One of my primary goals is not only to provide the public with sound and useful information to help them reach their goals quickly, but also to debunk a lot of the outlandish claims, myths and down right lies that pop up in the fitness industry. Oddly enough, the vast majority of these claims, myths and lies come from the very same companies who the public turn to for help these days, the supplement companies.
Supplement companies are a dime a dozen right now and each is fighting for its own claim to fame. Among them all it is common practice to provide some sort of scientific evidence for their claims. It increases their credibility and it makes it look like they didn't just copy every other product out there, but rather researched their product and constructed it from the ground up.
Because of a lot of the work I have done, things I have written and so on, I am always asked to review and critique new companies products. The company I am reviewing is one such company. I will not say their name out of respect for their privacy, but it is not a brand that Bodybuilding.com carries.
I received an email from this company asking me to critique their web site and products. What I'm about to show you, is my critique of some of their products, as well as a critique of recent research that has everything to do with one of their products and its claims.
I was so appalled by this company I feel that this information should be known by all, so let's begin. The following is a copy of an email I sent in response to their request to critique their web site and products.
As for your web presentation, I think that splashing your sponsored athletes all over is distracting. Most people understand how endorsements work and realize that there is a favorable trade off for the athlete to use your products and say positive things. It would be better to make one page that lists athlete bios and if people want to read about it, they will.
As for your product line - I like the fact that you attempt to use science into it to make you look more credible. You have a lot of references, however, upon closer review, many of the references have little to no relevance to the product's mode of action, its ingredients, dosages or efficacy. For example:
There is no research cited that would indicate that magnesium increases the efficacy of
creatine at improving performance variables. Secondly, the ad for this product makes it sound like the magnesium has been chemically bound to the creatine, making it a "New" form of creatine when it would appear that the magnesium is just added in.
I do not see any research on a "buffered" creatine. Your ad also says this 'buffered' creatine does not need to be loaded. Well in all reality creatine in general does not need to be loaded.
The idea behind creatine loading is to create a rapid increase in muscle creatine and water content to trigger muscle protein synthesis and to saturate creatine levels so you can begin to see benefits sooner rather than later.
However, this can be accomplished with a number of intake regimens. You also recommend taking it with water when almost all of the appropriate research you cited indicates that taking creatine with a carbohydrate and in some cases CHO and protein is more effective than water at increasing creatine uptake.
Why did you recommend water?
Advance Whey Protein Isolate
There is nothing in this product that would strike me as 'Advanced'. In fact in terms of available technology, this product is anything but advanced. All the ad talks about is the advantages of Cross Flow Micro-filtration over Ion-Exchange (for which you cite no research).
In all reality, these are only 2 types of the filtrations that are out there. I know of companies that have their whey put through multiple filtrations -i.e. micro, ultra and nano-filtration.
They are also subject to low temp enzymatic hydrolysis. More over, virtually all of the research you cited utilizes IMMUNOCAL and other concentrates.
What research did you use to design this product?
Testosterone Support Formula
Most of the research you have cited focuses on Zinc. But the critical feature of all this research is that testosterone production was increased when zinc was introduced to zinc deficient subjects.
Of the research you cited that was actually readily available, you have nothing solid to back your claims on the theory of 'wild oats.' All of the things in this product with the exception of the oats, can be found in a multi vitamin.
And how did you develop this seven days on seven days off cycle? Where does this come from? What is its significance? If this product is supposed to maintain normal/healthy levels of testosterone, why would one need to cycle it?
Time Released Joint Support
This formula does not include
chondroitin which has been shown in research, and even the research you cited to enhance glucosamine. Why would you put such a low amount of it in there?
You mask it under the proprietary blend so I have no clue as to how much is in there, but I know that it is less than 740mg. One thing is clear from the research you have and that is that fairly high doses of glucosamine are needed - roughly 1,000mg+.
So why would you make it a time released formula? Because you indicate a serving in the morning and again at night, I would have to assume the release is approx. 12 hours. That would make for less than 100mg per hour.
No where in the research did I see a dosing pattern of this kind to be indicated, let alone effective. More over I'm curious as to how you're able to regulate how much of each of the supplements in this product (glucosamine, Vitamin D, Calcium) is released and at what rate each are released?
I would have to assume that the calcium and vitamin D are the bone support aspect of it, however, bones are not made of just calcium and vitamin D. They are also comprised of magnesium, zinc phosphorus, etc.
