Protein powders of various types are easily the most popular and best selling sports supplements on the market today. Whey is a very high quality form of protein, with its high amounts of muscle building amino acids and bio-availability. Whether your goal is putting on muscle or shedding a few pounds, a quality protein supplement can help streamline those results. The question becomes “What distinguishes a quality protein supplement from a poor one?”

With growing production costs, many supplement companies are looking for various ways in order to cut costs to provide a lower price point compared to their competitors. In doing so the quality of the product also gets cut. False label claims are a thing of the past, now companies are using more strategic methods of misleading consumers.

To understand how, we must first understand what makes up protein. Protein is made up of 22 amino acids, 9 of which are essential, meaning that your body can not produce these amino acids and must acquire them exogenously from diet. A quality protein supplement will have all 22 amino acids in their proper ratios. Proteins with this proper amino acid profile are expensive. This is where amino acid spiking comes in. Companies will only put in a portion of actual protein then top off the product with much cheaper amino acids to meet label claim. For example, if a company puts 20grams of protein on there label, they will only put 10grams of actual protein and then top the actual protein with 10 more grams of cheap amino acids, thus providing the 20 grams of protein but at a fraction of the cost. How do they get away with this? Well protein is measured by the amount of nitrogen in the sample, thus since these companies are still using nitrogen bound amino acids the test will show 20grams of protein yet as previously mentioned it may only have a fraction of actual protein within the supplement. The main amino acids used in amino spiking are glycine, taurine, and creatine (which is made up of arginine, glycine, and methionine).

The best method to see if a company is amino spiking their protein is simple, look at the ingredients. The ingredient list should only contain “protein concentrate, protein isolate, or a form of casein”. No where on the ingredient list should it mention any other amino acid unless it is added BCAA’s (leucine, isoleucine, valine). Anything else is a red flag and that supplement should be avoided.

Contributed by Matthew Volpe. Matt is bio-medical graduate from Laurentian University and a member of the Spartan Fitness team.

Karen Somerville