Recently, a pro rider tweeted about how irresponsible the use of sport supplements without doping-free certification is.
That made me think, does that stamp of approval mean you’re getting safe product, free of toxic chemicals, mold, pesticides (glyphosate is the one I’m particularly interested in), cheap forms of minerals, vitamins etc as well? Lets see….
I agree, using brands that are third party tested by one of the major organisations is a good idea.
There are three major organisations doing this: NSF for sport, Informed-Sport, BSCG.
What they test for and how often, varies from one to another.
What also varies, is testing for harmful chemicals in the products, heavy metals, mold, pesticides etc.
Informed sport even states that although the batch tested is free of banned substances, they can’t guarantee, one will not test positive using Informed-sport certified product.
What I decided to do, was to do little digging into WT cycling teams’ nutrition sponsors.
I want to stress in the beginning, I wasn’t been able to find all the brands, and I certainly didn’t find all the data that would allow me to have more objective opinion.
So, what was I looking for?
Firstly, I wanted to see, how many of them test their product for banned substances or work with third party organisation, who does that for them.
Then I looked into their products, claims, ingredients, and science.
Before we start, I’d like to say again, this is my opinion, based on my knowledge about nutrition, supplements&performance and ingredient safety. It’s about performance nutrition, which in many ways is not always healthy nutrition for average Joe.
WEIDER-VICTORY NUTRITION 1
Now ,these are most likely not all, and we also need to be aware that some teams will buy products from other brands as well.
I’m not gonna go into details about each brand, what’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly about them, because what I said before, I might not have the full picture here.
Certified by third party organisation:
SIS have their products certified, most of them if not all, by Informed-sport
Namedsport claim to be Informed-sport certified, but after looking into it, they only have 3/153 (Creatine, sports drink and Omega3) products certified.
6D-SPORTNUTRITION claim their products are doping free, however they don’t say they’re tested by any lab or organisation.
HIGH5 have their products (not all) tested by LGC lab.
OTE have their products (not all) tested by LGC lab.
For the rest of them, I haven’t been able to find if they use any lab or organisation to test their products.
Quality of ingredients, clinically effective doses:
This is the area that is near and dear to me. Because, you can have a product that is third party tested, but put cheap ingredients in, and market it as “premium” product.
I’m not gonna talk about particular brands, because things might get ugly, and that’s not the point I’m trying to achieve here.
If somebody wants to have more info about particular brand, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’ll be happy to help.
First we need to focus on two points here.
Ingredients that are there for a reason (improving recovery, building muscle, improve endurance ), and ingredients that make the product palatable, tasty, look, smell good ( sweeteners, emulsifiers etc...)
Let’s start with macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats).
Generally ,no problem here.
Except maybe one brand where recovery product contains very low amounts of carbs and protein. Bare in mind, we’re talking about recovery from endurance exercise.
When it comes to forms of those macronutrients, oh boy, clearly we can see, that most of these brands use inferior sources of protein, like soy, collagen, even wheat gluten.
I’m not saying that from taking one serving of soy protein, you’re gonna get gynecomastia, what I am saying, though, is that soy, collagen and gluten are incomplete protein sources.
They are way cheaper than Whey Isolate or Whey concentrate though.
Next thing we see, mostly when it comes to bars, is use of rapeseed oil, mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, and other cheap rancid seed oils. In order to have tasty product, you need fats, to get long shelf life bars, you need ultra processed seed oils, unfortunately.
Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids are basically trans fats, but because they’re used as emulsifiers, the product can still be labeled as 0g trans fat.
In my opinion, most of the protein bars are just Snickers bar with addition of soy or gluten.
With carbs there’s actually very little problem. All kinds of monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides are generally pretty cheap, and the only trick used here is advertising “science proven formula 2:1” thing, which means ratio of 2parts of glucose to 1 part of fructose for better absorption. This is very old science, and unless you’re racing , you really don’t want to be pounding 90g of carbs per hour from your bottle.
I also need to mention Maurten here.
Maurten is new brand promoting drink mix with 80g of carbs that can be mixed with 500ml of water. What makes them different from others is that they use a blend of glucose, fructose and alginate.
Alginate was supposed to make the mix easily absorbable and not cause any GI problems.
Ok, I tried it. Worked great, no GI issues.
But there was another issue. It spiked blood sugar so high, too high. You see, I used CGM (continuous glucose monitor) during testing it. And even though I was riding at ~300W for and hour during drinking it, spiked BG to 150mg/dl. Naturally what goes up, must come down, and it did, by a lot, to hypoglycemic levels. Personally, I wouldn’t use it anymore.
Now to the area that is a real shit show.
The use of artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors etc.
Who uses what?
Well, in order to have a palatable protein powder, you’ll need to sweeten it. And that’s done with either aspartame, sucralose, Ace-K or combination of all three of them.
It’s also used in low calorie electrolyte drinks, energy drinks, gels, that are based on maltodextrin (it’s not sweet), and whole bunch of other products.
Personally I don’t think having a serving of sucralose, now and then, will kill you, but what happens when you’re an athlete racing every day for 3 weeks?
Your immune system is compromised, you’re having couple servings or this drink, 6 servings of carb drink, a serving of recovery drink…It adds up, and you may or may not exceed max. recommended daily dose of specific sweetener.
And also, we are all different, some might have zero adverse effects, some will get bloating, stomach ache, acid reflux...
Is there a way to make a product without artificial sweeteners? Yes but it’ll either taste pretty bad, or you'll need to use sugar. Flavouring with stevia, monk fruit etc, is not easy.
Flavours: This is an enigma
"Natural flavors" phrase is very commonly used. What does it mean? Nothing. You don’t really know what you’re getting.
For example, natural vanilla flavor is derived from “secretions of beaver’s anal gland”
This is getting long, so time to start wrapping it up.
There are also other things we don’t know.
Where are the ingredients sourced, is label claim correct or off, how and where was the product stored before getting to you. (for example many of the supplements in pro cycling are stored in buses where sometime temperature reach 50C if the bus is not in use. Imagine what happens to fish oil at that temperature).
So, which brand can you trust (look who’s talking) ?
Ideally the one that has been around for a while, tests for banned ingredients, can show you CoA (certificate of analysis).
And lastly no matter how good the ingredients, if it tastes bad, you ain’t gonna use it.
For non competing people, save money and eat food. If you want a sports drink, use water, maple syrup, salt. Makes for a great drink.
As said before, hope I didn’t hurt anyone by writing this, If any questions arise, contact me, I’ll reply ASAP.