Nowadays, things often get blown way out of proportion and are made out to be far worse than they actually are, which is why the word ‘scandal’ is often not taken seriously. When however, you sit down and recognize the fact that there are many supplement companies out there that have been found to be guilty of ‘protein spiking’ and ‘amino acid spiking’, well, in this instance, the word ‘scandal’ is most definitely justified. But what exactly is protein spiking, and why should it bother you as a consumer? Actually there are lots of reasons why it should bother you, which is why we’ve decided to compile this helpful guide. Contained within this document you will find out every single thing there is to know about amino spiking. Finally, we’ll finish things off by looking at ways in which you can avoid purchasing spiked protein supplements, before looking at the revolutionary new batch testing techniques we’ll be using to help us become one of the most reputable and trustworthy supplement companies in the entire world. So, grab a shaker cup, get comfortable, hold off on taking your pre-workout just yet, and let’s take a detailed look at the shady world of protein spiking.
What is protein spiking?
By now you’ve seen that we’ve mentioned the words ‘protein spiking’ numerous times already, and many of you are still probably none the wiser in terms of what protein spiking actually is. Don’t worry, it isn’t quite as sinister as it sounds, though it isn’t far off. Basically, protein spiking, or amino acid spiking, or amino spiking, or even sometimes Nitrogen spiking, is a highly shady practice used by some less than reputable supplement companies to help bulk out their products with cheap ingredients. Typically free form amino acids are added to the protein powder to help bulk it out and stretch it further. You see, protein contains amino acids as these amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules. Because these amino acids are naturally present within the protein molecules anyways, the supplement companies do not actually have to disclose this information on the label. The practice is incredibly shady, yet technically it isn’t illegal either, as there is a loophole. The companies that do this can get away with doing so because of the fact that the free form amino acids they use also happen to naturally be present in protein molecules anyways. If you were making, say, a bread containing wholegrain flour, within this wholegrain flour you will find certain vitamins and minerals. Now, if these vitamins and minerals were cheaper than the flour, you could technically bulk out the flour mixture with them so that you saved money by using less flour. You are using ingredients which are naturally found in the flour, so technically you wouldn’t have to state the quantities. The same principle applies to protein powders as these free form amino acids are cheaper and easier to come by than protein powder, so the companies bulk their supplements out with this to make their powders go further.
How can they get away with this?
As mentioned, technically these supplement companies aren’t breaking the law as there is a loophole, which they are exploiting. You see, when companies test their protein supplements to find out just how much pure protein is in there, the product in question is sent to a lab. In this lab, the experts will carry out what is known as a NCT, or Nitrogen Content Test. The reason for this is that Nitrogen is present in protein as the molecules contain a bond which is Nitrogen-based. Because they’re testing for Nitrogen, it will show up when an NCT is carried out. Now, here’s the catch. The free-form amino acids that are used to spike and bulk out these protein powders ALSO contain these same Nitrogen bonds, meaning that they provide positive readings on the NCT. This not only allows the companies to get away with providing less pure protein per serving, but many of them will also have the gall to actually brag about the fact that they “test” the protein content of their supplements before they hit the market. To the general public, this sounds ideal and it sadly convinces many individuals that the company in question is honest and trustworthy.
In the US for example, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) sets and regulates rules and guidelines that companies must follow. Get on the wrong side of the FDA and you will face incredibly harsh fines, and potential legal action. Put simply, don’t do it. The FDA is responsible for telling companies which ingredients they can and cannot use in their supplements, and what is required for a supplement company to be able to claim that their product is a dietary protein supplement. Here is where the companies are being so sneaky and are exploiting the loophole we mentioned earlier. You see, the FDA clearly states that amino acid products CANNOT under any circumstances, be marketed as pure sources of protein. This makes sense, otherwise people would simply stock up on cheap amino acid powders like Glutamine, stick a new label on the tub, and claim it was an ‘innovative’ new protein supplement and sell it for ten times its true value. HOWEVER, there are no rules which state that companies cannot add additional amino acids to protein powders. Protein powders do naturally contain amino acids, but they also contain other ingredients, meaning that technically, it isn’t illegal to bulk out protein powder with cheap amino acids to make the more expensive protein stretch further and last longer. You can almost see this from a business perspective, except for the fact that they are deceiving members of the general public, and are vastly overcharging them for what they actually receive.
I’ve just purchased a supplement ‘fortified’ with amino acids. Is it spiked?
