Protein Spiking: The Supplement Industry's Dirty Little Secret

Protein Spiking: The Supplement Industry's Dirty Little Secret
Another dirty trick that many supplement companies use to fool you!

It's time I filled you in on yet another dirty trick that many supplement companies use to make more money. I've already given you the sad truth behind proprietary blends and concentrates. If you haven't been educated on these lies that plague the supplement industry, click on those links to read the article (proprietary blends) and video (concentrates).

If the lies of proprietary blends and concentrated products weren't enough, yet another lie many supplement companies are making involves the amount of protein that's actually in their protein powders. While some companies just outright lie on the label about how much of their protein powder is actually protein, the more clever ones use a trick known as "nitrogen spiking." Nitrogen spiking, which is also known as "amino spiking" or "protein spiking," is a technique that allows supplement companies to put in less protein than what's listed on the label without actually getting caught. And you would be surprised to learn how many companies are doing this.

The problem arises from the fact that protein powder is so expensive to make these days. In turn, many companies take extreme measures to cut corners to save money on manufacturing protein powders in an effort to make more profit. Nitrogen spiking is a filthy trick. But in this article, I'l teach you an easy way to tell if a protein powder is nitrogen spiked. Once you know what to look for, you can spot it a mile away. And they're out there, trust me.

A Lesson on Nitrogen Spiking

Nitrogen spiking is simply a way to manipulate the test used to measure the protein content of protein powders. The current method used to measure the amount of protein in a protein powder involves measuring the nitrogen content, which is then converted into protein amount. Nitrogen is used because protein is made up of amino acids that are strung together in a chain, much like a pearl necklace. Every amino acid contains nitrogen, so measuring nitrogen content of a protein powder can indicate the amount of protein it contains per serving. But that's assuming that the protein powder contains just complete proteins, such as whey, casein and/or egg protein. Unfortunately, many protein powders not only include these complete proteins, but they also have "extra" amino acids added to them.

Most people think that having extra amino acids added to their protein powder is a good thing. After all, I recommend taking extra branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) before and after workouts in addition to protein powder. However, the major problem with protein powders that have added amino acids is that the aminos aren't added to provide any benefit to the product. Instead, they're only added for their nitrogen. Most amino acids, such as taurine and glycine, are much cheaper than whey protein, casein protein, milk protein or egg protein. Even highly beneficial amino acids, such as BCAAs and glutamine, are cheaper than protein powders. So by adding a bunch of cheaper amino acids to their protein powders, supplement companies can boost their nitrogen content, which technically means they boosted the amount of protein per serving – at least according to the nitrogen test.

Because the added amino acids are not complete proteins, though, the protein content of a protein powder with added aminos is not what the test claims it to be. For example, a whey protein powder may claim to contain 20 grams of protein per one scoop serving. If they added 5 grams of glycine per serving, then you are only getting 15 grams of actual whey protein and 5 grams of glycine, which would read as 20 grams of protein per serving in the nitrogen test. At least glycine is one of the 20 amino acids used as the building blocks for protein. However, having an extra 5 grams of this non-essential amino acid is not going to do you any real benefit when it comes to muscle growth. So that serving of whey protein is really only 15 grams of actual whey protein per serving.

A bigger problem arises when amino acids are used that aren't proteogenic aminos. Proteogenic amino acids are the 20 amino acids used as building blocks to form proteins in the body, such as muscle protein. Conversely, non-proteogenic amino acids are ones that aren't used as protein building blocks. When companies add non-proteogenic aminos to a protein powder, those aminos aren't providing any direct muscle-building benefits at all; they're just boosting the nitrogen ("protein") content of the protein powder. Taurine is a popular non-proteogenic amino that's added to protein powders for its nitrogen. You may think that having taurine added to a protein powder is a great bonus because taurine helps with energy production. And that's exactly what shady supplement companies want you to think! However, if 5 grams of taurine has been added to your protein powder that claims to contain 20 grams of protein per serving, then you're only getting 15 grams of real protein and 5 grams of taurine. The taurine is at the expense of total protein!

