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Lab: Workout supplements short on creatine, BCAAs

Jan. 16, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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How’s that “muscle enhancement” supplement working out for you? Not seeing the kind of gains you had hoped for?

It could be that the concoction you’re drinking faithfully every day has only trace amounts of the stuff believed to help build strength and muscle mass.

The supplement experts at ConsumerLab.com just released their latest tests on two of the most popular types of workout boosters, creatine and branched-chain amino acid products, or BCAA.

Of the 19 products tested, four failed quality testing altogether, while others were dinged for vague labeling and inflated prices, according to the New York-based independent watchdog group.

“The risk here is being ripped off and not getting the benefit you hoped for because the product didn’t provide the ingredient you expected,” ConsumerLab.com president Dr. Tod Cooperman tells OFFduty.

On the other hand, testing also revealed some real bargains.

“Among creatine products, the lowest-cost, high-quality creatine was Vitacost Creatine,” Cooperman says, with the powdered mix averaging just nine cents per 5mg of creatine monohydrate. Other brands cost as much as $1.36 for the same amount.

For BCAA products, the best deal was Ultimate Nutrition 100% Crystaline BCAA 12,000, which averaged 31 cents per 5mg of BCAAs.

Creatine is an amino acid naturally produced by the body and a key component of muscle tissue. Endorsed by most military and sports nutritionists for those trying to build strength and lean body mass, creatine is a go-to supplement for many.

Dosing guidelines vary but generally start at 2 grams per day for maintenance and up to 20 grams per day for one- to two-week periods of initial loading.

BCAAs are another popular supplement because of their role in stimulating muscle production. Some credit BCAAs with reducing soreness after workouts while also improving muscle recovery.

Daily BCAA doses for athletes usually range from 1 gram to 5 grams.

“When picking a product, stick to those which clearly label the type and amount of creatine or BCAAs, and be wary of products which contain a ‘blend’ or ‘proprietary formula,’ as these can mean that other ingredients are being substituted for what you want,” Cooperman advises.

Among BCAA “blends” ConsumerLab.com looked at, for example, some products consisted mainly of other compounds.

“Keep in mind, with creatine in particular, that certain chemical forms provide less creatine than others. For example, ‘creatine AKG’ is 47.5 percent creatine, while ‘creatine monohydrate’ is 88 percent creatine.”

Among the products tested, two creatine drinks made by Muscle Marketing USA and one from VPX Sports had only trace amounts of creatine.

Take Muscle Marketing USA’s Unisex Blueberry Creatine Serum, for example. The drink’s label claims it provides 25mg of a “Proprietary Creatine Phosphate Complex” per serving. Testing, however, found that each serving only had 9.2mg of actual creatine. That’s “only 3.7 percent of the creatine expected from the same serving of creatine monohydrate,” according to the ConsumerLab.com report.

That same drink, among others, also showed signs of contaminants which, while not believed to be harmful, at the very least put an additional load on the kidneys.

Although VPX Sports did not respond to calls and emails for comment, in an emailed statement Muscle Marketing president Amir Zeibak questioned ConsumerLab.com’s methodology.

“In order for any lab to test the serum you mentioned, which has been revamped already with creatinol or phosphate and other important ingredients, we will need to supply our methodology to them to guide them through the testing process. A simple test will yield the wrong result always,” Zeibak wrote.

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