How to Choose a Quality Supplement Brand
Our customers know Supplement Superstore as a one-stop supplement shop where they can find anything from multivitamins to pre-workout to protein supplements, all from trusted, no-bull brands. You might be wondering how to check out supplement brands for yourself and determine if you can believe what their labels say or not. After all, whey protein and other supplements are not a well-regulated product, and when it comes to what you’re putting in your body, you need to be careful. When choosing a supplement brand, consider the following information.
Check That the Supplement Brand Has a Natural Product Number
If you live in Canada, one great place to begin is to see if the supplement company where you’re buying your pre-workout or protein supplement has a Natural Product Number. An NPN is an eight-digit number that lets you know the product holds a license with Health Canada and is deemed high quality, effective, and most importantly, safe. To be sold legally in Canada, supplements like BCAAs and more must have an NPN.
However, ConsumerLab reported that Health Canada does not typically test products like protein supplements and whey protein, nor do they inspect manufacturing facilities. Instead, Health Canada accepts test results from the manufacturer.
These results could come from:
- The manufacturer, in-house
- A third-party laboratory
For these reasons, your research should go a bit farther.
Does the Supplement Brand Have Independent Research?
Because of the inadequate regulations on dietary and sports supplements, brands can make any outrageous claim they want and put it on the label. So if your whey protein says, “drinking this shake once a day will help you lose ten pounds in one week!” That claim could be, and most likely is, completely unfounded.
To make matters more complicated, even if the label has the words “verified,” or “approved,” those words are virtually meaningless unless a third-party emblem accompanies them. Look for companies like ConsumerLab, the Banned Substance Control Group, Informed Choice, NSF International, etcetera. These third-party laboratories often list approved brands and supplements on their websites.
Now, it’s important to realize that just because your protein supplement has an NPN and a third-party lab evaluates it, this information does nothing to warn you of potential side-effects or proper dosage of the ingredients, so your research should continue.
What is the Dosage of the Active Ingredients?
You need to determine an appropriate dosage for the desired effect and make sure that the dosing on your pre-workout or whey protein is safe. For example, you should not take more than 400mg of caffeine in a single serving, and no more than 200 mg a day, if you happen to be pregnant.
To be on the safe side, research each ingredient and dosage suggestions, or talk to your doctor or a dietician.
Good Manufacturing Practices for Supplements
In Canada, any facility involved in creating and distributing drugs, or sports supplements like whey protein, must have a Drug Establishment License for Good Manufacturing Practices. This includes facilities that:
Good Manufacturing Practices, or GMP, are guidelines put into place by Health Canada and serve to keep consumers safe and make sure these facilities comply with regulations regarding:
- The premises
- Equipment used
- Personnel employed
- Raw material testing
- Control of manufacturing
- Quality control
- Packaging testing
- Finished product testing
- Records kept
- Sterile products
While every entity involved in the creation of your protein supplements and BCAAs should be GMP certified, you should do a little bit of digging to make sure that’s the case. Some companies cut corners and do the bare minimum to ensure that their supplements and facilities are licensed. Others go above and beyond to ensure that their products' quality doesn't waver throughout the process.
You can get some idea about a supplement company’s dedication to good manufacturing practices but checking out the brand’s “about” page on their website. When companies make a mention of their GMP license, that’s great. However, take PEScience, for example. PEScience lays out an outline of the steps they take to comply with GMP guidelines. The more detail mentioned when a brand discusses GMP, the more value they place on it, which indicates their values and compliance.
Other Things to Consider when Choosing a Supplement
We’ve discussed the essentials when selecting a supplement brand to purchase your protein supplements and BCAAs. Making sure your pre-workout abides by all of the above helps to ensure you are getting what the company advertises, free from contamination, in an appropriate dose for your desired goals. Next, let's talk about things that are not legally required, nor are they necessarily dangerous, but that helps to ensure your supplements' quality even more.
