Let’s face it…the current state of the supplement industry is not pretty. With so much profit potential and so little regulation, it has become a goldmine for scammers and thieves who just want to get rich quick at the expense of the consumer. Beyond creating effective, transparent, reliable supplements, Momentum Nutrition is dedicated to educating consumers. We feel consumer education is the only way to steer the supplement industry in the right direction.
In an industry where hyperbole is standard in marketing, the only way to avoid the scams is to arm yourself with the knowledge to identify them and steer clear. The purpose of this article is to introduce and discuss a few of the most common supplement industry pitfalls, in the hopes of helping our readers avoid them in the future.
#1 | Ineffective Ingredients
The use of ineffective ingredients is probably the single most prevalent shady practice in the mainstream supplement industry today. In fact, this is the primary reason why this industry is scrutinized so heavily by mainstream society and why many people flat out believe it’s all just one big scam.
To be clear, it’s not one big scam. Science has shown us that there are some seriously effective supplements out there that can actually provide real benefits.
It’s just so easy for supplement companies to throw any old ingredient in their product and just say it does something when it doesn’t. Believe it or not, most people tend to believe what they hear (or read), without requiring much in the way of proof. This paves the way for what we like to refer to as “pop-up” supplement companies.
A pop-up company is a company that creates a terrible, ineffective product, sells it at a massive premium to as many people as it can, then disappears before too many complaints/returns come back to it. This happens more often than you would think. That’s why you should always avoid supplement companies that don’t seem to have any substance behind them.
Here are a couple criteria to help you evaluate the trustworthiness of a particular brand:
- Web presence? Does the company have an active website with real information or utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to allow its customers to communicate easily with those running it.
- Do the founders/owners/managers make themselves known? Any reputable supplement company will tell you who’s running it. Not all founders are people-persons. That’s fine, but if a company appears to be going to great lengths to conceal the identities of those running then just stay the hell away. That’s a scam.
#2 | Under-Dosed Ingredients
If you’re familiar with Momentum Nutrition, you’ll know we take a strong stance against under-dosing. Using effective ingredients but under-dosing them is as much a scam as just using ineffective ingredients in the first place. Unfortunately, this is a practice that the majority of supplement companies engage in these days.
Why? Money of course! The lower the doses, the cheaper it is to produce the product.
The use of proprietary blends is the most common way of concealing this fact and we talk about that in this post if you want to read up on it. In recent years though, as the use of proprietary blends has started to decline, some companies use the opposite approach.
They tell you exactly how much of each ingredient there is, but bank on the fact that most people won’t actually know how to determine an effective dose anyway.
#3 | Dangerous Ingredients
This may seem like a less common occurrence than the use of ineffective ingredients or under-dosed ingredients, but it happens all the time. It’s actually pretty scary how often it happens if you really pay attention to the industry.
Momentum Nutrition sort of has a policy against throwing other brands directly under the bus, so I won’t get into specific instances of supplement companies putting dangerous, speculative ingredients in their formulas…but here are a couple links for you to go investigate yourself:
#4 | Shady/Corrupt Marketing Practices
Ahh, ridiculous over-hyped ingredients, exaggerated claims, and flat-out lies…what would the supplement industry be without those? A better place, we think. But let’s get into some of these practices
The Subscription Trick
This is particularly popular with testosterone-boosters and fat-burners, but could be applied to just about any supplement. This happens when you purchase a supplement directly from a company’s website but don’t realize that you’ve actually signed up for a subscription where you’ll be sent more of the product and rebilled automatically at a higher price than you initially signed up for.
Sometimes you’ll be offered a “free trial” which then automatically turns into some outrageous subscription fee unless you cancel before a certain date. This is why you should always read the fine print at the bottom of the screen!
This is rampant in the supplement industry. You here it all the time…
“Skin Tearing Pumps!” — sounds painful
“Boost Testosterone By 10,000%!” — …what?
“Gain 10 pounds of lean muscle in two weeks”
The companies that say things like this are just trying to trick you into buying their products and hoping that you aren’t so disappointed that you return the product. At Momentum Nutrition, we never make unsubstantiated claims, and caution all consumers to avoid products that do this.
We’ve all seen it. You know…you’re flipping through an issue of Muscle & Fitness and there he is…the bodybuilder that is quite obviously using steroids but who is just holding a container of Whey Protein. The implication is that if you buy that product, you’ll look like that guy…but you won’t though, sorry.
In this situation it might not even be a lie. That guy really might use that protein supplement, but that’s not why he benches 505 and could deadlift a truck…no that is something else entirely which is beyond the scope of this article…so let’s move on.
#5 | Fake/Biased Reviews
We’re all aware that some companies publish fake reviews about their products. A few things to look for when sorting through reviews include:
- Verified purchaser
- Immediate reviews
- Reviews with no substance
Here’s a quick anecdote…
If you’re a regular on Amazon, you’ve probably received emails from the manufacturer of a given product asking you to review it. In principle, there is nothing wrong with asking your customers to write reviews. There is, however, something alarmingly shady about requesting that they only write a review if they liked the product…that’s wrong in our eyes.
We’ll Just Remind You…
Momentum Nutrition is focused on one thing and one thing only: consumer education. Teaching consumers about what makes a good supplement and how to avoid bad ones is really the only marketing we need to do. After that, our products speak for themselves.
I'm Matt, Founder of Momentum Nutrition and SuppWithThat.com. I've spent the better part of the last decade researching and experimenting in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and supplementation, and this is where I write it all down.