The Protein Spiking Scam

The Protein Spiking Scam

September 25, 2013 1 Comment

Whey protein is expensive. We knew that already. Whey protein concentrate is the cheapest form of that you'll see on the supplement market, followed by isolate (considerably more expensive), topped off by whey protein hydrolysate (the most expensive whey protein). It gets even more expensive when you start talking about grass-fed, Non-GMO, free-range whey. Most companies who offer grass-fed, Non-GMO, free-range whey wouldn't dare offer it in a hydrolysate form; the profit margins aren't high enough. 3FU3L Erin Cafaro CrossFit Costa MesaWe're different at 3Fu3l.

We made a product for us (the owners) to use and to use with our athletes. But there's a lot of ways other companies are cutting corners and putting out a "whey" product that isn't what it seems. What they're doing is adding cheap amino acids in order to boost the protein content. Within the supplement industry, this is known as protein spiking.

Here's how it works: Let's say you have a 1kg tub of whey protein. Imagine that this product cost $12 to produce, with the majority of that cost coming from the whey protein itself (let's assume $10 went to the whey and the rest went to the bottle and the label and all that jazz). The total protein for labeling purposes is based on the total nitrogen content. So the whey protein costs $10, but creatine costs about half that amount, while taurine and glycine (the cheapest wholesale amino) are even cheaper.

Think about it: why in the world would you randomly add glycine to a whey protein powder? Why would it be the most prevalent ingredient, after the actual whey itself, in half of the products on the market? Google "whey protein + glycine" and you'll see exactly what we're talking about here. Have you ever read an article about the awesome performance enhancing qualities of glycine? Or have you ever seen an article that references glycine as a muscle-builder of fat-burner? Never. That's because for our purposes, it's not very important. It's not a Branched Chain Amino Acid, or even an Essential Amino Acid. Glycine is a non-essential amino that our bodies can make on their own.

So why is it often the #1 ingredient found in whey protein powder, after the whey protein itself? Because it's cheap and it makes the product look like it's 23 grams (or whatever) of whey protein when it's really 18 grams plus five grams of a worthless amino. This makes the product less effective while it drives up the profit of the company selling it. Each of these amino acids are substantially less expensive than whey protein and they can be used to increase the total protein content of the product for labeling purposes. Plus, they're flavorless, so adding them can actually help with making the product taste better (whey isolates and hydrolysates don't taste too great on their own).

So instead of that tub of protein costing $12 to make, some manufacturers replace 25% (or whatever) of the whey with an amino that costs half as much. This brings the total production cost down below $10, and that's how sausages are made, kiddies. The worst part is that some manufacturers won't disclose what they're doing, and instead choose to exploit a loophole in FDA labeling regulations. So when that tub of whey protein says "added aminos" or "added whey peptides," or some nebulous term that isn't well-defined, you can't be sure if you're getting high quality BCAAs or cheap filler aminos. 


1 Response

Yasmen Mehta
Yasmen Mehta

May 31, 2017

Thanks so much for clarifying the labels. It’s so confusing to athletes who want the best for their bodies and go cock eyed trying to figure out whats best. Keep up the snooping!

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