There’s no doubt that supplements help you get fit faster. They often combine cutting-edge or sometimes classic well-known ingredients that have been shown in studies to work. But how do you know which ones to choose? How do you know how to evaluate them when online scams and revealing investigations make the news on an almost weekly basis?
After spending nearly two decades in the weight loss and sports nutrition industry as a marketer for leading brands, I’ve learned what to look for and what to avoid. In fact, I’ve learned how to actually build great products with brilliant scientific minds, based on solid science and results. With that said, here's a checklist of items to look for before making your next weight loss or sports nutrition product purchase.
Do you know the company?
Brands spend a lot of money trying to build trust, and trust equals consumer preference, followed by loyalty. If a brand has been around for some time then they are likely to have invested in product quality and good manufacturing practices compliance, as all supplement companies are required to by the FDA. If you’re not sure of the company, then look up the name on the sites of Dunn and Bradstreet, BBB online, or another reputable service.
Can you reach customer service?
If there is a toll-free number with real people on the other end of the phone, chances are the company spent the money on investing in the infrastructure to support the products in the marketplace. Many times smaller companies will simply outsource the production and operations of a product, then have no way for you the customer to contact them. If you can’t reach them, be wary.
Can you find a third-party analysis or trust mark on the label?
There are sites out there like consumerlab.com that do a lab analysis on products to see if they meet label claims. In fact, you can request a certificate of analysis from the manufacturer to ensure that what’s on the label is in the product. Another way to verify the supplement you’re taking is of high-quality is to look for third-party organizations’ trust marks on the label. Marks like NSF, USDA Organic, or even USP are only awarded once the supplement company has passed the stringent review process on the product itself.
Look for clinical studies
Weight loss or sports nutrition products typically have one or more ingredients in clinically validated amounts, which allows them to make claims like "build muscle," "recover faster," or "lose weight." Often times the clinical studies will be referenced on the product packaging or on the website. If not, searches on sites like PubMed.com, Google Scholar, or ScienceDirect.com with the ingredients and/or product name will help yield results you can evaluate. The amount of micrograms, milligrams, or grams of the active ingredient listed in the clinical should be in the product for the most part. Protein, creatine, essential fatty acids, and other ingredients have a variety of different dosages and source types, so ensure you look specifically at the ingredient when searching. For example, pea protein vs. whey protein concentrate, or 180mg of EPA to 120mg of DHA for your EFA blend would be a more specific search.
Buy from reputable retailers
Leading retailers will often do their own independent analysis, which means that when you're considering a weight loss or sports nutrition product you should consider buying it from a store you trust. Some retailers even train associates to help answer any questions you may have about the products, which when faced with a variety of choices can make the decision for you that much easier.
Look at ratings and reviews
This may seem obvious, but often you can find consumer ratings on the manufacturer website or third-party retailers. Look through them in detail to see common questions and comments. Other consumers may post about their experiences, so keep an eye out for common threads so you can build a sense of confidence. Most retailers have sampling programs with products that manufacturers participate in with groups of highly ethical reviewers, so this is a great source of information for you.
If you follow the above tips you should be able to find a weight loss or sports nutrition product that's effective and safe. There are a lot of quality products and companies out there that are continually raising the bar on product quality, while helping to usher in a new era of human performance.
Darren Contardo has led multiple marketing and product development teams on top-selling weight loss and sports nutrition brands over the past two decades. Follow him @darrencontardo.