Most of these minerals have been identified in the research you have cited as minerals that people are deficient in. So there is something missing. Yet again, a multi vitamin would cover this area. with the exception of glucosamine/chondroitin.
Growth Support Formula
The main claim here is that this product should help to maintain natural
growth hormone levels. However, you do not specify what the benefit of maintaining endogenous GH is, and neither does the research. Secondly, you limited the product to 2g of
I focus on glutamine because this is the one with the most positive research behind it. However doses in the research ranged from 0-.3g/kg. for a 200lb male, this could be 9-27g of glutamine per serving. Why only 2g?
And once again what is the significance of the proposed cycle? One major theme that I saw was that serving sizes were large and servings per container were low. If a person were to follow your recommendations a bottle of a particular product may last 1.5 to 2 weeks. For pills in particular, they had better last a month or I would look else where.
I like the fact that you are providing references about each ingredient, however, it looks almost as if someone did a medline search for a particular ingredient and copied them all down. It really doesn't look like any of the cited studies went into the planning or design of these products or recommendations at all.
As for quality, quality is typically being judged now by quantity (which is actually purity, but that doesn't seem to stop people) reported by lab analysis vs. label claims. However, you should know as well as I do that amounts don't always dictate quality.
Glutamine, for example is one of those supplements where quality can range greatly. I have seen very cheap glutamine that has a yellow tint and smells of sulfur. And I have seen the high grade glutamine that comes in from Japan that has no smell, no taste is finer than dust and whiter than snow. So there is no way I can assess 'quality' just by looking at your site.
Please don't take this to be a stab at your company or products. You asked for a critical look at what you have to offer, and that is what I did. If you have and questions/comments, feel free to ask.
Eric Satterwhite B.S., NSCA-CPT, ACSM HF-I
I frequent many message boards around the Bodybuilding / Health & fitness world and no more than a day after I sent out this email I came across this thread (http://forums.about.com/ab-bodybuilding/messages/?msg=3434.1). This just made things worse in my eyes. And yes, I am EricS13.
But it didn't stop there, I shortly thereafter received an email in reply from a representative thanking me for all of my feedback and letting me know that someone would be contacting me shortly. Then the next day I got another email from this company asking if they could contact me be phone.
I promptly said yes and awaited the call. A few days later I get a call from Carlon Coker, from this company. I know that he received the email as he replied to a forward of the original that I sent. When I answered the phone, he asked me if I had more questions, I said no, I was expecting you to have some answers.
This was essentially the end of the conversation. I then replied to his email, which still contained a copy of the original I sent stating that I had no further questions than the ones posed in the e-mail I originally sent.
I have yet to receive an answer from Dr. Coker or the company. As you can see from my response, I wasn't particularly pleased with what I saw. You can probably tell that I am a fan of science and research, so when I saw a list of references for all of their products, I was impressed.
However, that was where it ended. The list of references they have listed for each product has little or nothing to do with the products or their claims. It looks like someone did a key word search for a particular ingredient such as 'Creatine' and the just listed whatever they found.
In the case of their buffered creatine, which as far as I can tell is simply the addition of Magnesium to creatine monohydrate, they make some interesting claims:
The Added Benefit Of Magnesium
Buffered Creatine is not your ordinary creatine supplement. After extensive research, they chose to use a special patented buffered form of creatine made with the mineral magnesium. Magnesium is essential to hundreds of metabolic functions and research indicates that adequate magnesium intake is particularly important for athletes.*
Studies also indicate that many people consume less than recommended dietary levels, making Buffered Creatine a great enhancement to your overall nutritional requirements.*
You want to get the most out of your strength training and other intense exercise, so choose the best-quality creatine product available.
The interesting thing about this one was that they had research about creatine, but I didn't not see any on magnesium. Moreover, they had no research about the combination of magnesium to creatine and its effects on strength, muscle fiber size, endurance, gains is muscle mass or performance period. When I read this for the first time, two things happened.
- I got the Impression that this was a NEW form of creatine or an altered form of creatine monohydrate
- I got the impression that Magnesium would increase the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate.
I understand that they didn't come right out and say this, but this is the impression you get. By leading someone to believe or allowing someone to believe something that is not necessarily true, is slander, which in the right context can be illegal.
I'm sure we all understand how marketing functions to promote a product to entice a customer to purchase it.
However, there has got to be a line drawn in the sand. This company would have us believe that their products are in some way different and better than all other products out there today. However, their products are average at best. They have nothing new, and nothing different.
