In this article I am going to help you understand how I take a look at supplements before I purchase or invest in them. I have found over the years that there have a been a few key events in the supplement industry that have made me think twice before using a product or purchasing a certain supplement.
While it may not hold true for everyone, these next 5 facts I am going to give you are key standards that should be taken into consideration when one is going to spend or invest their money into a product. Knowing what you are taking, knowing how to the dose the product and the benefits/side effects that product can provide should be on the top of your importance list when it comes to choosing a supplement.
The first thing I want to address is choosing products that have been tested.
What I mean by tested is not only by the FDA to make sure they are legit, I mean real testing as in 3rd party vendors doing testing on the product or a COA which will certify that what is on the ingredient label is what you are actually getting in the bottle. This is a very hot topic in the supplement industry and I may start to ramble but it will be for a good cause. With the recent banning of AMP citrate, the previous banning of similar ingredients DMAA, and many protein powder producers being found guilty of spiking their product with low grade amino’s and BCAA’s, it may be a wise time to do some research.
Just off the top of my head, there are some past cases that individuals should be aware of. One company has failed label claims twice on their protein powders with it not coming back exactly to what the label claimed and a touch higher in calories (in 2007 and 2014). Another company had the same thing happen to them as well dating back to 2005 about their protein isolate and not meeting label claims and being higher in fat/carbs than what was listed. There were many other cases in the industry and I do not want to get into detail but a simple google search can really take you leaps and bounds about a product and its reputation.
I also know that there were other owners out there who do this to see what others have to offer on the market, and have found some BCAA products that are falling short of over 1g of leucine compared to what is listed on the label for their products. The bottom line is when choosing products and making sure they are tested that you get the facts straight first! Some companies may persuade you with very good deals and flashy labels and marketing, but take into consideration the overall cost of the raw materials and what it should take to make up the formula and product. With the drastic rise in raw materials over the last 5 years or so, prices have nearly doubled, especially on whey protein. For those who can somehow keep cost well under 10$/lb for a quality product, I may be skeptical. Additionally, some companies were found and plead guilty to mislabeling their products by using Glutamine, Creatine, Taurine, Glycine and other fillers to help raise the protein intake and not giving you exactly what the label states! Take caution, read the label, and also try to see how much you are truly getting of your product before investing.
Another tip would be choosing a manufacture that uses high quality ingredients. We all know that companies can source their ingredients from many manufacturers, but you want to make sure like I stated above that the company is sourcing and testing their raw materials before putting them in their products. Usually when you are getting high quality ingredients they will be coming from South America, Europe, and the US. There has been some debate in the past about sources coming from China and the grade of their raw materials that they offer. Again this can stem back to the COA/3rd party testing which will verify the raws match what they are putting on the label and the ingredient profile. Remember, you get what you pay for, like I stated with price--if it is curiously low it may be for a good (bad in your case) reason.
Another thing to factor in is that the facility in which the product you're purchasing is GMP certified (Good manufacturing Practices), and also may come from a NSF facility (which prohibits banned substances and ingredients). The F.D.A will inspect these facilities and if there is anything found in there that may be against the FDA laws and regulations, it would cause them to be shut down. When a company is selling you a product that is manufactured and controlled in every aspect you know you are going to get a product that is under higher quality control, and will also be put through very stringent testing before it is sold. Sending these products to 3rd party vendors may not pass all of these tests to the highest degree and cause for the product to not live up to its name or ingredient formula make up.
A key aspect of supplement quality is getting a supplement that reveals the source of the ingredients. The source will be stated on the label and usually listed in parenthesis. For example we can take some forms of caffeine and how they are sourced (multiple forms), Enzymes (found in digestive enzymes, multivitamins, and probiotics) have various forms. Higher quality sources should be more costly, but also much more effective
Last but not least I would highly suggest focusing on clearly labeled formulas. What I mean by this is formulas that are not trying to hide or convolude the amounts of their ingredients. Usually these are companies that place “Blends” in their formula makeup to sometimes pixie dust some ingredients and hide the exact amounts you are getting. This is very popular in pre-workouts, some amino products, and fat burners on the market. If you do some research on bulk ingredients you will know that 6g of Citrulline Malate (CM) is a good dose pre-workout, 3.2g of Beta Alanine(BA) is to be utilized twice a day spread out, 3-5g of Creatine Monohydrate is an adequate dose to help saturate ATP Levels, for example. Agmatine can show its benefits at doses up to 750mg-1g worth, while some products may give you only around 250-500mg, well short of the effective dose. Glycerol Is the same way upward to the 1-2g range to give you adequate pump effects during a workout. Sometimes you will see a label that will state this for instance:
(Pump Propriety Blend) at 5,000mg and then list (Creatine, beta Alanine, Citrulline, Agamtine, Glycerol, GPLC)
So you have 6 ingredients that are only making up 5g total. If you do the math above, 6g of CM+3.2g BA+at least 3g Creatine, that is already 12g without including 3 other ingredients, showing you that the 5g total for all 6 is far less than what you would need to get the benefits of this product. Pixie dusting these formulas may cause a product to sell for cheap, but in the end the user may not get everything or anything they want.
Take these facts for what they are worth. Know what you are investing in, and most of all paying for. Paying for quality supplements is better than trying to get results out of a cheaper alternative. The common phrase 'you get what you pay for' is something that will always apply here.