False Marketing in the Sports Nutrition Sector

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It’s time to put the award-winners under the microscope!

I recently read a ‘health magazine’ for men, in which there was an awards section listing whey protein powders and their decided accolades. See below the categories and the winners:

BEST FOR STRENGTH – ON Gold Standard Whey

BEST FOR MUSCLE GROWTH – PhD Diet Whey

BEST FOR DEFINITION – USN Diet Fuel Ultra Lean 

All of this sounds about right to the untrained eye. A lean whey for definition – great. I want to get lean so I must need a lean whey.It also makes sense that I’d need a different product if I want to build strength vs muscle growth, right?

WRONG!

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re being conned. And charged a premium to boot.

Feel free to read below to find out more, but the simple takeaway here is that you don’t need a different type of whey for each. A quality, pure whey protein powder, with a high proportion of naturally occurring amino acids and a simple ingredients list, will do the job of helping you build muscle mass (lean or large!) and increase muscle strength.

The main difference between achieving each goal is your dietary energy requirements (calories) and your training plan.

For those that want the nitty, gritty truth, we continue on…

 

Why are consumers being conned?

The objective of this blog is to give you an understanding of what you need to build lean muscle and/or increase muscle strength or size. The answer is quite an easy one – a balanced diet with enough protein + a specific training plan. Not a cornucopia of different types of whey for each goal.

“This green tea extract will help you lose weight!”, “Gain muscles overnight” and “Sprout wings and fly” are all roughly on the same level of nonsense. Ever paid £20 for a tub of cookie dough flavoured protein, ladled it happily into your shaker (it’s a health powder after all!) and still not seen that muscle build? That fat melt away? That lean, smokin’ look you were after not reflect back in the mirror?

 

Let’s take a look into the details…

Here is a list of ingredients and a bit more about why these brands won in each category:

BEST FOR STRENGTH – ON Gold Standard Whey

Ingredients  - Protein Blend (Whey Protein (milk) Isolates [contains Emulsifier: Soy Lecithin], Whey Protein Concentrate (milk), Whey Peptides (milk)), Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder, Flavourings, Sweeteners (Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose), Enzyme Complex (Amylase, Protease, Cellulase, Beta-D-Galactosidase, Lipase).

Reason for winning– “mix of whey isolates”. Excellent! They’ve got one right. Whey Isolate will help increase strength (ONLY when coupled with a regular strength building training plan). It will also help increase muscle size and help you build lean muscle so there’s no reason why this whey specifically builds strength. The macro’s aren’t the best and it’s a mix of Isolates with the higher fat and sugar Whey Concentrate included. So they’ve tricked you into thinking this is an Isolate but it’s not!  

My thoughts on choice of winner – The health food store that owns this brand make a fat margin on selling a lot of this stuff, so it seems quite bias in pushing it over competing brands. It’s the best-selling whey, but there are much more effective whey powders on the market. Look for the highest amino acid (AA) profile of the essential AA’s your body needs. WHEYD, for example, has 18% more BCAAs than this powder.

 

BEST FOR MUSCLE GROWTH– PhD Diet Whey

Ingredients - PhD Lean Body Slow Release Protein Blend (Whey Protein Concentrate (Milk)(27%), Milk Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate), Enduragrain(TM) Long Chain Waxy Barley Starch, Golden Brown Flaxseed Powder, Dietary Fibres (Acacia Gum, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Flavouring, CLA Powder (contains milk protein, Lecithin, Vitamin E anti-oxidants), Citric Acid, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Natural Colour:- Beetroot Red, Green Tea Extract, Sodium Chloride, Sweetener:- Sucralose.

Reason for winning: No info at all as to why this helps specifically with growth. “Top-notch macros” is the best the article can muster.

