These past few months I’ve had the privilege of attending a number of Live Webinars with Neal Spruce – CEO of dotFit, Chairman of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (a.k.a. ‘NASM’), and former Bodybuilding Champion.
Neal is always very candid in these sessions, and he knows his stuff! Not only is he always very thorough in the Q&A’s at the end, but he also invites us to reach out to him [personally] if we have any other questions that we think of (later on)… I frequently take him up on this! After all, why wouldn’t I pick the brains of the man who moulded the Personal Training Industry in America (as well as other aspects of the Health & Fitness Industry) into what it is today!?
But Q&A’s aside, there is something that he said in one of his most recent Webinars that really stuck out to me:
“I can out-formulate you, or out-advertise you… Which would you prefer?”
To sprinkle a little context in there, Neal was talking about why dotFit products are more expensive and why they’re not a) marketed through mass-media or b) available through major stores like GNC or Costco. Essentially, most companies plough millions into advertising, leaving pretty “tight margins”, thus meaning that the only real way to turn a profit is to under-formulate [and hope that no-one realizes!].
Meanwhile, dotFit sells direct to the Consumer and doesn’t waste millions on marketing, and so, are able to spend the extra on creating Supplements that have clinically proven doses and are verified via the most stringent third-party testing.
This got me thinking…
The top three Sports Supplement Companies/Brands that I absolutely believe in are:
dotFit / AthleanX / Jym Supplements
As we already know, dotFit is NSF Certified (with the majority of their products).
Athlean*RX* – the Supplement Line of Jeff Cavaliere (Founder of the massively popular YouTube Channel / Fitness Business – Athlean-X) – also happens to have NSF Certification! [Again, on most of his lineup].
Like Neal, Jeff also doesn’t spend tons of cash on Marketing; his YouTube Channel has *millions* of Subscribers, therefore, he has a Target Audience and can more or less market to them for free through his videos.
As for Jym Supplements (by Jim Stoppani – phD, Founder of Jym Supplement Science), his line may not have NSF Certification, but Jim has spent the better part of the last decade educating consumers as to the fallacies of the Supplement Industry, and the whole point of him finally coming out with a Supplement Brand of his own (by popular demand) was to set itself apart and provide those consumers with a top-quality product that actually works!
Therefore, for Dr. Stoppani’s Supplements *not* to be “fully-dosed” (as labelled) would be the biggest scandal in the history of Sports Supplements! So, I for one have total faith in the integrity of his products.
These brands serve as a stark contrast to the likes of one brand in particular that epitomizes the entire point of this article:
This company is all great marketing, but a pretty lousy product! You know by now – I don’t usually call out specific brands or companies, but in this instance, it’s not “new news”; they made headlines in recent years when they wound up in a high profile class action lawsuit!
The gist of the lawsuit was that their Protein Shake listed 40g Protein on the Nutrition Label. This product was FDA-Approved, and so, seemingly reputable by default, no? Well, as it happens, this product underwent third-party testing, and the results showed that the powder was actually comprised of barely 19.4g Protein per serving – not even HALF of what they said was in it!!
See, the thing is, FDA Approval is not worth the paper it’s printed on! Putting it really crudely, all it means for something to be “FDA-Approved” is that they have established that it won’t *kill* you… i.e. it is ‘generally safe’.
But the FDA does not require these companies to actually contain the doses of the ingredients that are claimed; hence you will ALWAYS see [in addition to the ‘FDA-Approved’ “seal”] a disclaimer saying that the statements made on the product have NOT been evaluated by the FDA.
Soooo… They approve it because it is non-toxic and won’t necessarily *harm* you. But they don’t take the time to even evaluate the claims made. Pretty damn lax if you ask me!
This is where NSF Certification should be a Gold Standard when considering a Sport Supplement! They verify doses (which inherently substantiate claims when based on basic science), and are one of the only third-party testers that comply with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s strict standards.
But beware of *falsely labelled* NSF Certified Products – you should check the NSF website to verify first!
PBfit is a curious example… See, their Organic PBfit product has the NSF [Certified Gluten Free] logo on the tub, and the pbfit.com site shows it too; however, their parent company – Better Body Foods – states on *their* [separate] website that, ‘PBfit® is a gluten-free product but is not certified by NSF’…
In checking the NSF Listings, neither PBfit® or Better Body Foods appear, so it could be that they *were* certified by NSF in the past, but have failed to maintain the compliance standards, and thus, lost the certification… Who knows?
