Archive for the ‘Supplements’ Category

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Driven Sports Craze has attracted a lot of attention since it was released, devastating users with both amazing results and, rarely, terrible side effects.  Rumors swirled about what the new ingredient “Dendrobex” was and wasn’t was, going to the point of speculating that it contained unlisted drugs.  Driven Sports has provided several drug tests in informal settings on bodybuilding.com’s forums to dispute these claims.  A new topic that has been lingering for a while has been whether there has been some change in Craze since it was first released.  I have linked my previous coverage of these issues above.

The claim is users that bought the initial production run are now experiencing different effects with more recently produced batches.  Many have noted that it is still a good product for them, but that it does not seem to affect them the same way.  Many have noted tolerance as a potential cause, which makes sense of course.  The persistence of these claims makes one wonder if it is more than that, though.  Fueling the fire of speculation was a labeling change — not long after release, Driven Sports listed Creatine Monohydrate as the first ingredient instead of Betaine Anhydrous.  DS states that the two ingredients occur in exactly the same amount, meaning the choice of which is listed first (ingredients in a proprietary blend must be listed from most prevalent to least prevalent) is arbitrary.  They say they moved Creatine Monohydrate to that first position since it is a far more recognized ingredient.  Beyond that, several new flavors of Craze have been released and some users have claimed those do not affect them the same way their old grape did.

An enormous thread on the bodybuilding.com forums on this topic can be found here: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=147591473

After nearly two months of discussion about placebo, tolerance, dishonesty, and a myriad of other speculations about why these reports were surfacing, Driven Sports owner/founder Matt Cahill posted that he had discovered counterfeit products on the market, at least in Europe.  You can find more information at their blog: here and here.  This does not necessarily address the complaints of domestic customers, however.

So what’s the deal?

I’m not sure.  If the likes of Pat Arnold are to be believed (bear in mind that he has backed off his allegations at the request of DS), then the recent complaints from customers are because Driven Sports removed this mythical additive.  On the other hand,  this could be an issue of tolerance, as mentioned earlier.  People keep using the product and eventually it does not work as well without proper stimulant cycling.  Also, the initial reviews were a bit out of this world.  Perhaps the effects were overstated and the subsequent high expectations simply could not be met.  DS has also made mentions that the product was susceptible to settling, so some users would be getting inconsistent amounts of the active ingredients in each scoop unless they “shook the tub.”

Regardless, the product continues to sell fabulously well online.  The fever pitch of interest seems to have died down, but it still has legions of loyal users and remains a common recommendation and even more common request.  Other companies like MAN and Gaspari have recently released products claiming a Dendrobium extract, so we’ll see if those work the same as DS’s proprietary extract.

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With the recent burst of news about Ray Lewis and other professional athletes and the actually banned substance called deer antler velvet, I thought it would be useful to inform the masses not to waste their money.  Just because someone deceived a professional athlete into using it, this does not mean it works.  If the news coverage of it makes it seem like it works…well that’s what supplement companies do — they present their product in such a way that it seems like it MUST work.

What’s in it?

Deer antler velvet is being taken and they are extracting the substance IGF-1 from it.  IGF-1 is a growth hormone and something that is actually found in your body and actually does good things for you.  Sounds good, right?  Great.  Is it found in deer antler velvet?  Possibly.

IGF-1 has been studied for medical uses and has been used in treatments for diabetes, cancer, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  There is some debate as to its efficacy for these various things.  Typically, growth hormones are injected when used for medicinal or even performance enhancement purposes.

Deer antler velvet products are usually available in sprays, under tongue lozenges, or capsule form.  They are not illegal, but they are banned by most sporting organizations.

Does it work?

No.  There is no evidence that it works and with the right knowledge, it would not even make sense that it could work.  First of all, people are either eating it or applying it topically to the skin.  Growth hormones are injected.  It is also unclear whether there is even enough of IGF-1 in the product that someone could buy it, inject it, not die, and get results.  Furthermore, as indicated previously, IGF-1 is very likely not useful for athletes to supplement anyway.

Let’s look at the research:

1. N Z Med J. 2012 Dec 14;125(1367):80-6.

Health benefits of deer and elk velvet antler supplements: a systematic review of
randomised controlled studies.