It does however have a magical potion of “green-tea extract” which “helps you stay lean”… Research has shown that green tea can have a minimal impact on metabolism if you have around 8-10 of these shakes a day. So this brand is massively conning people into thinking an extract in a 25g whey serving will help them to stay lean. Oh the enchanted powers of Marketing…

My thoughts on the choice of the winner: Absolutely no clue why this one won. It just echoes my earlier thoughts & highlights the exact reason that I started WHEYD – because I was fed up with being conned – paying good money for substandard products. My advice – just ensure your protein macros are around 2g per KG of bodyweight and that you’re taking it from a good source.

 

BEST FOR DEFINITION – USN Diet Fuel Ultra Lean

Ingredients - Whey protein concentrate (46%)(Milk), Maltodextrin, Soya protein isolate, Cocoa powder (only in chocolate flavour), HI-MAIZE® Resistant starch, Calcium caseinate (Milk), Freeze dried coffee (only in Caffè Latte flavour), Fructose, Vegetable oil (sunflower), Inulin, Milk protein isolate (92% micellar casein), Tri-potassium citrate, Garcinia cambogia fruit rind, Micronised Milk mineral complex, Rice starch, Colour [Red beet powder (only in strawberry flavour), Beta-carotene (only in banana flavour)], Flavouring (excl. Caffè Latte flavour), Stabilisers (Guar & Xanthan gum), Magnesium oxide, Sweetener (Sucralose), Ascorbic acid, Ferrous fumarate, D-Alpha-tocopheryl acetate, Zinc citrate, Nicotinamide, Manganese ascorbate, Tolerase™ L (pH-stable lactase), Copper bisglycinate, D-Calcium pantothenate, Retinyl palmitate, Cyanocobalamin, Biotin, Cholecalcipherol, Pyridoxine HCl, Riboflavin, Thiamin HCl, Chromium picolinate, Potassium iodate, Folic acid, Sodium selenate.

Read all of those? Easy to understand… right?

Reason for winning: “Mix of protein (whey, casein, soy and egg)” and super-fat burning amino-acid L-carnatine…. (Same as the above – it’s not going to affect your metabolism enough to “burn fat”! Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. Simple.)

Protein has a higher effect on thermogenesis compared to Fats and Carbs – basically meaning that your body requires more energy to break it down. More energy means you’re burning more calories – this is the reason why whey brands (and potentially rightfully so) state that a whey protein supplement can help aid with weight-loss. That makes sense. Adding in all of the other gimmicky ingredients does not.

My thoughts on the choice of the winner. I’ll try to go easy on USN here. The chocolate flavouring makes it a bit more “McDonalds milkshake”, so it feels like a bit of a treat. However, the “lean” name is a joke if you look at the macros – 200 calories per shake certainly won’t get you lean compared to an 85 calorie shake. It’s only won because it says not only “diet” but also “ultra-lean”. Also, shame on the magazine – there are much better whey powders out there with 0g of carbs, fat and sugar + lower calories. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the judging room…

 

Final thoughts

It would be refreshing to see a health magazine, health food store or even a panel of nutrition experts just pick ONE product as the winner of all 3, as opposed to different brands all doing the same thing and winning because they’re falsely named for different goals. But hey, that wouldn’t fill a magazine page!

If you’re going to copy and paste anything to send to your favourite WhatsApp group from this blog it’s that:

Do you want strength, muscle growth or definition? A simple, pure whey protein powder with a high proportion of naturally occurring amino acids and a simple ingredients lists with no deceptive ingredients will do the job of helping you build muscle mass (lean or large!) and increase muscle strength. Mix this with tailored training and job’s a good’un.

 

One of the main reasons I launched WHEYD was to offer an honest product and give people not only more information about what’s in it and where it’s sourced, but the benefits and outcomes of using it alongside a healthy diet. So respect your body and buy the right product – it’s much simpler than you’re led to believe!

And a final one – below are the ingredients for our Natural Whey.

Ingredients – Hydrolysed whey protein isolate (Milk), Emulsifier: (Sunflower Lecithin).

Our simple, top quality formula is why Wimbledon stocked us in the player’s café this year, why we’re in Antony Joshua’s gym and why a Premier League football teams are taking WHEYD.

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