novel nanoscale energy patches on spectral and nonlinear dynamic features of heart rate varability signals in healthy individuals during rest and exercise. Reprint from 27th IEEE EMBS Annual International Conference, April 26, 2005.
7. Schmidt, D. Biomolecular wearable apparatus. United States Patent Application. 20040057983. March 25, 2004.
8. Smith, B, Scremin, G, Faris, R, and Esposito, AW. Available at http://www.lifewave.com/Research.asp. Accessed May 1, 2006.
9. Thorstensson, A and Karlsson, J. Fatigability and fibre composition of human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 98: 318-322, 1976.
Keywords:

strength; ergogenic aid; muscle; sport

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