Gilbey A, Perezgonzalez JD.

College of Business, Massey University, Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North, New
Zealand. a.p.gilbey@massey.ac.nz.

AIMS: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence from RCTs of
velvet antler supplements for any condition, using the QUOROM statement as a
guiding framework.
METHODS: Four electronic databases (PubMed, Medline, Web of Science and Academic
search premier, via the bibliographical platform, Endnote) and two review
articles were searched for all randomised clinical trials of velvet antler
supplements. Retrieved trials were evaluated according to standardised criteria.
RESULTS: Seven RCTs were identified as satisfying all inclusion criteria and
examined the effectiveness of velvet antler for rheumatoid arthritis (2),
osteoarthritis (1), sexual function (1), and sporting performance enhancement
(3). Their methodological quality ranged from 3-5, as measured on the Jadad
scale. Two RCTs reported some positive effects of velvet antler supplements, but
neither were convincing while the remaining five RCTs found no effect of velvet
antler supplements.
CONCLUSIONS: Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based
upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the
findings may have some promise.

PMID: 23321886 [PubMed – in process]

This is a research review looking at all the deer antler velvet research in humans.  They found no proof for usefulness for ANY REASON, and for sports supplementation they see that it was so conclusively useless that it does not even merit further research.

Why would Ray Lewis take it?

Ray Lewis is a consumer just like anyone else.  Like it probably did for you, deer antler velvet sounded really good and it was clearly not a steroid.  Likewise, even if it worked like injectable HGH, the NFL does not do blood testing for heightened levels of growth hormones.  There was not much to lose.

The question was asked to me, “well if it isn’t very bioavailable orally and/or there isn’t enough of the stuff per bottle, isn’t he rich enough to just buy a lot?”  Sure, he’s rich enough.  At this point, though, why wouldn’t he just buy the real HGH?  It would attract less attention and be far more certain to work.  Neither could be tested for by the NFL.  I would guess that he was either sold it by a personal trainer or perhaps he did not buy it at all, and the person leaking this information is just trying to make money on deer antler velvet.

To summarize,

don’t buy this stuff.  No Excuses will take care of you if you want to invest in supplements.  If you want HGH gains, buy HGH…but I won’t help you with that.

It is in vogue to simply recommend products to people.  However, this is inherently biased for a number of reasons and to begin with, I’m going to avoid it.  It is also time sensitive and I don’t wish to have this entire concept become outdated in short order.   So for Part 1, I’m going to equip you with the tools to evaluate products yourself.  If you want to try your mettle, you can argue with my product recommendations in Part 2.

There are several ingredients that may appear in pre-workouts you’ll first want to consider that I don’t categorize as “pre-workout ingredients” since they do not need to be dosed pre-workout.   The ones that I expect you to see that I have already covered in my Your Guide to Supplements – Part 2 article are:

Creatine and Beta-Alanine

With no further ado, ingredient recommendations along with dosage suggestions:

Nitrates:  These are surprisingly well-studied and have benefits for just about any kind of athlete.  This is the one ingredient that is actually an exogenous source of nitric oxide.  Yeah, that buzzword from the 1990s…finally, nitrates are the ingredient that deliver it.  Benefits include maximal strength gain, endurance increase, and sometimes intense pumps.  Depending on what kind of workout you follow, you should notice at least one if not all of these effects.  Too high of a dose Word to the wise: you cannot buy something that is simply nitrates.  It is not stable in powder form, so it is typically bonded with an amino acid or creatine.  1 gram of creatine nitrate yields a roughly ideal dose of nitrates (be aware that it does not yield enough creatine, so you will need to purchase extra creatine from somewhere).   There are also a few products that bind it to leucine, beta-alanine and others.  Look for something ending in nitrate.  Finally, don’t buy a product that has a plant extract for nitrates.  The most popular extract is beet root and it takes 100s of grams of beet root to yield an effective nitrate dose.   Nobody can possibly dose it properly in a preworkout powder.

