Let’s say you went shopping for a brand, new flat screen TV. You have a specific model in mind but want to shop around to see where you can get the best price / deal from right? You go into the main electronic retailers like JB-HI-FI, Harvey Norman, Bing Lee etc. and notice this specific model of TV you’re after is around the same price, give or take a few numbers at every different retailer. JB may have it for $3,200, Harvey Norman might have it for $3000, Bing-Lee may have a deal where you can get the TV for $3,300 plus a few extras thrown in etc. but all in all, its around the same price range.
Then you go into another retailer and notice the exact same TV, same make and model, is significantly cheaper, half the price in fact at $1500. Would you be hesitant to purchase it? Would you be asking questions as to why it’s cheaper than the other retailers even though it’s the exact same TV? Do you think after a few weeks it will probably break?
The exact same analogy can be applied when looking at protein powder supplements! If it's too good to be true, it usually is!
CHEAP PROTEIN POWDER COMPANIES
You will probably notice there are quite a few supplement companies within the Australian industry that have protein powder significantly cheaper than all other products, brands and retailers. We see supplements in general as an unnecessary purchase, so when we do decide to buy these products and see protein powder advertised at an amazing, cheap price, of course we are going to jump on it and enter our credit card details at the checkout.
You have to remember though, that the advertised price you are buying it for, the company selling it are making profit from this price meaning its costs them less than what that advertised price is to either purchase or manufacture it. For example, 1kg tub of protein powder from these companies is around $30. The company is making profit from selling it at $30, meaning it would cost them less than that to make or purchase it! Red flag number one! Protein powder is not a cheap ingredient!
BUT THEY HAVE LAB TESTS TO PROVE ITS LEGIT?
Oh yes, the good old “our protein powder is backed by lab test proof, here are the results”. Any doubt you may have had is now all gone because of these tests and results they publish and allow you access to! Let me tell you about these tests…
When a company makes a protein powder, the amount they are legally allowed to advertise on their label (so the “24g of protein per serve”) you’re seeing on the nutritional panels and on their packaging is literally determined by how much nitrogen shows up in the test.
For example, I make a protein powder, get the test done on my powder, the test results show 80% per 100g of nitrogen is found in the powder, whatever my serve size is (the scoop), let’s say in this example its 30g, I work out 80% of 30g which is 24g, badda bing badda boom, I now have my protein per serve amount! I can put 24g of protein on my nutritional panel and all over my label and marketing because as per the test, 80% nitrogen per 100g was evident.
Because the supplement industry is so loosely regulated, this is literally all that is required to determine what companies can advertise regarding protein content in protein powder supplements.
THE LOOP HOLE
The issue with this test is that the governing body of supplement manufacturing does not specify what is required to be in the protein powder in order to get the 80% per 100g nitrogen reading and thus get the 24g of protein per serve reading. It doesn’t say that the protein powder must be 100% derived from dietary sources such as whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrates etc. the stuff we want right? All they care about is the nitrogen reading.
What a lot of these cheap companies do, which is perfectly legal based on the current rules and regulations, is purposely add free form amino acids to their powder to boost the nitrogen content that the test is testing for, thus manipulating the test and then giving their powder the illusion of having a high whey protein content.
Free form amino acids are dirt cheap, are technically classified as “protein” and yield high amounts of high nitrogen. Simply put, that 24g of protein per serve could actually be made up of say 15g of actual dietary whey protein like Isolate and Concentrate, the remaining 9g are free form amino acids that the company has purposely added, having high nitrogen content, are super cheap and literally do f*ck all in regard to what whey protein sources do.
THE AMINO ACID AMOUNTS ARE LISTED ON THE LABEL THOUGH?
Correct! This is a requirement with Australian made products to list the essential and non-essential amino acids of a protein powder supplement on the label. These amounts however are the total amounts of amino acids found in however much of dietary whey protein is contained in the product.
