Supplement Testing for Banned Substances

Banned substance testing

You can’t guarantee your supplement is completely free from banned substances. However, choosing a supplement that has been 3rd party tested (tested for banned substances by an outside company) provides added safety. Just because a supplement passes 3rd party testing this

doesn’t mean the supplement is safe for you. A sports dietitian with experience can determine if a supplement is safe for you. They will take your medical history, medications, health status, diet, training and other factors into account. It is also a good idea to double check supplement ingredient and drug interactions with your pharmacist.

  1. No testing company tests for all substances banned by MLB or WADA (World Anti-doping agency). Check out the WADA list by clicking here.

No certification program covers all banned substances for any sporting group. Why not? None of these lists are finite – they are always changing. Almost all sporting bodies (MLB, WADA, NFL etc.) include language that drugs with ‘similar biological effect or similar chemical structure’ or ‘including but not limited to the examples below’ are banned. These means drugs not listed may be banned. MLB says the list is a ‘non-exhaustive list’.

At this time, testing companies such as NSF, BSCG, Informed Choice and Aegis Shield fall short on testing for peptide hormones on the MLB list. The digestive track breaks down these drugs (such as HGH or IGF-1) when taken orally,  rendering them useless. So they will not likely have an effect if added to a supplement and taken orally (though they will if injected). MLB would like 3rd party testing companies to add peptide hormones to their tests. NSF and BSCG test for some though not all SARMs (selectiveandrogen receptor modulators). SARMs are tissue-selective (designed to decrease the progression of sarcopenia, the slow progressive decline in muscle mass and strength that occurs with age starting when a person is in their 40s or 50s).

    1. No testing company ensures a product meets 100% of its label claim (this isn’t a FDA requirement). For instance, a supplement may say it contains 20 grams of protein. However, it may actually contain 16 grams (or less because no testing company takes amino spiking / nitrogen spiking into account).

Click on the link below for a thorough snapshot of the most popular 3rd party testing programs:

Supplement Testing Programs

How do banned substances get in supplements?

Spiking supplements with banned substances can make the product “work.” Banned substances may also contaminate a supplement during processing. As an example, let’s say a production line (bottling line) bottles pharmaceutical weight loss drugs. A dietary supplement uses the same line to bottle their products. It is important to clean the machinery thoroughly after the weight loss drug is bottled and before the supplement is bottled.

You can’t be 100% sure your supplement contains no banned substances. However, you can go the extra mile by choosing a 3rd party tested supplement.

Are you in the NFL, NHL or MLB? You must use supplements that are NSF Certified for Sport only.

1 FDA Guidance on Labeling. 
2 NSF for Sport. 
3 Informed Choice.
5 NSF 306 Guide 2016. NSF International Certification Guideline for Certified for Sport Program.
6 They spike compounds into formulas and run the formulas through analytical tests to ensure their tests will pick up banned substances within a supplement or food matrix.
7 The Aegis Shield app reviews products for banned ingredients listed on the product label. The app is not an assurance of safety as products listed on the app have not been through 3rd party testing.
8 This includes drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and other banned substance lists like the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, PGA, LPGA, CrossFit, UFC and other related programs.
9 This includes drugs that are on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List and other banned substance lists like the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, PGA, LPGA, CrossFit, UFC and other related programs.



Brand Name or Generic? What Supplement Should You Choose?

If you’ve ever spent some time in a convenience store or sports supplement shop, you may be perplexed by the array of supplements that line the store shelves. And, more often than not, you’ll find a 16 year old kid with a blank stare on his face trying to sell you whatever product makes him the most commission.
So, how do you know when you should pick a brand name or go generic? What’s the difference between the 15 different tubs of whey protein powder? Here are my three rules to standby:
1) go with a product that tastes good
2) choose supplements and products with research to back their claims
3) run from products with outrageous claims
For multivitamins, you can go cheap but your best bet is one of the multi packs (several pills a day). Why? Certain minerals are too big and bulky to fit into a multi. With 100% of the daily value for all vitamins and minerals those pills would truly be horse pills. Oh, and skip the mega multis- you don’t need 3000% of anything unless you are deficient.
With other supplements, choose brands with good, sound research behind them (look on the website or ask a dietitian or physician for tested brands). Here’s an example: I pay significantly more for a specific brand of glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate that was used in the NIH Glucosamine Arthritis Intervention Trial (GAIT) – it’s backed by research and I’ve noticed a huge difference in comparison to the other brands that I’ve tried.
With sports supplements, choose something with an effective dose. This is pretty important since some companies skimp on dose. And of course, choose a powder or bar that tastes good.
Though you don’t always need to go with a name brand per se, when it comes to sports supplements sometimes brand names mean trust, integrity and an effective dose. With multivitamins, omega 3s and other supplements, you may not recognize the brand name but still get a great product.