Supplement Testing for Banned Substances

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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.

References:
1 FDA Guidance on Labeling. 
2 NSF for Sport. 
3 Informed Choice.
4 https://www.aegisshield.com/file/4839211-certification/GQ-6.Flooid.Green-Apple.216152.pdf
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.

 

 

Effective Strategies for Weight Loss

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Last Friday I spoke at the NSCA’s Personal Trainers meeting in Las, Vegas. They put on one heck of a meeting and I love meeting NSCA members and learning from them as well as the speakers. And one thing I really liked about this meeting was the fact that several speakers challenged commonly held beliefs about nutrition and exercise. Here’s a condensed overview (not all points included) of my talk on Effective Strategies for Weight Loss:

1) Lift Weights or engage in some other type of resistance training, regularly. Muscle tissue doesn’t burn many more calories than fat (despite what people say) – about 4 calories more per day per pound. But, those calories add up over time and more importantly, adults start a gradual slow progression of losing muscle around age 40 (sarcopenia). Less muscle means you can’t exercise as hard which means you won’t burn as many calories while working out (and those activities of daily living like washing your car or lifting groceries will seem tough at some point).

2) Calories Matter. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble who thinks you can eat as much as you want as long as you slash so called “bad calories,” but calories count. If you don’t believe me, check out how nutrition professor Mark Haub lost 27 lbs and significantly improved his blood lipids on a 10-week diet of Twinkies, Doritos, sugary cereals and Hostess cupcakes. Want more evidence published in research journals? Okay, check out the POUNDS LOST trial which found that how much you eat matters more than the proportion of fat, carbohydrate and protein. And, that adherence to a diet determines success (and sticking with extreme diets that cut out food groups sucks so many people don’t last long on them).

3) Calories Matter but Protein is Crucial. Protein preserves muscle during weight loss and the lower your diet is in calories, the more you need protein. How important is protein for preserving muscle? Well, I love the overfeeding study published in JAMA earlier this year in which the study authors overfed participants by 40% more calories than they needed to maintain their weight. The participants were randomized to receive either 5%, 15% or 25% of their calories from protein. Now, 5% may seem low but because of their total daily caloric intake that 5% meant 47 grams per day – that’s 1 gram more than the protein RDA set by our government for women! All groups gained a similar amount of fat and the 15% and 25% group also gained muscle (and therefore more total weight) but, the group consuming 1 gram of protein more than the RDA set for women LOST 0.70 kg lean body mass! Take home points: over consume calories and you’ll gain fat. Make protein a greater proportion of the calories you over consume and you’ll also gain muscle. Follow the RDA and you may lose lean body mass.

4) Change your Environment for Success. Eat off smaller plates and bowls, choose smaller packages, get the food you don’t want to eat out of your house (if it is there, you will eat it at some point). Put healthy food within your line of vision. Avoid constant refills (chip basket at restaurants, bread basket, that never ending tub of beer bottles). And, surround yourself with people who encourage your success vs. those who will get in the way.

5) Keep your stress levels down. For more information on how stress impacts weight, click here.

6) Figure out WHY you are eating. You can have all the nutrition knowledge in the world and weight loss strategies but if you don’t delve into what is making you eat vs. using other coping mechanisms, long term success will elude you.

Now, you are probably wondering “well what about Forks Over Knives, the documentary that covered the supposed evils of animal protein?” I promise I’ll give my uncensored opinion (slashing) of that documentary in my next post in addition to more about protein 🙂

For a hilarious and insightful overview of this conference, check out fitness and nutrition expert Alan Aragon’s post. And, here’s a post from another one of my favorite writers, renowned fitness expert Brad Schoenfeld.

Could “Bad” Cholesterol be Good for Muscle Growth?

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I’m all for maintaining a healthy heart. But, could America’s quest for heart health be damaging muscle tissue (and keep in mind that your heart is the most important muscle in your body)?

For decades dietary fat, and especially saturated fat, was demonized to the point where “fat free” and “low fat” rolled off of our tongues with ease. Our friends, family and the kids behind the counter at frozen yogurt shops became so used to the question “how many grams of fat are in that?” that they often beat us to the punch, proudly exclaiming “it’s fat free!”
But in our quest  to live heart healthy our recommendations for cutting salt and saturated fat have sometimes hit the wrong crowd – young athletes who have no issues with blood pressure or cholesterol. Athletes who cut their salt intake too low could overheat and increase their risk for dehydration and low blood sodium (which can be very dangerous). And, cutting your total fat intake too low could make you feel fatigued, constantly hungry and impair your body’s absorption of fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants. But, here’s the real kicker, cut your total fat or saturated fat too low and your testosterone levels could drop.

If we need fat and some saturated fat (ah, coconut, one of my favorite sources of saturated fat), is blood cholesterol important? You bet. Despite it’s bad reputation and our quest for low cholesterol, our body depends on the stuff for several essential functions in the body (it is a component of cell membranes, precursor to bile acids, steroid hormones and vitamin D). In fact, our cells need a continuous supply of cholesterol.

And according to recent research from Texas A&M, our “bad” cholesterol may be even more important than we once thought. In this particular study, previously inactive adults were put through a training program. The adults who gained the most muscle mass had the highest levels of LDL cholesterol indicating that we may need a threshold level of LDL for gaining muscle mass. In this case, low LDL may be too low if you want a strong body.

Given that heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. and LDL cholesterol  is the stuff found stuck like glue against our artery walls, slowing down blood flow and contributing to heart attack and stroke, how can we achieve a delicate balance between having enough LDL but not too much? Keep your cholesterol levels within normal limits, be mindful if your LDL gets very low and incorporate other practices that keep your heart healthy – maintain a normal weight, get and stay active, eat antioxidant-rich foods and heart healthy fats (fatty fish, oils, nuts, seeds). If you want a strong body, don’t cut your total fat or saturated fat intake too low unless your physician tells you to do so.

As a random aside, could lowering LDL be one of the mechanisms through which statin drugs lead to statin-related myopathy? Maybe the answer doesn’t lie completely in Co-Q10.