Sniffing Out Spiking

So how do you know how much of a protein powder that has added amino acids is true protein and how much is just amino acids? You'll NEVER know. That's why supplement companies only list the amount of total "protein" on the label and not the amount of each type of protein and each type of amino acid added. But there are certainly some red flags to help you determine if your protein powder has been spiked.

If your favorite protein powder has taurine and glycine listed in the ingredients list, you're better off throwing it out. That brand is simply lying to you about how little protein is actually in that protein powder. And if they're willing to go to the extent of nitrogen spiking to lie about protein content, then there's no telling where they're buying their protein from. So not only are you getting less protein than listed on the label, but you're likely also getting very low-quality protein to boot.

If your favorite protein powder lists BCAAs, glutamine, beta-alanine, betaine (trimethylglycine), and/or creatine, you might think it's a great product because in addition to protein you get all those key amino acids and amino-acid-derived nutrients. And yes, you're getting those additional key nutrients, but you're getting them at the expense of the protein, NOT in addition to the protein. All those ingredients are nitrogen-containing compounds that count toward the total protein amount listed on the label. You might be getting up to 10 grams less protein per serving than listed on the label thanks to these "bonus" ingredients.

If you're looking to take extra BCAAs, glutamine, beta-alanine or creatine, get them from a different product, not from your protein powder. When you buy a protein powder, you ONLY want real protein and nothing else added. That includes fat burning ingredients like green tea, carnitine and CLA. I won't go off here on a rant about the so-called "fat-burning" protein powders on the market today. But suffice it to say that they're just another way for supplement companies to screw you with underdosed fat-burning ingredients in addition to less protein than is listed on the label.

Full Disclosure

The widespread use of nitrogen spiking is the main reason why I list the precise amount of each type of protein that's in every 24-gram serving of Pro JYM. Whey protein isolate makes up 7.5 grams, micellar casein makes up 7 grams, milk protein isolate also makes up 7 grams (5.5 of those grams being micellar casein and 1.5 of those grams being whey), and the remaining 2.5 grams comes from egg white protein (egg albumen). That totals 24 grams, all coming from complete proteins with no added amino acids to pull one over on you.

Pro JYM is the only protein powder that lists the exact amount of protein from each protein source. Yes, other protein powders list the percent of protein from each protein source, but that doesn't really tell you if that all adds up to the total listed on the label. For example, let's say that Brand X has a protein blend of whey, casein and egg protein that claimed to have 20 grams of protein per serving. They claim that 40% of the protein is from whey, 50% is from casein and 10% is from egg protein. You would assume that means 8 grams is whey, 10 grams is casein and 2 grams is egg protein. However, you don't really know that for a fact. They may only list the percent from each protein and not the total grams from each because the total doesn't add up to 20 grams.

For example, if Brand X had 6 grams of taurine added to each serving, that would mean that the whey, casein and egg protein make up only the remaining 14 grams. So in reality, there would only be 5.6 grams of whey (40% of 14), 7 grams of casein (50% of 14), and 1.4 grams of egg (10% of 14). But you wouldn't know that because the company only listed the percent of each protein, not the total grams from each type of protein. With Pro JYM, I list the total grams from each protein. I want you to rest assured knowing that there is no sneaky business going on and that you're getting not only the highest-quality sources of each protein, but that you're also getting the exact amount listed on the label.

Just Say No To Nitrogen Spiking

Unfortunately, due to legal reasons I can't list what protein powders on the market today use nitrogen spiking to trick you. And there are a lot of them! But you're now armed with info that can help you know what to look for on a protein powder label. So go out there and make wiser and savvier protein powder purchases. It's up to you to make these companies stop the lies and the nonsense. And you can only do that by being smart with your supplement purchases and not buying spiked protein powders. Don't be lured by the cheap price of a particular protein powder. If the price is much cheaper than most of the other protein powders, then there's something fishy going on. Read the label and look for the mention of amino acids or other "bonus" ingredients. If you keep buying crap, they're going to keep making crap and selling crap. Force the rest of the supplement industry to step up and formulate better protein powders and better products all around. Enough is enough!

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