Citrulline Malate (or just L-Citrulline) : Citrulline malate is not abundantly researched in humans but does have one study in particular that showed very nice results and there is enough animal study, common sense, and anecdote to recommend it.  This works through nitric oxide as well, though it is endogenous and therefore has a theoretical limitation compared to nitrates.  Using them both in conjunction seems ideal.  Malic acid (the malate) has its own endurance benefits as well.  The sourcing of this is more straightforward than nitrates, but the ratio of citrulline to malic acid is a worthy question to ask.  What we’re beginning to see is companies selling citrulline malate products that are almost all malate, the cheaper ingredient.  You want a 1:1 ratio preferably.  If you’re looking to buy in bulk, buy from SNS and no one else. Dosing: 2-8 grams of 1:1 citrulline malate

L-Carnitine-L-Tartate (LCLT): This is a form of the famed carnitine that actually works.  L-carnitine in its normal form doesn’t do much of anything, but some of its altered forms like LCLT do in fact do something.  LCLT, when taken pre-workout (preferably hours pre-workout, but normal timing is okay) can increase both intra-workout and post workout recovery.  I don’t think these benefits need any extra explanation, you want those benefits if you can get them. Dosing: 1-2 grams 

Creatinol-O-Phosphate:  First of all, no, this is not a form of creatine.  The naming similarity is just coincidence.  Not all of the methods of action are currently known, but there is good research backing this supplement.  This shares some similarities in effect to nitric oxide supplements like the aforementioned, but has a different method of action.  It increases the amount of ATP (the basic unit of cellular energy) in the muscles which allows for greater strength, greater endurance, and even better intra-workout recovery.  Sounds great, right?  Well, to date there is no pre-workout product that doses it effectively.  Why?  Well, it is fairly expensive.  If you see it near the end of a proprietary blend, you can rest assured it is underdosed and just there to catch your eye.  Moreover, Patrick Arnold has tested almost every mainstream supplier and found that most are selling a bunk product.  If yours reacts with baking soda by fizzing, it is okay.  If not, you have a problem.  The only legitimate brand I know of is SNS at this point.  Dosing: 2-3 grams

Nootropics: Some of these work, but they are incredibly user dependent and there are just too many to name.  Some to look for include: glucuronolactone, DMAE, rhodiola rosea, l-theanine, ginkgo biloba, ALCAR, and countless others.   These are different than stimulants and are usually added to a caffeine-based focus blend to help enhance the effects of caffeine, especially to remove the jittery effect of caffeine and oftentimes to add to a more focused and/or euphoric feeling.   It will likely take some experimenting to figure these out if you want to know which you like and which you don’t.   These can be used in non-stimulant formulas, but the chances of a felt effect are drastically reduced. Dosing varies greatly

Ingredients with less clinical backing, but strong user feedback and may reflect well on the formulator of a product

AgmatineThis is an ingredient that is unresearched in humans for exercise but has some intriguing physiological effects that may extend beyond the scope of exercise.  User reports usually note the pump effect along with some other ergogenic benefits and a few users note better overall well-being or nutrient partitioning.  These claims are hard to verify anecdotally.  It is not a terribly expensive ingredient, however, and may be worth a shot to see how it works for you.  Dosing: 500mg-1 gram

L-Leucine: A quick dosing of leucine preworkout while in a fasted state follows the protocol of the studies that led to mass use of BCAA supplements.   I do not suggest BCAA supplements but if you are fasted (like training first thing in the morning), the correct dose of leucine before you work out can trigger MPS (muscle protein synthesis).  You want that.  Dosing: roughly 4 grams

That’s it for now.  I may expand this list at a later time if research and innovative formulations come about.  If you think I can’t possibly have gotten them all, well, I probably haven’t.  However, there really just aren’t many ingredients that work.  Beware of products with a million ingredients.

If you are one of many users of coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout drinks, caffeinated soda, or all of the above, you probably consume your fair share of stimulants on a daily basis.  If you have ever wondered why your first dose of your favorite pre-workout got you pumped up but now does nothing, this is for you.  If you wonder why you feel like shit without your morning cup of coffee, this is for you.  If you would like to optimize your performance in the gym, at work, in the classroom, or otherwise via the use of stimulants, read on.

What is a stimulant?

