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What are proprietary blends and why should you care?

Let's face it, choosing a supplement can be a minefield. There are so many brands, all with such large product ranges. How do we know that we've picked the right product to suit our goals, how do we know that we’re getting value for our hard-earned cash, and most importantly, how do we know that we’re not being misled by our supplier? GoNutrition's New Product Development Manager, Tommy Gaughan explains.

What are proprietary blends?

If you've purchased supplements, you're likely to have come across the term "proprietary blend", but what exactly do supplement companies mean when they refer to products as proprietary blends? Quite simply, proprietary blend is a term used to describe a secret concoction of ingredients that the manufacturer wants to withhold.

Why do protein supplements use proprietary blends?

Many companies will market their blend as being so fantastic and unique that all the competitors would rip it off if they were to publish the breakdown. But the fact is, proprietary blends are used by companies to hide that they are using low levels of premium ingredients and bulking out your formula out with inexpensive fillers. It's a tactic as old as the sports nutrition industry itself and it helps them pull the wool over the eyes of uninformed customers.

How can I spot when a supplier is using proprietary blends?

If you look at their nutritional information declaration or ingredients panel keep your eyes open for the phrase "proprietary blend". This supplement contains 3.7g of "Amino Acid Proprietary Blend", which is made up of 17 different amino acids. What is doesn't tell you is how much you get of each one.

Surely the order of ingredients give you a rough idea?

Yes, one saving grace for the consumer is that companies must list ingredients in descending order of weight included, regardless of whether they are in proprietary blends or not. However, not all amino acids are created equal.

So are some amino acids more useful than others?

Yes. Some amino acids, such as leucine and glutamine, are more beneficial for protein synthesis (or lean muscle growth) than others. However, they tend to cost more. Because of this, some brands bulk out a proprietary blend with cheaper amino acids, such as glycine and the consumer is unable to see exactly how much of each amino acid is present in the formula. It is therefore no surprise to see cheaper amino acids, such as proline and glycine at the top of this list of the example we've shown. While we would all like to look at this blend and think that there is a reasonable amount of each of the ingredients making up the 3.7g (especially the BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine), this is rarely the case. Most of the ingredients could be cheaper fillers and there may only be miniscule quantities of the useful, expensive ones present, just so they could be listed as an ingredient. Doesn’t seem fair does it?

Are proprietary blends seen on other sports nutrition products?

Yep. Unfortunately, this issue isn’t limited to amino acids. Vitamins, minerals, extracts and even protein blends are subject to this common supplement industry scam. One "whey protein" available on the UK market today has the following ingredient declaration: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Soya Protein Isolate, Milk Protein), Amino acid blend (Glycine, Taurine, Leucine). Now, with a name that includes "whey protein", imagine my surprise when I discovered this was also full of milk protein and inexpensive soy protein. There was also no declaration on the quality of the protein. After all concentrates can range anywhere from 30-85% protein.

What does adding glycine do?

When laboratories test the percentage of protein in a protein blend they can get false positive results if glycine has been added. In simple terms, the presence of glycine makes the test results show that there's a higher percentage of protein than there really is, falsifying the results. Some suppliers therefore deliberately add extra glycine so it inflates the overall protein percentage, without the need for them to add protein. In the example shown above, the protein percentage comes out at 75%, but that's due in part to the addition of glycine. Watch out for this one, it’s more common than you’d think.

How is GoNutrition different?

Here at GoNutrition we point-blank refuse to get involved with cutting corners and cheap industry scams such as the use of proprietary blends. We have taken a number of market leading steps, in order to offer you the customer 100% confidence in our products:
  • None of our products will ever contain proprietary blends.
  • We declare every protein source used, including its quality level.
  • We declare exactly how much of each protein source is in each of our formulas.
  • We declare every active ingredient used, and how much you will receive per serving.
We don't stand for cheap tactics, and nor should you. Choose GoNutrition products and have 100% confidence in the quality of product you are receiving.
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