What What in the Supp

Published: 10 April 2015

Mystery and lore has often surrounded what resides behind the blinding confines of the supplement industries proverbial iron curtain. Claims of infinite anabolism and exponential multiplications in mass have plagued the pages of publications since the inception of the first well-developed biceps. By and large these proclamations have gone unchallenged. While it’s difficult to imagine anyone falling for such asinine ruses, loosely interpreted studies, a carefully crafted vocabulary, and simplistic, explanatory diagrams combined with society’s uniformly blind faith in technology to create an unprecedented gullibility in one fell swoop. Consequently, consumers flock in droves to get their calloused hands on these well-marketed bottles of snake oil; only to soon discover that they, in fact, could not develop a Cutler-esque physique by huffing creatine laced with high fructose corn syrup. Yet, out of desperation, the duped would return time and again in hopes of discovering the hail-marry of over-the-counter products, which I am fairly certain qualifies for a classification of insanity. Who else hopped on a cycle of Pink Magic? Our frenzied determination have allowed supplement companies to continue to thrive off strong marketing and weak products; spawning a series of brands anew at a rate that would make a rabbit blush.

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on one’s position – independent testers took to examining the contents of various popular supplements. Now, I am by no means referring to preworkouts tainted with amphetamine derivatives. As unethical as the practice may seem, I can appreciate a quality grey-area amphetamine derived stimulant casually slipped in at no additional charge – based on the outrageous resell prices of these discontinued products, so do many others. Nor am I referring to raspberry keytones capsules actually containing grounded grass clippings; quite frankly, I could care less. Rather, I am particularly distraught over the scandalous revelations of the most fundamental component in every lifters supplement arsenal, protein powder.

Surely, most have read of the deplorable and detested practice of amino spiking in protein powders at nauseam. Therefore, this discussion will be devoid of any such draconian details – all rights and royalties for the use of “draconian” to Delaware Dave. Once the dust settled, a who’s who of industry giants were left with “some serious ‘splainin’ to do.” Of these, Muscle Pharm appeared at the forefront as the most notorious practitioner of this heinous practice. In a fashion mirroring socialist Germany of the 1930s, Muscle Pharm had previously resurrected from the brink of collapse and transformed itself into a powder pimping war machine only to jeopardize its survival by fatally invading Russia… by “invading” I mean amino spiking and by “Russia” I mean protein powder. The point being that Muscle Pharm is one of the most popular brands with a strong crossover appeal into other recreational avenues aside from bodybuilding. Hell, they even managed to sign on Arnold with his own signature line of products. This is all while selling subpar protein powder to unsuspecting consumers, who are none the wiser. Here lies the rub. A look at gross revenue would suggest that supporters of the brands engaging in amino spiking could not differentiate that they were consuming a poor quality protein.

Essentially, this calls into the question the usefulness of supplemental protein. I can already hear cries of heresy. Consider this, for example, though: The more commonly seen casual lifter who is ill-dieted and relies on an array of protein powders to see progress will do very little in this capacity. There is no arguing such logic. On the flip-flop, dedicated mass monsters consuming exorbitant amounts of protein through whole foods will not see any difference should they opt out of their usual post-workout shake. Although the exemplified parties lie on extreme ends of the spectrum, this concept illustrates the fact that those who truly embrace the lifestyle will achieve their desired results without such supplements while the lesser driven will remain stagnant. Of course, there are those genetic outliers who will thrive on a combination of Reese’s Pieces and Sour Patch Kids, but, by and large, the former holds true.

Before readers get up in arms over these assertions, allow me to interject. Is it not the purpose of protein powders to induce muscle growth? That is what the advertisements powered by well-financed marketing teams tell us after all. Do such products provide a benefit to athletes? Perhaps, but not significant enough for any visual acknowledgment; that is, unless, there is an absence or underutilization of protein in the diet. With that said, I am far from ready to give up my pre, intra, and post workout shakes despite the 300 grams of protein I obtain from various food sources. I’ll be damned if I miss an opportunity to induce even the most minuscule of anabolic activity in my exogenously testosterone enhanced body. In short, protein powders exist to assist those with a life outside of the gym to fulfill their need for this ever-desired macronutrient. Whether pure or tainted, gym-dwellers must not rely on companies to deliver them results measured by the scoop. They themselves must optimize the factors within their control. As much as we wish to devout our entire being to the cause of bodybuilding it simply isn’t option for most, but we can become ever-nearer. Undaunted, we trek on in the pursuit of power and performance.