I’m not going to get real technical here, but stimulants, generally speaking, boost energy via central nervous system stimulation.  In addition to energy boost, you can also expect mood and focus enhancement.  This isn’t hocus pocus or painfully subtle like most supplements, this is a real in your face feeling.  Anyone that’s had an inordinate amount of stimulants at once knows this (think about your first Red Bull, coffee, Mountain Dew, pre-workout mix, etc.).

I suggest using stimulants to your advantage for these effects.  For optimal effects, take stimulants on an empty stomach 30 minutes prior to the event you desire to have your performance enhanced in (workout, study session, etc).  However, there are several caveats about responsible use.

How to use?

A lot of folks just use them constantly via coffee/energy drink/soda intake and become so dependent that they are necessary just to keep up normal energy levels.  While this has no safety effects to speak of, this isn’t the most efficient use of stimulants, in my opinion.  For one, stimulants will work better each use if you use them as little as possible.  Every use induces tolerance and you cannot just keep upping the dose, you can reach a point of danger at extremely high doses and eventually you will just be wasting your money.

Long term use also induces tolerance.  Even if you are judicious with your use, over time they just won’t work as well.  This is where cycling comes into play.  Basically, you will take time off completely from stimulants periodically to lose your tolerance.   Here’s a quick breakdown on my suggestions for optimal cycling:

Daily stimulant use: Cycle every two months.  Two months on, 3-4 weeks off.  Don’t use for more than three straight months.  Plan for life events like final exams accordingly.

3-4 times/weekly use: Either take 3-4 weeks off every 4 months, or take two weeks off every 2 months.  I think the longer time off works better but you have some flexibility.

Sporadic use: You don’t really need to cycle, but if you feel you aren’t getting desired effects go ahead and take more time off than normal.

Cycling off can kind of stink.  Stimulants are addictive.  Ever seen someone try to go off cigarettes and they get withdrawals?  The same thing, albeit in a smaller scale, is likely here.  Those first few days cycling off may make you feel sluggish, grouchy, and you may even get some headaches.  This will go away with time and you will soon feel much better.  Don’t give in and just take caffeine to mask the headache!  If you are having a lot of trouble with this, try tapering down doses.  Spend a week at half your normal intake, then take half of that the next week, then go off completely after that. After those few weeks off, you will love how stimulants work for you again and you will see why cycling off was worth it.

Remember, there is no problem being off of stimulants more often than I’ve suggested.  Not being reliant on them is great.  I have given suggestions assuming that the reader wants to use them as much as possible and with the greatest effects possible.

Which stimulants to use?

To quickly name and summarize the distinguishing characteristics of popular stimulants, here we go:

Caffeine – By far the most common.  Naturally occurring in coffee, chocolate, others.  Often found in soda, energy drinks, preworkout drinks.  Effects are mild and include energy boost, focus boost, small mood boost, small appetite suppression, and a slight diuretic effect.  Dosing: Assess tolerance at 100mg.  200-400mg for acute effects, keep daily intake under 1000mg.

Ephedrine – Once found in popular ephedra supplements, ephedrine is now banned as a dietary supplement and can only be obtained through OTC asthma meds like Bronkaid and Primatene.  Works in synergy with caffeine and should always be taken with caffeine for fat burning effects.  While users report energy and focus boost, this is a fat burning stimulant and there is clinical backing for this.  When used with caffeine, appetite suppression and diuretic effects are very notable.  More dangerous than other stimulants to those with heart problems.  Other negative side effects include raised heart rate, sweating, crash, and “stim dick.” Dosing: 12.5 mg to assess tolerance.  25mg is upper limit per dose, do not dose more than three times daily.

DMAA– Also known as 1,3-dimethylamylamine, geranium extract, etc.  This is to be banned soon based mostly upon the fact that it is not in fact found in geranium plants as advertised.  Popularized by USPLabs Jack3d, DMAA is a staple in any “high-stim” cocktail nowadays.  It is a powerful stimulant that can cause euphoria, exceptional energy, and some appetite suppression.  Side effects include crash, quick tolerance, and “stim dick.” If you take a DMAA containing product and instantly feel sleepy, you have dosed it far too high.  Some people just will not respond well to this.  UPDATE: DMAA has been banned.  It is legal to purchase and use for now, but manufacturers may not produce any more of it.  What is for sale now is all there is.  Companies are scrambling for alternatives and if anything truly interesting comes up I’ll continue updating this post.  Dosing: 25mg to assess tolerance.  25-100mg in single use, 100mg daily limit.

