THE BLOG

You May Be Taking the Wrong Supplement

supplements Aug 01, 2023

This week, I want to focus on the back end of choosing supplements rather than the front end of deciding which ones are right for you. The back-end decision of choosing supplements is extremely important, especially considering Americans spend more than 30 billion (yes, that’s with a “B”) on supplements per year. 

What this really means is deciding which brand or company you will trust with your hard-earned income to provide you with a supplement that you can trust. What do I mean by trust? Well, because the supplement industry is not regulated, we as consumers need to be extra diligent when choosing a supplement brand for safety and quality control reasons.

#1: Safety

It may not be your first thought when choosing a supplement but I would argue that this is THE most important thing you can do. Why? Well, quite frankly how do you know if what is listed on the label is actually in the supplement in the quantities listed? You don’t, most of the time. You must trust the manufacturer and while I will discuss this in the next bullet point, that won’t get you too far most of the time.

Let me use this example to help you understand this. Say I want to develop “Bob’s Creatine”. I do all of the normal things like find a trustworthy source of creatine to use, find a commercial manufacturing/packaging facility and some cool packaging. I discuss my project with the commercial manufacturing facility and they tell me that they can package “Bob’s Creatine”. Great! I’m done and on the road to creating a new supplement to offer to athletes. Now, that’s all fine and dandy but what if this commercial manufacturing facility also packages other supplements that may have some stimulant-like products and it is in the same area where “Bob’s Creatine” is packaged? Seems okay because I assume that they will completely clean the area before my product is packaged. But, that doesn’t happen all of the time and hence, why safety is a top concern when deciding to choose a supplement. This is usually referred to as cross-contamination.

If this commercial facility didn’t completely clean the area where the supplement with stimulants was packaged, there could be residue left over that could make its way into “Bob’s Creatine” and all of a sudden, my very safe supplement is not so much anymore and I don't even know it, which means as a consumer, neither do you!

#2: Quality control

This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Supplement manufacturers or commercial facilities that have standard and elaborate quality control procedures usually will ensure that the safety concern I just spoke of does not happen. These are the companies you want to put your trust in and support them by purchasing their supplements. These companies have gone through very strict rules, regulations and guidelines to make sure they are 100% legitimate and their supplements do not risk any type of cross-contamination.

The unfortunate part of this is that just about every supplement company will say they have high quality control measures but as consumers, we sometimes just have to take their word for it. Or do we?

This is the part you really want to pay attention to. As consumers, we do have choices but we also have to do our due diligence whenever supplement purchasing is concerned. One of the best ways to do this is by looking for supplements that have one of these three third-party supplement contamination certifications and are current with their products. Back to my example of “Bob’s Creatine”, what I could do after I have it packaged is contact one of the three listed companies below and pay to have my creatine independently tested through them. While each company has its own methods, the end result should provide “Bob’s Creatine” with an approval or denial verdict regarding the ingredients contained in the product. This also includes the quantity listed on the label. If “Bob’s Creatine” lists 5 grams of creatine per serving, the third-party independent testing company will validate this, along with ensuring there are no stimulants or other banned substances.

Here are the three independent, third-party testing organizations to look for in your supplements:

You may be thinking, “Why is this important to me if I am not an elite or professional athlete who gets drug tested?”. Simply put, everyone should care about what substances go into their bodies, especially if we are talking about substances that could potentially have a negative effect on our health. Any supplements I take or give to my family are either certified by one of the three companies I listed above or I personally can attest to the quality control standards of the company because I physically visited their facility or have colleagues working there who have explained their entire quality control process to me.

If you take supplements look for one of the three independent, third-party tested stamps of approval on the labels. Now, here’s the thing, this testing costs a lot of money so some companies will not do it but they still have high quality control standards at their manufacturing and packaging warehouse. Unfortunately, as consumers, it is very difficult to know which companies do this and which ones don’t. 

Aside from looking for the NSF Certified for Sports, Informed Sport Certified or BSCG logo on your supplement label, you can also try to look up your supplements on the Consumer Lab website  While not a testing website, they do provide reviews of certain products that could be a good resource for you to start, or just reach out to one of the eNRG Performance Sport Dietitians for more assistance!

Thanks for reading!

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