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Supplement Perspectives

Bigger, Stronger, Fiction

The allure to consumers of a capsule, tablet, powder, gel, drink, shot, or even topical product being capable of eliciting a transformative effect upon human anatomy, or far beneath the dermis, upon muscular performance, is captivating and transfixing. Billions of dollars are spent on this, largely fueled by an overabundance of vitamin F (Faith) and a dearth of vitamin S (Scrutiny). Sports nutrition evangelism thrives all around the globe, a consumer Esperanto.

Over the past few years, after I made a prodigal return to growing and running a sports nutrition finished goods brand, weary from the ineffectual vantage of a consultant (and far less a creator), I have seen anew what inspired me (in part) to sell my stake in what later became (for a short window) the second-largest sport nutrition brand of its time within North America. I have abandoned reading (even skimming) magazines (triathlon, running, cycling, bodybuilding, swimming), wishing not to be distracted by hollow marketing and a reflexive desire to send a letter to the editor. Rather, I have learned a tactic that is far more empowering and enlightening, and even inspiring.

Retail store staff, managers, franchisees, owners, coaches, agents, athletes, and even simple consumers have been conveyed this challenge by us: call the company up, whose product(s) you believe are superior or proven (almost all have a toll free number), and ASK THEM FOR THE PROOF, on the ACTUAL product.

Its easy for fiction busters to do, and they have every right to do it. We have to be prepared for this vetting. After all, weve brought this upon ourselves.

It doesnt take much on the retailer's or consumers end: They forgo 30-plus minutes mining the Internet (and entering into land mines of mis- and disinformation) and invest 10 minutes on that miraculous, real-time interactive device called a telephone, dealing directly with the manufacturer. The caller has every right to ask the representative for the independent, published studies on the ACTUAL product, ideally done at universities (to reduce publication bias). And the retailer or consumer may not relent until 1.) The manufacturer emails them the actual studies while they are on the phone (if the studies exist is it not realistic to expect them to be readily accessible and ready for targeted dissemination?); 2.) The manufacturer admits there are NO such studies, or 3.) The manufacturer says, Human studies are too expensivethey cost millions of dollars! If answer 2 or 3 is delivered, the consumer or retailer has every right to ask, How can you make the claims on your packaging if you have zero evidence to buttress the claim?

A sports nutrition product manufacturer needs to be ready with responses, preferably to the first scenario. With claims of exotic carbohydrates and faster absorption/greater muscle (glycogen) recovery, L-glutamine and increased muscle mass or strength gains, branched chain amino acids and muscle growth, special protein blends leading to anabolic nirvana, manufacturers need to have scientific substantiation. The few published positive studies in humans combined with evidence from several clinical trials expressly stating NON-efficacy (e.g. L-glutamine), renders some consumers daring enough to test their faith on the phone.

If they call your company, don't let them hang up being aghast, shocked, disturbed, and even disgusted.

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