Yohimbine – Usually comes in one of two forms (Yohimbine HCl or Alpha-Yohimbine/Rauwolscine).  Oftentimes not felt, this is a fat burning stimulant.  Works differently than ephedrine and is particularly effective at mobilizing stubborn fat.  Effects are lessened or completely diminished in the presence of insulin so may be best for ketogenic dieters and definitely must be taken on completely empty stomach (fasted).  A variety of negative side effects are associated with Yohimbine HCl, so if you do not respond well turn to Alpha-Yohimbine.  I would feel comfortable using Alpha-Yohimbine during a stimulant break.  Dosing: 25mg per use.  No more than 3 uses per day.

NMT – I felt a subtler-than-DMAA but decent feeling with NMT (N-Methyl-Tyramine).  It seems to enhance mood fairly well over anything else, in my experience.  I’ve found that responses can vary quite a bit on this stimulant, some with no felt effect, others getting headaches, and others like myself feeling a mild stimulant sensation that adds well to caffeine.  Worth a shot in the post-DMAA world.  Dosage: 35-70mg per use.

PEA – Chemically related to amphetamine, this has poor oral bioavailability.  While chemistry struggles to explain it, PEA and its analogues (b-PEA, etc) are known to produce a strong euphoric feeling at proper doses.  It has a short half-life of 15 minutes so do not expect effects to last long.  May be useful for acute focus needs.  Dosing: Too user dependent and unresearched to say definitively.  Often a part of stimulant formulas that do not disclose dosing.

The takeaway?

Well, every prospective stimulant user should start with caffeine.  This is readily available and there is probably a drink you like the taste of that has it in it.  Once you think you’ve mastered the art of caffeine, you can try adding things in based on your needs.  For fat burning, ephedrine is tops and yohimbine is great as well.  For focus or further energy boost, you may look for DMAA and PEA containing products.  Things can be user dependent so you just have to experiment.

Note: There is more to preworkout drinks than just stimulants/energy/focus boosters.  I have now begun a series on Pre-Workouts that Work, starting like this article by pointing out the useful ingredients.

EDIT:  This story has undergone further developments, which I have attempted to summarize at this link.

Truth is, I don’t know.

I can tell you, however, who his lawyer is.  His name is Scott J Ferrell and he has been involved in lawsuits like the Craze lawsuit before.

I see that he has a lawsuit in progress against USPLabs over their use of DMAA. Info here.  The thing of interest in that suit is you’re hearing similar “amphetamine-like” kind of language in regards to a generally safe ingredient, DMAA.

He has also sued ThermoLife, accusing them of false advertising in their Dicana product.  This is mainly concerning their claims to have a patent pending.  I don’t know just yet how that panned out.  Read the legal docs in this PDF.

He successfully sued BSN over false advertisement of their Cheaters Relief product, resulting in refund payouts coming from BSN.  Legal doc here.  He made similar claims in a lawsuit here about several BSN products but I don’t have info on the outcome of that lawsuit.

According to this link, he was actually counter-sued or perhaps pre-emptively sued by a supplement company after he sent a “warning letter” which has been common in his lawsuits.  Apparently they are trying to get him for extortion.

There are actually several other lawsuits open that I have not mentioned here because it was beginning to get tedious.  You get the point.

The lawyer “is an avid runner and swimmer and rarely sleeps.”   Perhaps a fan of supplements as well?

I don’t know what to glean from all of this, but this certainly isn’t the lawyer’s first rodeo.  He has sued supplement companies and won.  I should also mention that if his case against USPLabs is based on relating DMAA to amphetamine, I’d think that he knows little about pharmacology.

EDIT: This story has had further developments, which I have attempted to conclude at this link.

Anyone that is involved in the supplement industry is aware that Driven Sports Craze has been one of the biggest talking points in the supplementation world for a little while now.  Many users reported unparalleled focus, mood boost, etc.  A few users have had negative side effects and another few have just had no effects.  I personally was somewhere between no effect and bad side effects.

The gist of the following lawsuit found first at courthousenews.com (not familiar with the website, but I have seen the court documents which tell me this must be a real thing) is mainly alleging that Craze is spiked with amphetamine or perhaps an analogue.  There is no evidence produced but I hope no legal firm would go forward with this unless there was a lab report somewhere.  I do not have info on Aaron Karmann, the plaintiff, but I’m looking to see if he’s affiliated within the industry.  There have been rumors of this nature since the release of Craze, but to some extent that comes with the territory when you have a supplement that works differently/better than predecessors.

Other parts of the lawsuit include complaints that even the listed ingredients are not legal due to red tape within FDA regulations.  I am not sure how valid these claims are and frankly don’t care much unless Dendrobex is what contains this amphetamine analogue.  Driven Sports claims Dendrobex comes from dendrobium, a long used Chinese medicine ingredient.

A couple things of note:

1. PEA, a perfectly useful and legal stimulant that is on Craze’s label, is technically an amphetamine analogue.  I doubt there will be a legal case to be made if it turns out that the plaintiff is simply anti-PEA.

2. There are no tests offered among the legal documents.  It is possible that the plaintiff plans to produce the tests in court, but at this point it would be unfair to simply assume that DS has spiked the product.

3. This is NOT an FDA case.  This is a lawsuit, as in seeking MONEY.  That doesn’t necessarily make it less legitimate, but there is zero involvement from the FDA at this point and it is simply a man suing Driven Sports and will let other California residents that purchased Craze split the compensation should the lawsuit win.

4. The court date is set for September 2012.

UPDATE: I’ve done a little more digging on the plaintiffs.  Look here for details.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/03/21/44876.htm

http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=143497393

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A diet supplement maker is selling a mislabeled amphetamine with claims that it is “safe” and “helps put you in a fantastic mood,” a man claims in a class action in Superior Court.
Lead plaintiff Aaron Karmann sued Driven Sports, claiming its Craze diet supplement contains amphetamine, “a dangerous ingredient which is regulated as a controlled substance and a dangerous stimulant in California and thus cannot be lawfully included in a dietary supplement.
A visit to Driven Sports’ website on Tuesday found this ad: “Imagine having something available that helps you train BEYOND YOUR LIMITS. Imagine endless energy. No weight is too great and no personal record is safe. That something would give you unmatched results, where others have failed. That something is Craze”!, the ultimate in pre-workout power!”
But Karmann says: “Defendant claims that the product is a ‘dietary supplement’ which is legal, safe, and efficacious. In reality, the product is intentionally tainted with amphetamine, the illegal and dangerous controlled substance that is not declared as an ingredient on the product’s label.”
He claims that defendant’s product “is intentionally tainted with amphetamine, the illegal and dangerous controlled substance that is not declared as an ingredient on the product’s label.”
The complaint adds: “Defendant makes representations regarding the efficacy, safety and legality of the product which are false, misleading and deceptive. These include, without limitation, that Craze is ‘safe,’ that it ‘helps put you in a fantastic mood and enhances your focus,’ that it is ‘designed to enhance your workouts and enhance your progress,’ and that it can be used by students for studying.
“Plaintiff and members of the class relied on defendant’s misrepresentations and would not have paid as much, if at all, for the products but for defendant’s misrepresentations. As a result, defendant has wrongfully taken millions of dollars from California consumers. Plaintiff brings this lawsuit to enjoin the ongoing defrauding of thousands of California consumers by defendant, and to recover the money taken by its illegal practices.”
Karmann seeks an injunction, costs, restitution, disgorgement, and punitive damages.
He is represented by Scott Ferrell with the Newport Trial Group, of Newport Beach.

It’s time to talk about where to buy your supplements if you choose to use them.  For what it’s worth, this article applies to USA only.  I honestly don’t feel like doing the research for each and every country.

Brick and mortar stores (GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Complete Nutrition, others) – I’ve yet to see any chain store that is worth going to.  They are overpriced vs online retailers by as much as 50% for just about everything.  Unless you need something ASAP and are willing to overpay, there is literally no reason to go to any of these places.  Selection is generally terrible and restricted to the many huge brands that don’t make very effective products.  I haven’t even run into a sale that is worth dealing with.

I’ve touched on this elsewhere, but their salesmen are terrible.  Most are uninformed, and even more are just plain biased.  They get paid on commission for certain companies and products and will push you to use those more often than not.  Of course, the more things you buy, the more they get paid.  They will make it seem like you need this, that, and the other thing when that is rarely the case.   I’ve seen them give extremely unsafe advice before, to the peril of friends of mine.

Just stay away from these places.

Online Buying

An enormous portion of the supplement industry is moved online.  Up and coming brands as well as some very established ones can only be found on the net.  Even for brands you can find in brick and mortar stores, you’re saving an immense amount by buying online.  Generally, shipping prices are very fair, even on heavy proteins (many have flat rate shipping).  This isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list, but it should cover most of your bases.

supplementdeals.net is a good place to check out, but some of these sites tend to even beat the sales at other sites.

These aren’t listed in any particular order, outside of which ones I expect you may have heard of down to the ones I don’t think you’ve heard of.

Bodybuilding.com – This is by far the biggest online supplement retailer (also referred to as bb.com for short).  They have a massive selection, good customer service, flat-rate shipping, and a lot of non-supplement items for sale.  The rub is that this is one of the higher priced online retailers, even with the 10% coupons that are always around (check the forum or your email for the current coupon).  They have gone away from almost every company that was involved in prohormone sales since they were raided by the FDA in 2009.  There are some very good and reliable brands that they have elected not to carry due to this, but they sell enough that it just doesn’t matter to them.  I usually don’t buy here unless they have a particularly good sale going on.

NutraPlanet – While there are no official numbers, NutraPlanet may be the second largest online retailer.  They tend to sell for less than bodybuilding.com, but also don’t have coupons.  They run more frequent and better sales than bb.com.  Shipping is flat-rate, quick, and customer service is good.  They don’t carry as many brands, but have a better overall brand selection than bb.com.  There are very small coupons for large orders.

Lockout Supplements – Lockout is a relatively small operation with one goal: to sell everything for less than their bigger competitors.  While they don’t have an enormous selection, it is very solid.  Again, everything is bottom of the barrel pricing and there are always 5% coupons (try “facebook”) around, 10% on holidays.  Be aware, though, that Lockout sells a good deal of prohormones and I don’t recommend these to anyone, really.  Just be careful and don’t buy something that you don’t know what it is.  Look for Lockout’s Deal of the Day, it is often the lowest price you’ll ever see that particular supplement.

Sports Nutrition Online (SNO) – You’ll probably hear some mixed opinions about SNO.  There was some drama several months ago with a company they shared a warehouse with — that company sold prohormones and the FDA raided the warehouse, causing a temporary shutdown at SNO.  This caused some customer service issues and there are now some folks that do not care to purchase there.  What those folks are missing out on is a revamped customer service team and some unbelievable sales.  In part to gain back customer trust, they have been selling popular supplements well below cost.  They will also give big discounts on supplements that are near their expiration date.  There are occasionally 5% coupons circulating, you can ask about it on their forum.  If a reader of an article orders from there has a problem with an order, you can contact me because I have friends at their corporate office.

Get Ripped Nutrition – This is a brick and mortar/online combo operation out of California.  They run a store but move much more online than in-store.   Prices are good, usually falling between bb.com and Lockout, but they run great specials and Daily Deals.  Shipping is reliable but not always super quick, unless you’re local.  They’ve had a special on Quest Bars for a while that is unbeatable.  They offer quantity discounts and free shipping, alongside a referral program.  The owner is a great guy that you can’t feel bad about buying from.

SmartPowders – This website shines when it comes to bulk ingredients.  While they have a pretty nice brand selection and run some nice sales, what sets SmartPowders apart is their single ingredient products.  If you’re interested in nootropics, you should already be familiar with SmartPowders.  The owner is a self-proclaimed quality control watchdog of the industry, so you should think that quality control and meeting label claims shouldn’t be a big issue.  You can email their customer service and ask him for Certificates of Authenticity, I’d imagine.