Let’s use my 24g of protein per serve as an example and say I have 15g of actual dietary whey protein in that 24g serve. The amino acid profile you’re seeing on my label are the individual amounts of each amino acid just in that 15g of whey protein. It doesn’t add or take into consideration the individual amounts of that extra 9g of amino acids I’ve added in to give me my 24g protein serving.
LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS LIST!
The ingredients list found on the label (usually next to the nutritional label), are all the bits and pieces the company has ADDED to the product, combining to get the finished product they’re selling. Exactly like baking a cake you’d add flour, eggs, vanilla essence etc. A protein powder you’d see things like whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, lactase (digestive enzyme), xanthan gum (thickener), natural and artificial sweeteners etc.
If there are any amino acids listed in this ingredients list than you know the company has purposely added them to the mixture! You may see for example, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, l-glutamine, glycine, lactase, xanthan gum, natural and artificial sweeteners etc. I now know the company has put l-glutamine and glycine into this product to most likely, manipulate that test, elevating the nitrogen content of the mixture to get a higher protein content reading they can now advertise and promote.
Anything contained in the ingredients list, anything I have added to the product, no matter the quantity, I am legally able to promote the benefits of such ingredients. Acetyl L-Carnitine for example is a fat metabolizing ingredient that can assist in using fat as a source of energy, burning it off leading to fat loss. If I simply sprinkled Acetyl L-Carnitine into my mixture, just like salt and pepper over a steak, I can now legally say things like “burn fat”, “get ripped”, “use fat as energy” all over my packaging and marketing ads when promoting this product because its technically in the powder. The actual clinical, efficacious dose for this ingredient to be effective and do those things is not, but that’s another Inside the Scoop article discussing the absolute sh*t that “fat burning / lean and ripped protein powders” are.
Now that the amino acids are added in the powder and found in our ingredient list, companies will hide what they’re there for via marketing and advertising. They will say things like “with added l-glutamine to assist with recovery and immune support” or “this protein powder has added amino acids to help with muscle building and recovery”, giving you guys the impression this is an advanced amazing protein powder that is also super cheap. The companies know full well they put them in to boost the nitrogen content of the powder, not to give you those benefits at all!
THE TEST WE REALLY WANT
An amino acid analysis to quantify total protein content is the test I’d like to see the results of and published on their sites. This test takes the powder and breaks it down into individual amino acids in which each amino acid amount is measured and recorded. The ingredients written in the ingredients list that we don’t know the quantity of, this test will tell us.
It will tell us exactly how much l-glutamine to the mg/g is added, how much glycine to the mg/g is found in the powder. If high amounts of specific amino acids are found, then we know for 100% certainty this powder is not what it seems. The problem with these tests is that they’re quite expensive. I personally have forked out money to get a test done on a product to understand the process and results and can tell you it’s not cheap.
A 1kg tub of a protein blend (this a blend of different whey sources such as isolate, concentrate, casein etc.) is around the $49.95 - $69.95 price range depending on the brand and retailer.
A 1kg tub of just whey protein isolate (a high quality, fast absorbing protein, think of it as premium petrol compared to regular unleaded), hovers around the $59.95 - $79.95 price range.
As mentioned right at the start when looking at TV’s, it doesn’t matter what brand or retailer you go for, the same product is around this price range. When you see these exact same items advertised for almost half the price of those above, and remember they are making profit off these prices, then immediately you must think to yourself something is not right!
At the end of the day it’s your call. If you trust the product and trust the brand, then by all means, go for it. This article was simply written to give you the consumer an inside look and understanding of all the different loop holes companies can legally jump through and bring something to market that may not be what it really is. They can use dirt cheap ingredients and advertise it in a way that makes it look like you’re getting a good deal, both on price and effectiveness whilst they laugh they’re way to the bank.
Its information the common person would not know and information these cheap companies don’t want you to know! The article is information you, the consumer, deserves to know!