About 2 years ago, there was a supplement industry uproar involving nitrogen spiking in protein supplements. Believe it or not, many supplement companies trying to save a buck began adding cheap amino acids like glycine and taurine to their protein products in an attempt to save money while still being able to label the product with the same amount of protein.
Here’s is what you need to know about nitrogen spiking:
Nitrogen Spiking 101:
Nitrogen Spiking is a term used to describe a process used in the making of protein powders where manufacturers are able to include less total protein in their supplement, but still label the product as containing a higher amount of protein than is actually in the supplement. The measurement of protein in a product is taken through nitrogen testing the ingredient mix which represents the amount of total protein. Because groups of amino acids are bound by nitrogen, this is considered a very good predictor of protein in a given supplement.
In an ideal scenario a marketed protein powder would contain between 25-30 grams of protein per serving. What makes good protein powder so unique is that it provides a complete source of amino acids that the body cannot generate on its own much like chicken, beef or eggs can offer us. These amino acids are responsible for muscle protein synthesis which is every meatheads main concern.
Unfortunately for supplement manufacturers, making a protein powder with complete protein is extremely expensive so they found a cheaper, sneakier way. Through nitrogen spiking, companies are able to purchase cheap amino acids like taurine, creatine and glycine to add to their supplements that are not complete amino acids on their own, but add to the overall nitrogen content of the product. This gives a false representation of the actual amount of complete protein the supplement contains;however, the manufacturer can still count this toward the overall protein content.
For example, a product may advertise having 30 grams of protein per serving but it may only have 15 grams of complete protein with the other 15 grams being a combination of cheap amino acids that won’t contribute to muscle protein synthesis.
While the impact of nitrogen spiking is not a huge concern in Canada due to the third party testing required, the United States along with other countries have much different regulations and do not always require third party testing on nutritional supplements. For those ordering supplements off of online platforms outside of Canada, we’re about to teach what to look out for!
What To Look Out For:
This infographic below demonstrates exactly what you need to look out for. When you are searching for a protein powder, make sure to background check the ingredient list to scan for added amino acids that add to overall protein content – but are not complete proteins.
What To Look For:
Notice how in this ingredient list that there are no added amino acids to the proteins included in the product. This also happens to be a Canadian product that is under heavier regulation than the American product shown above. Also notice that this product has undergone third party testing and banned substance testing to ensure its quality.
Final Thoughts On Nitrogen Spiking
Though there are many great companies producing excellent protein powder products on the market, there are just as many companies sacrificing integrity to sell you a product that they can turn a larger profit on. Despite many lawsuits being launched into action against a multitude of supplement companies, many have not been caught and are still selling you nitrogen spiked protein and profiting.
Choose wisely and look for third party tested supplements to ensure that your product is what you are paying for.
Take Home Points:
- Yes, nitrogen spiking is still happening and is not always, but more likely in products from the United States and other countries due to laxity in regulations.
- Look for added amino acids in the ingredients list like those shown above.
- Good protein products are third party certified.