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Post by Canuck Singh on Mon Mar 08, 2010 2:22 am

Supplement Industry Insiders Reveal All!
By Lou Schuler

My friend Jeff O'Connell has a terrific expose of the supplement industry in the current issue of Men's Health. Jeff and I worked together at Weider in the mid-1990s -- he was at Flex, while I was at Men's Fitness. He eventually became editor of Muscle & Fitness before moving to MH shortly after I left. (I think he even has my old office.)

Everyone who works in or writes about the fitness industry has heard stories about the tricks of the supplement trade. One persistent rumor I've heard over the years -- which I assume Jeff heard at least as many times -- is that certain companies will build buzz for a new product by spiking it with ingredients that don't appear on the label.

Unlike me, Jeff actually found sources willing to go on the record about it:

"Random batch spiking" has a long history in the supplement business. It works like this: "The manufacturer sprinkles an illegal substance into an over-the-counter dietary supplement," says Feliciano. "The legal ingredients are claimed on the label, but they don't disclose the drug."

Chris Lockwood, formerly the senior category director of diet, energy, food, and beverage at the supplement retailer GNC and now a doctoral candidate in exercise physiology at the University of Oklahoma, recalls taking a popular protein powder in the early 1990s: "When I first took it, I got great gains. I felt great. I got strong. I got lean. But then something happened to it." Years later, he related his experiences to one of the product's formulators who confirmed for him that the powder had been spiked with Clenbuterol, an asthma drug that supercharges your metabolism.

"Drugs like this don't typically show up on lab tests, unless someone's looking for them," says Lockwood. "The idea is to use them to quickly build a customer base and steal market share by making a product that works 'better' than its competitors."

With apologies for going on a tangent, I remember the first time I heard of Clenbuterol. I had recently started working at Men's Fitness when one of the trainer/models we regularly featured in our workouts came by the office. The trainer had one of the most amazing physiques any of us had ever seen, a walking anatomical chart. His skin looked like beige Saran Wrap applied directly to his muscles and veins. He had trained an actor who'd made a remarkable transformation for a recent movie; the movie was well-reviewed, but the buzz was about the actor's physique. The trainer, laughing, told my coworkers he'd injected the actor with Clenbuterol to achieve the look everyone was talking about.

Getting back to Jeff's story in MH, you can see how spiking a protein supplement with a powerful fat-loss agent would get the meatheads talking. Jeff also writes about a practice I didn't know much about:

Even if all the ingredients are safe (and listed), you still may not be swallowing what you expected. "Fairy dusting" is the name of this industry trick, says Lockwood. Say the hot item of the moment is whey-protein isolate, which is a more pure form of protein than the less expensive whey-protein concentrate. The marketing department at Company X tells its R & D team, "This new product has to contain whey-protein isolate. That's what consumers are buying." But when the formulators crunch the numbers, they realize they can afford to use only 1 gram (g) of isolate for every 40 g concentrate. To keep the whey-protein isolate from standing out as the bottom entry in the ingredients list, they bunch the huge amount of concentrate and the tiny amount of isolate together into a "proprietary protein blend" whose collective heft places it near the top of the list. "This creates the impression that the canister is loaded with something that's really only present in near-trace amounts," says Lockwood.

One recent example of possible fairy dusting -- or perhaps simply the same net effect due to poor formulation -- comes from a test of Muscle Marketing USA ATP Creatine Serum. The manufacturer claimed one serving provided 250 milligrams (mg) of a "proprietary creatine phosphate complex." But Dr. Cooperman and his colleagues determined it contained only 26 mg actual creatine. "To put that in perspective, a single dose of most products promises and delivers 5,000 mg creatine," says Dr. Cooperman. GNC ProPerformance, MuscleTech CellTech, and EAS Phosphagen, among others, all met their label claims. (Through e-mail correspondence, Muscle Marketing USA claimed that their product's trade secret formula is too complex for to accurately determine its creatine content.)

When I've asked friends in the supplement industry to explain how they do what they do, the conversation always comes around to cost: You just can't make good supplements on the cheap. The best materials are expensive.

I don't have a broad perspective on the choices you face when you walk into your local GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. I've been using Biotest products almost exclusively for years; they taste the best and don't cause the gastric side effects I've experienced with some other brands.

So the only advice I can offer is, don't go with the cheap stuff. You can't build muscles with fairy dust.
Canuck Singh
Canuck Singh

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Post by hSingh on Mon Mar 08, 2010 4:07 pm

Is $100 for a tub of whey isolate considered cheap or expensive?


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