The Journal of Sports Sciences just published this article claiming to be the first study to evaluate the effect on endurance performance of different types of compression clothing with increasing amounts of compressive surface. Check out the abstract by following the link.
The study was carried out on a group of 15 well-trained endurance athletes doing maximal and sub-maximal exercise. Three types of increasingly compressive textiles were compared with non-compressive conventional clothing. Data were collected on various measures. The conclusion is that Overall, there were no performance benefits when using the compression garments.
You might have some questions about the effect that the particular sports practiced by these athletes may have had on the outcome–how much might that affect the results. I dont know. If anyone pulls up a copy of this article off a database somewhere, perhaps you could share the details. I’ll try to do that when time permits (not to mention the time it will take to wade through the details).
There is some discusion of these issues here, and here. Although it seems that the conclusions arrived at in these analyses are hedged with “could” provide protection against this or that. This is not altogether convincing science.
In sum, it would appear that the makers and marketers of these sorts of garments in the cycling industry may have some PR to do. Or commission follow-up studies. . . This, of course, touches on a very important subject: the use of lab tests or what are claimed to be controlled experiments supporting one product’s superiority over another, or all the rest, as the brand wars rage on. This is something I will follow up on in the future.