"The 7 - Supplement Industry Sins"
It seems like there's a pill or powder to do virtually anything these days. The industry is full of shenanigans and hijinks! Unscrupulous supplement salesmen will say and do anything to take your hard earned money. Unfortunately, there are a few tricks that have become commonplace. Now, I'm not saying that the majority of companies use tricks to sell their products. It is true there are many credible companies out there and they do have "truth in advertising". By the way, there is nothing wrong with good marketing. It's empty and exaggerated promises of muscle mass and fat loss that I take issue with. So let's review some of the most prominent sins of the industry.
SIN #1: Before and After Pictures - This is one marketing tool that has spiraled out of control.
Truth: First, it was pictures showing drastic changes in 16 weeks, then 8 weeks, then only 4 weeks, now there is a product ad that shows before and after photos after only three days! That is ridiculous. Of course, the fine print says stuff like "results not typical" and "with a strenuous exercise and diet program". There are only a few credible before and after ads that can be trusted. Now that everyone is doing before and after contests, it's hard to sift through legitimacy and hype. Keep in mind, that many of these before and after stars were in great shape to begin with and just got out of shape for the pictures. It's unbelievable but some of those pictures are actually reversed! If before and after pictures look too good to be true, they probably are. Companies are selling the dream of a great body in their ads so they have to show VERY dramatic results with their products. That way, you will buy into the hype and dream about doing the same thing--buying their product of course. Of course, many products are legit and can help you maximize your fitness efforts but just be careful about exaggerated before and after pictures.
SIN #2: Proprietary Blend - This is when the exact amounts of ingredients are not listed, only the total amount of the blend is stated.
Truth : The manufacturers guilty of this will explain that they cannot list the exact
amounts of the ingredients because their formula is so special that they do not want
it to be copied. What a crock! Credible companies are not afraid of being copied.
Imitation is the best form of flattery I say! Besides, most people trust the original.
The proprietary blends just hurt the consumer because he or she cannot tell what
is exactly in the product. One of the sneaky things about listing a bunch of ingredients
in a proprietary blend is that a cheaper ingredient could be prevalent while the
more expensive ingredients in the blend could be very low and hidden. For example, if you have an 800 mg proprietary blend of acetyl l-carnitine, green tea extract, guarana, and L-tyrosine, the blend may be mostly green tea extract as it is fairly inexpensive and the other ingredients are just there in small amounts as "window dressing". Protein blends are also proprietary these days so that the less expensive whey protein concentrate can be the majority of the blend yet whey isolate is also listed giving the consumer a false sense of purity and high quality use of ingredients. Most credible manufacturers will tell you exactly what is in their products AND the exact amounts. They have nothing to hide.
SIN #3: Borrowed Research - Using someone else's funded product research to validate the claims of your own product.
Truth: THIS one really chaps my hide! Many companies like EAS, Pinnacle, and Muscletech
actually sponsor a lot of quality clinical research at good universities. Some other
companies simply "borrow" this research and claim that since they have the same ingredients
in their own products that the results will be the same as shown in the studies.
This is a problem. Quality and purity of ingredients is always an issue. When a company
invests in clinical research on its products that tells me they are credible. The
makers of "snake oil" oops I mean liquid serum creatine, are guilty of using research
on powdered creatine on their web site to support their liquid product. Many companies
will reference general studies on an ingredient to support their own products. Sometimes,
the studies that are referenced used high amounts of an ingredient (or even a different
form of that ingredient) while the product being supported by those studies uses
low amounts. A lot of companies use a study published in 1995 by Welbourne entitled
"Increased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load" to
support the claim that their pure glutamine product increases GH levels. But the
study had only 9 people in it and only a one dose response was measured. Also, the
L-glutamine was mixed with a cola drink containing sodium bicarbonate so it was not
pure L-glutamine. Anyway, you get the point. It is really important to scrutinize
clinical research used to support products. Many companies really think that since
the consumer may not have a scientific background, they will be impressed with a
research reference section or terms like "clinically proven". Many of these so called scientifically based products have "in-house" pilot studies to support them and not independent, peer reviewed published studies which are much more reliable. Ask companies questions about the research they are using to support their products and get copies of the full text studies if possible. Credible companies should have studies on file or will refer you to places where you can get them like medical libraries.