Added Sugars and Artificial Flavouring and Colours
You should avoid more than a few grams of added sugar in your supplements as excess sugar in one’s diet can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Fatty liver disease
- Heart attack
Checking the nutrition label on your whey protein and other supplements for grams of sugar is the first step, but you should also check the ingredient list for ingredients ending in the letters “-ose.” Glucose, maltose, dextrose, etcetera, are all chemical names for sugar. Other ingredients to look for are cane juice, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, fruit nectars, honey, etcetera.
There is a correlation between the consumption of artificial colouring with a wide array of side effects, especially in young children, so it’s best to avoid these and all artificial colouring:
- Blue No. 1
- Blue No. 2
- Green No. 3
- Red No. 3
- Red No. 40
- Yellow No. 5
- Yellow No. 6
Check for Fillers in Supplements
BCAAs, pre-workouts, whey protein, and other supplements frequently include fillers, binders, and bulking agents. Sometimes a small amount of filler is necessary for the formula, and other times they’re completely unnecessary and used to cheat you in one way or another.
Companies use fillers to:
Reduce the cost of manufacturing
Many companies use small amounts of the desired ingredient and fill the rest of their containers with random, cheaper ingredients to lower their price. Be very wary of the cheapest protein supplement you can find.
Stabilization of the formula
Sometimes additives are used in whey protein, pre-workouts, and other supplements to achieve the desired consistency and reduce clumping or separating.
We measure active ingredients in your BCAAs and greens in micrograms. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram, which is a teeny tiny amount. Bulking agents are used to complete the formula, and sometimes make it seem as though you are getting more than you are in reality.
These ingredients are frequently used as low-quality fillers in whey protein and other supplements and are the worst and potentially dangerous ingredients.
Hydrogenated Oils - One primary filler in the supplement industry is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy is often a highly genetically modified ingredient, but besides that, trans fats like hydrogenated oils are terrible for your heart health.
Talc (Magnesium Silicate) - Used for its cheap anti-caking properties, talc can cause lung problems when inhaled, and frequently contains asbestos from the mining process. Consuming talc is linked to stomach cancers, and more.
Titanium Dioxide - This filler colours BCAAs and other supplements, as well as cosmetics. The use of titanium dioxide causes lung damage, immune system and DNA damage, kidney damage, and digestive tract inflammation.
Silicon Dioxide - Another anti-caking agent, commonly found in whey proteins, can pass through the digestive tract without interacting with active ingredients. There is ongoing research on whether silicon dioxide can cross the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a membrane that ultimately protects the brain from harmful substances, but some dangerous substances can slip through.
Other fillers to look out for:
- Microcrystalline cellulose
- Stearic acid
- Propylene glycol
It's best to skip a supplement with one of these fillers, if at all possible. Ask yourself what good is a protein supplement or a pre-workout that helps you achieve a better workout when it could be wreaking havoc on your health in other ways.
Expiration Dates of Supplements
Like foods, whey protein and other supplements can lose potency with age or go bad altogether. You should check the expiration dates and the manufacturing dates, if applicable, to ensure you’re not consuming expired products.
Supplement companies of integrity use local agriculture and sustainable harvesting to avoid harming the environment more than is necessary. You might also be interested in knowing if your preferred brand of whey protein and pre-workout gives back to the community in any way, if they treat their employees well, and if they care about their environmental impact.
Take, for example, Vega. Vega is a vegan brand that supplies everything from protein supplements to pre-workout. Their “Our Story” page dedicates entire pages to explaining their sustainability and how they give back.
How to Determine if You Should Take a Supplement
If you’re having second thoughts about using your protein supplement now that you’ve read all of this information, don’t be. Choosing a supplement brand that cares about its products' quality takes a bit of effort, but it's not that hard. Now you know what to look for in quality brands. Once you’ve found a brand, you can buy all your supplements from the same brand, or you can get more comfortable looking into the quality of brands before you purchase.
Now let’s talk about when to add a supplement to your stack. If you’re considering adding a pre-workout or BCAAs to your supplement stack and wondering if it’s necessary for you, here are some things to ask yourself.
How to Determine if You Should Use BCAAs
What do BCAAs do?
