Supplements are big money in the United States. The science behind many of them is absent or suspect. I was recently asked by a client to provide feedback about Alpha Brain from Onnit. The first thing I did was take a look at the product page from Onnit, notably taking a look at the ingredient list
Why Look at the Ingredient list?
If you are going to put something into your body, you need to know what that is. When looking at supplements, this becomes even more important. Many supplements on the shelves of GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, etc and sold online from mass retailers such as Amazon are a combination of individual supplements.
Each supplement is an ingredient you put into your body. These dietary supplements all suggest some type of internal effect—such as improved mood or more energy—which means they are, hypothetically, causing chemical reactions in your body, much like a drug would.
In order to determine if the supplement product—such as Alpha Brain—is something you should put in your body, you have to look at each ingredient and the logic or science behind its inclusion, as well as side effects, if you want to be safe and spend your money wisely.
One of the biggest issues with reading labels and assessing ingredients in supplements is the use of proprietary blends.
What is a Proprietary Blend?
A proprietary blend is a combination of substances into you product. The proprietary nature notes it as property of the company producing. IN the United States, manufacturers are allows to protect their “secret blend” by noting it is a proprietary blend and then noting the individual ingredients, and the total amount of all, but not the amounts of the individual ingredients.
For example, Alpha Brain has three blends. These are the Onnit Flow Blend, Onnit Focus Blend, and the Onnit Fuel Blend. Only one ingredients is not a blend. The breakdown of each blend is:
Onnit Flow Blend: 650 mg of four ingredients
Onnit Focus Blend: 650 mg of three ingredients
Onnit Fuel Blend: 240 mg of two ingredients
Since the entire products is essentially on proprietary blend, Alpha Brain offers 950 mg of nine ingredients, but you do not know how much you get of each.
Why Do Ingredient Amounts Matter?
Much like a drug, the amount a given ingredient can determine how well the element works. Too little may not be effective while too much could lead to an overdose. Some ingredients are little more than fillers meant to drive up the milligram count to make it look like you are getting more.
In the case of Alpha Brain, The Onnit Flow Blend has two amino acids in it. These are cheaper than the other two ingredients. Adding more of these could save the manufacturer cost by giving you less of the other stuff the purportedly does what the supplement intends to, which is improve cognitive function.
Take into account that oat extract has been show in studies to help cognitive function. The amounts noted in the study that were shown to be effective are 400+ mg. Anything less may not be effective. Without being able to see how much of each ingredient is in the supplement, you will not know if you are getting an effective amount.
Justify Supplement Usage
This write-up has nothing to do with Alpha Brain. It is just an example since a client asked me to look into it. The point is you need to take a look at supplements and make an educated decision for why and how to take one.
Before you take supplements, you should have a good workout and nutrition plan in place. You should also be focused on other areas such as rest and stress management. Long term focus on these areas will do more for your progress than any supplement.
Be aware of what you put into your body. Every supplement you use should have science behind it, a reason for you to use it, should show effect when used, and show not cause side effects. If the supplement does not fit this bill, then you should probably skip it.
And that is it. Have questions? Let me know on social media. You can click the links here, or just look up Nathan DeMetz Personal Training on Facebook and Instagram.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!