Sin #4 : Patent Pending - This means that a patent application has been filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a special ingredient, combination of ingredients, or claims associated with a product or ingredient. A patent helps protect a unique concept or ingredient from being copied by other companies or people without the consent of the patent holder.
Truth : It is definitely not easy to get a patent. It takes time and there is a lot of scrutiny involved by the patent reviewers. However, to file a patent and hence claim "patent pending" only takes a few things: a good idea, around $800, visiting their web site at www.uspto.gov , and following step by step instructions listed on the site. That's it. Of course, you can always get a lawyer to file but that obviously costs more. So when marketers claim that their product is patent pending, it is not that impressive. Patent pending just means that the paperwork has been filed and is being reviewed and it may or may not get approved. This is a lengthy process. Now once they actually receive the patent, then that is something fairly credible even though there are issues with this too. Just don't be fooled by "patent pending" as you too can have a pending patent by going to www.uspto.gov!
Sin #5: Pixie Dusting - This is when manufacturers throw in a very small, ineffective amount of an ingredient in a product just to claim it on the label.
Truth: This is downright irritating and very annoying. We know through the research that many ingredients have to be used at a certain dosage to have any effects. For example, the amino acid L-glutamine can be helpful in gram doses. However, some companies have the audacity to put 100 mg of L-glutamine in their product and write on the front of their bottle "now with L-glutamine". 100 mg of glutamine is nothing for exercising individuals and the companies who make claims with L-glutamine based on this amount are really pushing the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) envelope. Same goes for creatine and other amino acids that require gram doses for positive effects. Read labels carefully and make sure the main ingredients of a product contain efficacious amounts of that ingredient. Some companies will actually sprinkle in a few "hot" ingredients like CLA, carnitine, HCA, and PS (phosphatidylserine) in tiny amounts and then boast that their products contain these "powerful, fat fighting and muscle building" ingredients. That's like taking credit for someone else's work. What a sham! Just look at the ingredient listing on bars, powders, and liquids. If key ingredients show up at the end or bottom of the list, then pixie dusting may be taking place.
Sin # 6 : Kitchen Sink Formula - This is when companies put dozens of ingredients into a formula with no rhyme or reason.
Truth : We have all seen products that contain tons of ingredients but really do not make any sense. This is not as much a sin as it is illogical and unnecessary. Most credible companies will come out with logical, targeted formulas that make sense for a certain goal. Watch out for formulas that contain too many ingredients. Make sure the products you take contain quality, targeted ingredients to help you achieve a certain goal like relieve joint pain or help with fat loss.
Sin #7: Crazy Marketing Claims - So many companies these days are claiming the most outrageous effects from the use of their products.
Truth: Again, if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Ads that say "gain 30
lbs of muscle in a month" or "lose 30 lbs in thirty days" seem to be popping up these
days. The fact is most people can gain about 1-2 lbs of lean muscle mass per week
which is also the amount they can lose in body fat. So in one month, following a
solid nutrition, training, and supplementation program of course, one can expect
to gain around 8 lbs of lean muscle mass and lose about 8 lbs of body fat. In some
of the best cases (doing it naturally), you will see gains of about 10 lbs of lean
muscle mass and 10 lbs of fat loss. Anything above this equation, you have to question.
The FTC cannot completely regulate the rapidly growing supplement industry so many
companies are getting away with unbelievable claims. Many consumers get sucked into
these claims but if you see any of them, just turn the page. Many claims are "best
case scenarios" in extreme cases. Not the results you will typically see. Many companies
even stoop to stretching the research so far that they claim double or even triple
the effects that were proven to occur. Watch out for words like "amazing", "never
before seen", "revolutionary" and "incredible". There is something to truth in advertising and the consumer is definitely hurt by unproven marketing claims. After reading a hyped up ad, a consumer rushes out and buys the product hoping for the same exaggerated results shown. To their usual disappointment, they do not see anywhere near the gains promised and then become disheartened with the whole thing. Results are what keep people going and if a company can market real or true results, then the consumer benefits and will become a customer for life.
Keep in mind there are some really credible companies out there that have high standards for the way they make and market their products. It is advisable to carefully investigate products you are thinking about using before you spend your hard earned money on them. You are the one that will ultimately benefit or be at a loss. Knowledge is power!
*© 2002 Supplement Research Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved. **The content of this e-mail is for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of a qualified physician. Please consult a doctor before starting any nutrition, training, and supplementation program.