'Buffered Creatine' Research
Now I would like to give you a look inside the research so you can see how well the claim attached to 'Buffered Creatine' Hold up. A recent study set out to determine if a magnesium chelated creatine monohydrate would be taken up by muscle cells more effectively than regular creatine monohydrate.
They had hypothesized that it in fact would improve makers of performance due to greater uptake by muscle via an alternate pathway due to the mineral chelation. Notice that in the description of Buffered Creatine by this company, there was no mention of this at all anywhere on the label, the site or in the research.
In other words, thy did not know or think about it at the time of development. Magnesium (Mg +2 ) carries a charge, the researchers proposed that this form of creatine would be able to enter the muscle cell through a gated cation channel rather than typical sodium dependant creatine transporter (CrT-1).
Subjects were trained weight lifters with a minimum of 1 year experience. If any subject had been using creatine, a 6 week washout period was mandatory. All ergogenic aids were prohibited 1 month prior to the start of the study and all subjects who had previously taken anabolic steroids were excluded.
They were then split into 3 groups with 10 subjects to a group. A placebo group, a creatine group and a magnesium chelated group. The supplement groups consumed 2.5 g of creatine per day. Low doses were chosen for the simple fact that high dose, both in the long term and short term have been proven to produce an ergogenic effect.
If the chelated creatine were to be taken up by an alternate pathway, a greater ergogenic effect should be seen in the short term under a small dose. Neither the researchers nor the subjects knew which group was getting which supplement.
Prior to a 10 day period of supplementation all the subjects went through 2 specific tests. The first being a test of strength which was assessed with a one repetition maximum on the
flat barbell bench press. Following this test, subject performed a test of maximal work or a test to fatigue.
This test was also performed on the flat barbell bench press. Subject performed repetitions to a set cadence and the test was terminated when the subject was unable to perform a repetition or keep up with the cadence.
Subjects used 70% of the one repetition determined in the previous test. Following these test, 10 days of supplementation followed and the subjects performed these tests for a second time.
As expected, both creatine groups experienced significant gains in their 1RM bench press whereas the placebo groups saw no difference. Which is a good thing. Because the placebo groups saw no difference or change, then we can say that this test was a reliable one the results are unlikely to be subjected to flaws in the test itself.
But here is the kicker - there was no significant difference between the two creatine groups in terms of absolute gains in strength or relative changes in strength. The chelated creatine was no better at increasing strength than the creatine that has been on the market since the early 90's
We can kill two birds with one stone on this data. The first being that what ever this new pathway the researchers were hoping for didn't really exist and any claims that a chelated creatine can be thrown off as bunk. The second is that increasing magnesium intake will improve athletic performance or benefit the athlete in training as claimed by this company.
The one important detail that they failed to mention was that magnesium supplementation is of benefit to those who are deficient in magnesium. Something that can be taken care of with a multi vitamin.
The test of work demonstrated much the same results. The placebo group saw no changes in the amount of work performed. Both creatine groups experienced increases in the amount of work they could perform. However, there was no significant difference between the two different creatine types.
Despite the results presented here, one has to question what would happen if doses were increased. Would a high dose some who trigger this alternate pathway. One of the problems here is that magnesium does no sit well when taken in high doses and can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
Perhaps the proposed alternate pathway was inactive at the time of the study because the subjects were not deficient in magnesium. Although this is only a single study, to date, it is the only study on a chelated form of creatine monohydrate. Preliminary reports are not promising.
The researchers will continue to investigate this form of creatine despite the lack of support for their hypothesis.
Is this company a 'Scam'? Well, yes and no. Their products may be 'Good', however, they are average if at best. Many of their products are dependent on a decline or a deficiency of a particular nutrient before it can be effective.
However, the scam begins to take shape in the way that they describe their products and instruct others on how to use them. The proposition of no loading phase for creatine or a 'Cycle' makes a product sound very potent. The fact of the matter is these products are weak when you break them down and really look at what is in them and how much of it each serving contains.
My aim here is not to bash this company, but all companies like it. I hope now that you have a better understanding on how to critically evaluate a company's products and will no longer just take their word for it or get sucked in to empowering marketing.
Selsby, JT., RA DiSilvestro, and S.T. Devor (2004). Mg2+-creatine chelate and a low-dose creatine supplementation regimen improve exercise performance. J. Strength Cond. Res, 18,2, 311-315