SUMMARY: Nutrition Scam was started by a team of science focused enthusiasts who looked at a sports nutrition supplement label and had no clue what any of the trademarked ingredients really were. Are they safe? Would they cause allergic reactions? Is there any science at all substantiating their claims? Nutrition Scam was started to help answer those questions, provide opinion and to shine a light on the opaque world of sports nutrition branded ingredients.
What is Nutrition Scam?
Nutrition Scam was started by a team of science focused enthusiasts who went to GNC one day, picked up a bottle of C4 Dynasty by Cellucor and noticed that it proudly boasts a formula which contains “10 patented ingredients”. However, we noticed the label never actually explained what any of these ingredients really contained or why we would want them. We had absolutely no clue what any of the branded ingredients on a label really were since they hid behind fancy and official sounding trademarks. What is elevATP or any of the other laundry list of ingredients? Is it safe? Is it healthy for older people to take? Would I be allergic to it? Is there any evidence at all that it actually works or provides the claims it does? What do peoples opinions of this ingredient? We started Nutrition Scam to help answer these questions and push for more transparency and substantiation in sports nutrition ingredients. The fact that such a blog needs to be written does not mean we are the right people to write it. It was obvious that we would have to immerse ourselves in many new literatures, and there was always a chance we would miss something. It took us a while to convince ourselves it was even worth trying. We eventually decided to take the plunge, partly because we got tired of watching at a distance while the public conversation about sports nutrition goes more and more off-kilter.
Only Use Public Information
We believe supplement ingredients should be transparent. To support this, we will only review, rate and give an opinion on supplement ingredients based on their publicly available information. We consider this to be published studies on PubMed or a pre-pub. We also consider this to be any information a consumer could reasonably find on Google. We will NEVER sign a non-disclosure agreement or NDA to get access to information. We will not use information locked behind a paywall or paid source. If an ingredient brand is proactive and wants to provide us with studies or information we may have overlooked, we will only use what we can publicly disclose to our readers. We fundamentally believe science should not be locked behind a paywall or non-disclosure agreement.
A Mission to Push for Transparency
Consumers have the right to know what a trademark actually means and what science is behind that. Supplements are consumed by children, adults and the elderly. We believe they should be transparent with their ingredients and claims. We want to highlight both good science as well as publicly draw as much attention as we can to bad or lacking science that is use to make wild claims backed by little to no public information. Our mission is to hopefully encourage ingredient manufacturers to be more transparent in the science, or lack thereof, backing their claims so consumers can make more informed decisions and come to their own conclusion on if a claim is valid and substantiated.
We will put easy to access social media sharing buttons on every review. If we find a scam ingredient that is lacking or not delivering value, we ask that you tweet, post, and share at the sports nutrition brand using the ingredient to draw their attention to this. We hope enough people believe in our mission that we can get sports nutrition brands to only use scientifically validated ingredients and to stop trying to “pull one over” on consumers by using a fancy trademark with no substance.
Our Rating Scale
Our goal is to break down complex scientific information in an easy to digest format. In addition to a long form, deep dive we want to provide a summary and an easy to see rating scale with color codes and logos. We will also be providing a “wall of fame/shame” where you can get a quick overview of all the ingredients we have reviewed and where they fall on our rating scale. As the courts in the famous Gizmodo lawsuit concluded: “’scam’ means different things to different people and is used to describe a wide range of conduct;” so we are trying to help define what we mean and how our scale operates:
Our scale currently has three levels:
Scam (Avoid) - These are ingredients that might provide little to no clinical substantiation of their claims. They might have no safety data. They might be used by brands in a intentionally and consciously misleading way towards consumers. They could be used by brands not as the ingredient manufacturer intended or under-dosed. We believe these ingredients should be avoided until more is publicly known or more science is the public.
Not A Scam (Buy This) – This is the gold standard. Ingredients in this category have robust human clinical studies demonstrating their value and substantiating their claims. They are transparent with what their ingredient is so consumers can make an informed decision on if they will have an allergic reaction or if there are health and safety concerns. These should be the ingredients sports nutrition brands clamor to use and hopefully by drawing attention to them, we can increase their usage and avoid the propagation of scam ingredients.
