In an effort to cut manufacturing costs, some protein powder makers are adding cheaper, non-protein ingredients in place of protein, such as amino acids
Amino acids are the filler of choice because they boost the powder’s nitrogen content, which, in turn, fools a popularly used protein content test into providing results that make it seem as if the product has a higher protein concentration that it does. The scam goes by a number of names, including “protein spiking,” “nitrogen spiking,” protein powder spiking,” and “amino spiking.”
Regardless of the name, the spiking causes consumers to pay for an inferior product that does not contain the full percentage of actual, quality protein that they are promised. In other words, scammers are dumping high amounts of the least expensive, least valuable amino acids into a protein powder to save money and trick consumers into believing that they are paying for true protein when they are not.
Typically, protein powder labels include the total protein gram amount. This amount is based on the total nitrogen content. Isolated amino acids, which are not a true protein, contribute to this total protein amount, which means that full supporting muscle protein synthesis may not occur.
Some of the companies that are known to be protein spiking, and some of the amino acids used, include:
- Body Fortress: Glycine, creatine, and taurine
- ProSupps: Glycine and taurine
- MusclePharm Arnold Series: Glycine and taurine
- 4 Dimension Nutrition: Creatine
- Designer Whey: Taurine
- Mutant Nutrition: Taurine and glycine
- Gaspari Nutrition: Glycine
- Giant Sports Nutrition: Taurine and creatine
- Infinite LabsL: Glycine and taurine
- Beast Sports Nutrition
If the protein powder you are using contains arginine, creatine, glycine, and/or taurine, you may have purchased, or consumed, a low-grade amino acid product and not a true protein powder. True protein powders should contain whey concentrate, isolate, or a combination of these two items. Other proteins, such as egg or casein (milk protein) may also be listed. In some cases, manufacturers have created names to hide the fact that a so-called protein powder is an inferior product. These include “NOS Complex,” which is a combination of l-arginine and l-taurine, or “Muscle Recovery Matrix, which is a combination of creatine and l-glycine, for example.
While some amino acids do offer benefits, they should not be considered in the protein grams of a product, notes General Nutrition Center (GNC).