Protein and Label Claims
In this current day and age, you cannot trust every protein label you read. Over the last five years, protein prices have risen quite a bit. With that somehow companies are keeping the protein costs the same even with the rise in raw materials. For those who are always looking for a great protein deal, do not pull the trigger so fast. Companies are being found of not meeting label claims and “protein spiking.” This is an example of using low-grade amino acids (building blocks of protein) to fill their product for a cheaper cost. Doing this means the product you are consuming is not true to its label. Companies have been found to have 12-13g of protein when the product claims 25-27g per scoop. This is one not good for the company, and two cheating their consumers who buy their product.
Protein spiking has been a huge problem in the last few years as companies have been found using lower grades or WPC (Whey Protein Concentrate) WPI (Whey Protein Isolate), and other forms of protein and filling their product with taurine, glycine, glutamine, and creatine to protein powders. Doing this is one cheaper for the company, and two still liable to meet FDA Label claims. When these companies are tested by a 3rd party vendor that does not always mean the protein content you see on the label is 100% accurate. Taurine and Glycine are BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids) are nitrogen bonds naturally found in protein.
Adding extra BCAA’s helps pad the protein intake at a cheaper cost per serving. Let’s also remember BCAA’s have calories per serving just like protein. Each gram of Taurine will equate to 4 calories just like 1g of protein is 4 calories a serving. This is how companies are cutting corners and making their protein retail cheaper then what it should cost if it were meeting label claims. When companies have COA’s (Certificate of authenticity) ran on their protein powder, it will test the true content of the protein in the product. The FDA does not know because they read the prop blend or long list of ingredients and test for the nitrogen-based bonds in the product. In the FDA’s eyes that are still considered protein, so it is not heavily tested.
Spiking has dated back to the early 2010’s. Companies such as MuscleTech (Phase 8), Giant Sports, and Inner Armour have all been found guilty of doing so. In the early 2000’s protein powder was around 5-7$/pound, now you are lucky to find protein at 10$ a pound if not more. Companies will run promotions for buy one get one free, and the second you see that people want to buy. Take a step back, re-evaluate the situation, and first, do your research on that product and its label claims. Most chances if you are finding protein at 20$ for 2lbs it is on a very good sale, or there is a red flag going up. This is not to say some companies will run protein this low to help fish consumers into other products on their product line. Protein is not a moneymaker, especially with the current cost of raw materials. Some companies take a loss on producing protein powder due to the net cost of the materials, labels, and tubs to produce it. Sometimes you will get what you pay for.
Whey protein (WPC or WPI) in bulk can average around 10$ a pound. Leucine averages around 50 cents – $1 a pound. Creatine and Glutamine are also very cheap raw materials. The only thing you have to factor in is flavoring which is pennies to companies. Creatine and Glutamine are both nitrogen bonds and also contain specific calories per serving like Taurine and glycine found in spiked protein powders.
Now if you do the math and see how companies can use these lower grade BCAA’s to spike their products this is how they can cut costs, and mislabel their products. Is it ethical? Not so much, but from a business standpoint, it is a way to help reduce costs and try and make revenue.
When looking at a label what are we looking for? Open labels! If you can get a product like MAN Clean Protein, you clearly see everything listed in the exact amount. Nutrabio has also taken this route and prevents the consumer to play no guessing games on what they are getting. Then there are companies who are 3rd party verified and are true to their label. Stack3d and Priceplow have multiple articles and tests to verify these brands. PES Select, Cellucor Cor Performance, MTS Whey, Animal Whey, Blue Star Whey Smooth, Scivation Whey, Xtreme Formulations are all trust worthy brands that are worth your investment. Priceplow did an article on PES that actually showed the protein content coming back higher then what the labeled stated!
For labels that are contained in a massive proprietary blend take caution. This is where you do not know how much X or Y Ingredients does get. For Example – Protein Blend (Whey Protein Concentrate, Glutamine, Creatine, Taurine, Whey Protein Isolate, Glycine). This is where you should raise an eyebrow. This is where a company will give you a 5g amount and each ingredient you have no idea how much you are getting. For all, we know you could be getting minimal WPC or WPI, and tons of BCAA’s to lower the overall protein content.
Overall protein powder has gathered a lot of attention the last few years. We should all be skeptical on what we put in our bodies especially when we are paying a hefty price tag for our supplements. While these supplements can never replace whole food, the amount per serving can be identical to buying chicken, eggs, or other protein sources in bulk. It is not a good thing to know we may be getting cheated especially if we can find a great deal on a protein powder. Always read the label, do your research, and finally if you are brand loyal stick to that company. Hopefully, this article will help clear up confusion on the recent protein spiking dilemma.