More than likely if you’re reading this, you have bought and used protein powder before. And when it comes to supplements, protein powder is right up there with the ever-popular multivitamins, fish oil capsules, and creatine. When it comes to convenience, nothing beats a good protein shake: it’s cheap, tasty, high in protein, and low in things that aren’t protein. It is especially useful for those of us who are training regularly and need to consume more than our body weight in grams of protein a day, as well as little to no carbs. But things are changing behind the scenes.
What is Amino Spiking?
Also known as “protein spiking” or “nitrogen spiking,” amino spiking is when a manufacturer adds cheap filler ingredients to the protein, like maltodextrin and less important amino acids like glycine and taurine. Similar to the air in a potato bag, amino spiking allows for the manufacturer to claim you’re getting more protein per serving than the truth, meaning those 25 grams of protein could be 20 grams or less.
How is Amino Spiking allowed?
Amino spiking is rather deceptive. When a company wants to test the protein content of powder, they need to send it to a Nitrogen Content Test (NCT). Since protein forms a bond with nitrogen, the amount of nitrogen in a mix helps determine the amount of protein. In order to up the protein, manufacturers pump the mix full of free form amino acids, like glycine and taurine, which also show up as protein in the test.
How do I know if my current protein powder is Amino Spiked?
With small companies and larger more seemingly trustworthy companies guilty of amino spiking it’s important to stay vigilant when buying a new protein powder or even taking a second look at your current protein powder. The first place to look is in the ingredients list, which usually lists a type of “protein blend”, whether it be from whey, casein, beef, egg, etc. Keep looking and try to spot individual low-grade amino acids added to the product, and the higher they are on the ingredient list, the more prevalent they are. Most don’t even go this far before buying a product, which is why they more often than not can sell a low-grade powder.
If you can’t find any there, look for a list of all the amino acids in the product on a separate box or below the macronutrient profile. First, it will list high-quality amino acids like Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine with the amount per scoop. Keep looking for Taurine, Glutamine, Arginine, and all the other low-quality amino acids. If they are listed in a greater amount than the essential amino acids, you know they are cutting corners.
Other ways to figure out if your protein powder is amino spiked include:
- Price –if the protein powder you bought was significantly cheaper than other protein powders of the same size, then it’s likely amino spiked.
- Ingredients –if glycine and taurine are listed in the ingredients, it’s been spiked.
- Creatine –if the powder doesn’t list the amount of creatine in grams but puts it high in the ingredient list, the powder may be creatine spiked.
- Proprietary Blend –if you see the term “proprietary blend” on the label but the actual amino acid blend isn’t disclosed, you can suspect amino spiking.
How to find the best supplement?
With the increasing prices of high-quality ingredients, companies who continue to have low prices should be looked at with more scrutiny. The internet is always a wealth of knowledge (if you know how to find it) when it comes to professional reviews of certain products, as well as third party tests. A very trustworthy company known as Labdoor buys supplements like anybody else would (in a store or on a website) and test them for quality, heavy metals, the price per serving, watch list ingredients as well as amino spiking unbiasedly. Check out Labdoor’s review of over 70 protein products, and can then come to your own conclusion about what is best to use.