Consumers who purchase protein powder should be aware that some manufacturers are allegedly spiking their products with non-protein substances to cut corners; this type of scam, known as “protein spiking”, “nitrogen spiking or “amino spiking”, cheats customers out of a product that they paid for. Protein spiking gives an artificially inflated number in a protein content test by adding more nitrogen.
Protein powder customers should beware of ingredients such as arginine, glycine, creatine and taurine. Even though these substances may have some health benefits, they may also be contributing nitrogen during a protein content test; this makes a product seem like it has more protein that it actually does, according to General Nutrition Centers (GNC). Products suspected of amino spiking include Body Fortress, ProSupps, MusclePharm Arnold series, 4 Dimension Nutrition, Designer Whey, Mutant Nutrition, Top Secret Nutrition, Gaspari Nutrition, Giant Sports Nutrition, Infinite Labs, and Beast Sports Nutrition.
Ingredients in dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the rules differ from those governing food products. The agency has no authority over a dietary supplement before it is put on the market, but can take action against adulterated or misbranded products after they are in circulation. The FDA has taken action against companies who were dishonest about the ingredients in their dietary supplements.
The issue of nitrogen spiking was discussed in the April 2014 issue of Natural Products Insider. John Travis, senior research scientist at NSF, says that reduced nitrogen can be freed as ammonia and then measured; this is how a test shows an inaccurately high protein content. Some companies add cheap non-protein ingredients to boost the nitrogen content of their products, said Gene Bruno. This flaw has prompted the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to suggest a “defined standard” when measuring protein.