Often, when you read the labels on various supplements and whole foods, you may find that the label states that the product has been ‘fortified’ with amino acids. For many of you now reading this, the content thus far may have set alarm bells ringing, but don’t worry. There is a difference between a product being spiked, and a product being fortified with amino acids. As mentioned, every natural source of protein contains a wide range of essential and non-essential amino acids, and some naturally, are higher in amino acids than others. Now, depending on the protein used as the main ingredient, some manufacturers may fortify their protein powders with extra amino acids, to help make up the difference in aminos that may be lacking. This is different to spiking because the amino acids are being added to the protein, rather than being used to replace some of the protein. Providing supplement manufacturers clearly state on their labels that their protein supplement has been fortified with amino acids, there is absolutely nothing to worry about at all. When companies spike their protein supplements they do not state that extra amino acids have been used, meaning that unsuspecting members of the general public believe that their protein is made of 100% pure dietary protein sources. To tell the difference between a supplement being fortified and spiked, you should simply check out the label. If the label states that extra amino acids have been added, along with an amino acid profile, and a detailed list of ingredients, this means that it has been fortified, and not spiked. Phew.
How to avoid protein powders that have been spiked
Now that you know more about protein spiking and how the process works, you obviously will want to choose a protein supplement that actually contains everything you would hope it contained. When you mix a protein shake and the company claims that you will be receiving 30g of protein per serving, you actually want to receive 30g of protein per serving. There are ways in which you can avoid protein powder supplements that have been spiked, so take a look and follow these useful tips:
Avoid super-cheap protein supplements
As you know, protein is pretty expensive, and some of the more well-known brands charge a heck of a lot for their protein. On the opposite side of the spectrum however, you’ll find super-cheap proteins. You know the ones, the ones you find in the bargain basement discount stores that are far, far, far cheaper than other similar products. The reason why these proteins are so cheap is usually because the company is saving money by spiking the protein, so they’re using less expensive ingredients so they can afford to undercut their competitors and still make a profit. If a protein looks so cheap that it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Look for protein powders that are labelled as ‘protein supplements or ‘dietary supplements’
When you read the label of the protein, look for powders that are labelled as being dietary supplements or protein supplements. This should ideally be stated on the front panel of the label which is located at the very bottom of the product.
Look out for common free form amino acids
When you read the label of the product, keep a look out for amino acids such as creatine, glycine, taurine, and arginine. These are some of the cheapest amino acids currently available, and they are often used to bulk out the powder to make it stretch further.
Don’t always assume extra amino acids are bad
Protein spiking is bad, we know that, but we also know that certain amino acids are actually hugely beneficial from a health and fitness perspective. The trick is to look for protein supplements fortified with extra aminos. This means that no protein has been removed, and that the amino acids have been added. So, per serving, not only do you get all of the protein that you should be getting, you also benefit from extra amino acids.
Look out for words like ‘proprietary blend’
If you see words such as ‘proprietary amino acid blend’ on the label, this should also be a red flag. This does not necessarily mean that the protein has been spiked, but if the label does not state what this magical blend actually consists of, it has almost certainly been spiked.
How our third party batch testing methods are revolutionizing the supplement industry
As you can see from the above, protein spiking is a very real, and very serious issue in the supplement world, and while changes are being made, sadly there are many companies out there that are still spiking their supplements. We however, have recognized the fact that consumers need to be able to trust the companies they purchase their supplements from, which is why we now 3rd party batch test every single one of our products. We pride ourselves on using only the finest quality ingredients to help you smash your health and fitness goals, and we want to set your minds at ease. Our new and highly innovative 3rd party batch testing program is the first of its kind in the supplement industry. For every single supplement we create, and for every single batch of said supplements, we will be sending the supps off to an unbiased 3rd party lab where they will perform thorough tests. The labs will test the overall protein content of each batch, they will provide compound identification tests, they will perform microbio tests, and they will perform an Amino Acid Spiking Analysis to determine whether or not there is any evidence of amino acid spiking. This is a huge step, not only for us, but for the supplement industry as a whole. To help set your minds at ease, we will upload the results from every single batch of supplements that we create, and we will be sharing them with you. On the packaging of each product you will find a QR code and LOT Number. Simply download our free app and you can then scan the QR code using your smart device or enter the LOT Number that’s on your product and you can then view the test results for every single item you enter. We have nothing to hide and we want to show you why we take such pride on our supplements. By downloading our app and scanning the QR code found on the label of your supplements or doing a LOT Number Search, you will know exactly what you’re getting and you will see why we’re proving to be such innovators in the supplement industry.