Partial Scam (Serious Concerns) – This is for ingredients that in our opinion are severely lacking and have not justified their cost. They might not have public information available or enough studies to warrant their conclusions. They might be from companies that require an NDA to view their science and clinical studies, which we will always consider to be a red flag. With the advent of free pre-pub servers to publish information, there is simply no excuse not to be transparent with research and science. This category also contains generic or commoditized ingredients that a company simply decided to take, trademark and invent a brand to make them sound fancier or more impressive. In our opinion, if your only innovation is a cool sounding name for your ingredient, we want to highlight this and make sure consumers know they would get the same benefit at a cheaper price with a generic alternative.
We pledge to always have a website that is mobile first, fast and responsive so it is easy to navigate on your phone. We want our site to be easy to use so it is designed to be ideal as you are browsing the shelf at GNC or Walmart on you iPhone. We have been in your shoes, trying to navigate Wikipedia or PubMed in the aisle of a store with only your phone quickly trying to decipher what is really in the products you are buying. Each deep dive will offer a brief summary on top to quickly give you a high-level overview of the ingredient we are investigating so you can quickly get up to speed on where it stands. If you want more information, we will provide a deep analysis of the ingredient highlighting its benefits as well as any concerns we might have. In order to optimize for mobile, we will also never use ads which needlessly use up your mobile data and track you across the web. Knowledge and science should be free and we won't charge you for our opinions.
Non Profit and No Ads or Referral Links…Ever
When we first started looking into branded ingredients, we quickly realized that nearly every review on google was done by a major site who also ran ads by the company making the product. In some cases, like with bodybuilding.com, they would write a highly favorable review claiming to be independent while simultaneously selling the exact product they were reviewing. Below you can see the Muscle & Fitness article on Nitrosigine. This puff piece solely highlights positive facts about the ingredient and simultaneously, next to the article, runs ads with referral links promoting the very ingredient its reviewing. This logically makes sense at a high level, the only people advertising on a nutrition website would be sports nutrition companies. However, this introduces a fundamental conflict of interest, where the reviewer cant “bite the hand that fees them”. How can a reviewer be objective if his livelihood depends on “independently” reviewing an ingredient made by the person who is also paying for his salary by way of advertising?
We pledge to NEVER use any advertising whatsoever. We will always give you our honest opinion in our review backed by as much facts and science as we can publicly find, no matter how difficult it can be to find science for some ingredients. We do this since we have a passion for the gym, working out and supplements. We selfishly want to find the best sports nutrition ingredients to use ourselves and hope our research will help others make more informed and educated decisions. As part of our commitment to this, we are in the process of registering as a nonprofit.
We will be investigating both product lines by popular companies that make branded ingredients as well as popular categories of branded ingredients. Some examples of the areas we will be investigating and some potential future reviews are listed below.
We will monitor industry websites like Stack3d and NutraIngredients for new ingredient launches. We will prioritize new ingredients and try to review them as fast as we can, our first review will be the newest ingredient highlighted on Stack3d, nooLVL by Nutrition 21. When we have capacity, we will then work though the backlog. Our hope is to have a thoroughly researched and in-depth review for every major branded ingredient we can find. We also want to do “themes”, for example reviewing 5 pre-workout branded ingredients in a row or having a quarter where we just focus on protein enhancers like ProHydrolase.
Nitrition 21 - which makes popular ingredients like Velositol, Nitrosigine, Zinmax, Chromax and nooLVL.
Compound Solutions – which makes ingredients like TeaCrine, Dynamine, goBHB, PeakO2, Amino9, InstAminos, Carb10, goCOCOA, goFAT, goMCT, eOils and Clean Cream
Deerland Enzymes – which makes ingredients like ProHydrolase, DE111, PreforPro, Glutalytic, Dairylytic, Solarplast, BioCore and ThioZymeyd
Protein Enhancers – like ProHydrolase, Velositol, BC30 and Aminogen
Pre-Workout / Energy - like CarnoSyn, NitraMax, Con-Cre, NO3-T, Vasodrive, PeakATP, elevATP, AlphaSize, Astragin