Then we have Body Fortress®…
I was given a tub of their Super Advanced Whey Protein by a friend who didn’t want it, and was pleasantly surprised to see the NSF [Certified for Sport] logo (see picture below – to the right of where it reads ‘Whey Protein’). Strangely enough though, none of the pictures on their actual website show the tub with the logo…
So, given a bit of due diligence, I looked the product up on the NSF Listings (pictured above), and they DO appear there (with several other Body Fortress® products)… I’m not sure what the deal is here, but as long as NSF says they’re certified, I believe they have a decent product!
The problem nowadays is that we get absolutely sucked into Marketing. We allow big companies who employee Marketing Geniuses to sell us virtually anything; they understand Psychology better than most of us do… They get that there are masses out there who have the same recurring problem, and so, they pluck away at that pain-laden heart-string – not in a bid to help, but to sell you on the notion that they have the solution to your problem.
Sadly, in most cases, they do not have the solution. There’s almost never a “one-size-all” solution to our problems. After all, if we are all *unique* individuals sharing the *same* problem, then you could say that we each have to take a unique approach to overcoming the problem.
Let me give you an example:
Take Ian and Nigel (don’t ask – I literally just pulled those names outta nowhere!)…
Say they’re best buds from High School, both about the same height (5’10”-ish), and both put on not only the infamous ‘Freshman 15’, but an additional “Post-College 30”… i.e. The two of them are 45lbs overweight!
We’ll imagine they used to weigh a reasonable 170lbs, but now, they’ve “ballooned” to 215lbs…
Likelihood is, they may not even want to lose 45lbs – say they make a pact to set out on a new ‘Weight-Loss Journey’ together, and lose 30lbs; for an average man, 185lbs is pretty decent (as long as Body Fat Percentage is in check!).
Thing is, Ian has Leptin Resistance, and Nigel is Vegan. One is an additional problem, the other – while actually a very healthy lifestyle choice – simply has some slight restrictions, but it is far easier to work with.
They’re both Overweight – and this is their common problem. Heck, going off of their Body Fat Percentage, they even classify as borderline *Obese* (say they’re both sitting around 30ish% BF). However, Ian’s Leptin Resistance is a significant Health Issue – in short, his body lacks the ability to respond appropriately when Leptin is secreted [to signal that he is / should be *full*], and therefore, he has regularly overeaten over the years, thus resulting in the excessive weight-gain.
He has soreness in his Joints too (possibly the developing stages of an Arthritic Condition), so he is worried that exercise will worsen this…
Nigel – conversely – has no such Health Complications. In fact, by all reasonable judgement (medical or otherwise), his Weight is the only negative aspect of Health, but his Doctor feels that – if left unchecked – it could develop into a Health Issue.
Unlike Ian, Nigel put on the weight as a result of having fallen in love with Middle Eastern food after a Semester Abroad in Dubai as part of his Business Degree. A food-driven lust of Hummus, Tahini and Baba Ganoush as well as trying a Vegan version of the Keto Diet and having far too much Coconut Oil and Avocado led to unexpected weight piling on in a shorter period of time than Ian…
Fact is, they cannot take the SAME approach to losing the weight. Exercise-wise, Nigel could benefit from High Intensity Interval Training, however, for Ian and his sore Joints, this would likely aggravate the issue.
Nutrition-wise… Ian would need to consult a Dietician/Nutritionist to be prescribed the best natural methods to help deal with his Leptin Resistance before trying to focus solely on the weight-loss; though as a result, he’d likely lose some weight anyway as it would be a “two-birds-one-stone” kind of situation. Nigel probably just needs to readjust his Macros, and then assess his Calories-In / Calories-Out so as to ensure that he burns more than he consumes!
While the examples of Nigel and Ian are 100% fictitious, they are absolutely realistic, and there are plenty of people out there with similar issues. But the Food / Beverage / Supplement Industry takes NONE of these intricate details into account when trying to sell to us.
As a result of this and the lack of standards imposed (or *not* imposed) by the FDA, someone like Ian could buy a Protein Shake that is supposedly low in Carbs and high in Protein – in a bid to help with his Leptin Resistance – but end up with a Supplement that is the complete opposite in its composition (similar to that Muscle Pharm Shake), and end up doing more harm than good as his Condition gets exacerbated!
On a similar note, Nigel could end up inadvertently consuming a Supplement that is supposedly Vegan, only to find that there are trace amounts of Shellfish or Dairy by-products… Clearly, NOT ideal!
Don’t be sold on some fanciful idea of what a Company’s Product *could* do (but probably won’t?)… Be diligent! Put in a bit of effort to research what you’re putting in your body. And choose a GREAT *product* over smoke & mirrors (a.k.a. Corporate Marketing).
That’s all for today’s post – I hope you have enjoyed this one!
I’ll catch you next time, but until then, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO