Supplement companies large and small resort to a practice that harms many unsuspecting customers who are unknowingly consuming adulterated protein.
It's called amino spiking and, in addition to taking advantage of your pocket, it leaves you wanting to achieve better results.
For this reason, I want to explain to you what it consists of and how to detect it so as not to fall into the trap.
What is amino spiking and what are its consequences?
A protein shake is an inexpensive, tasty and easy way to prepare to keep you fit, strong and energized.
And it is especially useful if you train regularly and need to consume the optimal amount of this macronutrient to reach your goal.
When you buy one of these supplements and the label promises to give you 25 grams of protein per serving, you trust that's exactly what you'll get.
What if I told you it's not always true and you might have adulterated protein in your pantry? Well yes, you may be falling prey to amino spiking.
Also called "amino acid boost" or "nitrogen boost", it consists of artificially bulking up the amount of a protein powder with low-grade amino acids such as L-Taurine and/or L-Glycine, among others.
Simply put, your supplement container is partially filled with protein.
The worst thing is not deception but, for example, taurine and glycine are terrible at stimulating muscle protein synthesis, a basic requirement for muscle development.
This is because both amino acids (as well as other less popular ones) are conditional or non-essential, that is, your body can produce them.
When in reality you need the essentials that your body does not produce and you need them to improve your health, increase your energy or build more toned muscles.
How to identify adulterated proteins
Stay alert when choosing a new protein powder, and even take a second look at the one you're currently consuming.
You should always take these steps:
- Locate the ingredient list. Typically, one type of “protein blend” is listed, whether it be whey, casein, beef, egg, etc.
- Look for individual low-grade amino acids. The more concentration they have, the more prevalent they are.
- If you can't find them in the ingredient list, look for the amino acid list in the nutritional table or under the macronutrient profile.
- First you are going to find the high quality amino acids like leucine, isoleucine and valine with the amount per tablespoon.
- If taurine, glutamine, arginine and other lower quality amino acids appear and have more than the essential amino acids, they are trying to trick you.
Look at this example : The label says that it provides 25 grams of protein, but the amino acid table shows 4,000 mg of glutamine. Bingo, you got an amino spiking test, since 4 grams of the powder is not protein.
It's not that difficult, right? It is worth calculating.
Watch out for portion sizes
Other information that could work against you is portion sizes.
In the United States, companies are not required to report how much protein you get per 100g, but how much is in each "serving".
Thus, two products can boast 24 grams of protein per serving, even though the size of one is 30 gr (80%) and the other 35 gr (69%).
Continuing with the mathematics: if the protein claims to be isolated or hydrolyzed with a purity greater than 90% and they declare to be zero in carbohydrates and fat, how is it possible that for 31 gr of serving it provides only 25 gr of protein?
The calculations say that 25/31*100= 80%. So something smells weird.
Generally, an 80% concentrated protein is used and amino spiked by adding an amino acid such as glutamine to decrease the amount of carbohydrates and fat.
And while this technique isn't harmful, it is harmful for companies to be dishonest and hide what's really in the product.
So check the label every time you buy a protein supplement.
It is not uncommon for them to release a quality version on the market and then replace it with an inferior one, without noticing it on the packaging.
Why sell adulterated proteins?
The high demand for whey protein has made these supplements increasingly expensive. Therefore, the profit margins of companies are lower.
And while big brands can offset their profits with other product lines, others can't afford that luxury and end up dealing with a lot of paperwork and lawsuits for misleading consumers.
The unfortunate thing is that many get away with the lack of regulation in the supplement industry by the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ).
And so almost any company can create a product and sell it with exaggerated claims, take ingredients off labels, or under-dosage them, without anyone noticing.
Or, for example, when a nutritional label says that a protein has 30 grams per serving (when only half is quality protein), it is because the laboratory only measured its total amount of nitrogen.
But since all amino acids contain it, a more specific test would be required to measure the amount of nitrogen that each one has and determine whether or not it is essential.
But this test is not mandatory and few laboratories do it.
I offer you this information without the purpose of demonizing the industry or creating insecurities for you. It is about educating yourself to avoid deception.
You have the right to know what you are investing your money, time and dreams of transforming yourself into.
I hope it has been useful for you to learn about this controversial topic and the importance of buying supplements from well-known brands with a long history in the market.