BCAAs are branch-chain essential amino acids. Of the essential amino acids, BCAAs are the only three that bypass the liver and go directly to the muscle. These BCAAs help prevent muscle breakdown from your workout, encourage new muscle growth, and aid in recovery.
Do I get BCAAs in my diet?
BCAAs occur naturally in foods like:
- Milk proteins like whey protein and casein
- Soy proteins
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
If you consume adequate protein through your diet and whey protein, it’s unlikely that you need extra BCAAs. BCAAs are most helpful for people that struggle to hit their protein goals for their bodyweight.
For athletes, many people, particularly women, do struggle to meet protein goals regularly and therefore benefit from adding a BCAA supplement.
Are BCAA supplements effective?
Lastly, when determining if you should add a new supplement, look into research that indicates that a supplement is effective. In this case, while no evidence indicates BCAA supplements are superior to consuming BCAAs through diet, the addition of a BCAA supplement will help you achieve your fitness goals if you do not consume adequate BCAAs in your diet alone.
How to Determine if You Should Use Pre-Workout
What does pre-workout do?
In general, pre-workout supplements provide you with a boost of energy to begin your workout. Some pre-workout formulas include ingredients that increase strength, endurance, and performance. Ingredients that increase focus are often used in pre-workouts as well.
Can I get a pre-workout effect from my diet?
Unlike BCAAs or protein supplements, you can’t duplicate pre-workout effects with diet alone. Sure, you could chug a cup of coffee before your workout to get some energy, but all the added benefits of a pre-workout from varying ingredients are difficult to consume by other means before a workout.
Are pre-workout supplements effective?
Pre-workouts are trickier than determining whether to add BCAAs or protein supplements because pre-workout formulas differ by supplement brands and blends. Pre-workouts could include stimulants to increase energy, or they could be stimulant-free. Pre-workouts might include ingredients that increase muscle strength and endurance, and more.
Look into the active ingredients of the pre-workout you’re considering. First, make sure the formula doesn’t contain something you know you’re sensitive to, such as caffeine.
Next, look into the claims about using the active ingredients for the desired effects in a pre-workout. You will find that many pre-workouts contain ingredients in which the science indicates they don’t deliver the desired results.
Once you’ve determined your pre-workout ingredients are effective, go ahead and give it a try and see how it affects your body and your workout. Pre-workouts are a supplement that might be worth trying different brands and formulas.
Are pre-workout supplements necessary?
Unless you have a medical condition, most supplements are not, by definition, “necessary.” We use supplements to improve performance or bridge nutritional gaps. Pre-workouts are not necessary for a good workout, and you can undoubtedly have an excellent workout without their addition. However, many people enjoy the addition of a pre-workout. The use of this supplement comes down to personal preference.
How to Determine if You Should Use a Protein Supplement
What does a protein supplement do?
Protein supplements provide your body with an extra serving of protein to help you meet nutritional goals to build muscle.
There are many varieties of protein supplements, including:
- Whey protein
- Casein protein
- Egg protein
- Plant-based protein
Protein supplements often have minimal carbs, fat, or added sugars and effectively increase your protein consumption without increasing many other factors.
Can I get a protein supplement effect from my diet?
You certainly can! If you can consume whole foods to meet your protein goal without using a protein supplement like whey protein, that is the ideal situation.
Are protein supplements effective?
If you struggle to meet your protein requirements through diet alone, the addition of a protein supplement such as whey protein is highly effective.
Choose a protein supplement that suits your diet and sensitivities; there are many options from which to choose.
Talk to a Dietician
In the end, if you’re still having trouble determining whether or not you should add whey protein to your supplement stack, or any other supplement, talk to a registered dietician. Dieticians are experts in nutrition and can advise you on getting your desired results from food and supplements like whey protein and more.
Supplement Superstore offers various supplements from whey protein to BCAAs, all from the most trusted brands. We have superior customer service and have a passion for helping our customers meet their goals. If you have questions regarding whey protein or any other supplement, check out our blog or contact us here.