The Scam Starts with a Protein Called WPC-34
A tub of Whey Protein Concentrate 34 (WPC-34) costs a manufacturer about 1/5 of what a similar size tub of whey protein isolate (WPI) costs. So you’re probably wondering what is WPC-34? It’s one of the lowest grades of whey protein produced by dairy factories. It contains only 34% protein with the other 66% comprised mostly of fat, lactose, sugar, and cholesterol. In simpler terms, WPC-34 is crap.
Once you understand what WPC-34 really is, you would never knowingly buy a protein product containing it. Unfortunately, you’ll never know WPC-34 is in a product because it’s listed simply as “whey protein concentrate” on the supplement facts panel. The industry-acceptable practice is to blend 2–3 types of whey concentrates together to get the cost down. WPC-80 (80% protein) and WPC-34 (34% protein) are the most common, but 45%, 60% and 75%, and everything in between, are used as well. The lower the percentage of protein, the higher the percentages of fat, lactose, and cholesterol.
WPC-80 is 80% protein compared to 34% for WPC-34. In comparison, Whey Protein Isolate (WPI-90) has the highest protein yield at 90%. WPI 90 contains almost three times more protein per serving than WPC-34. Knowing this, you can start to understand why not all protein powders are created equal.
WPC-34 is blended into many protein products because it is dirt cheap, and the FDA only requires the label claim “whey protein concentrate” without distinguishing between the better WPC-80 and the crap WPC-34. How do you protect yourself: don’t buy protein powders that lists the term “whey protein concentrate” on the label unless it declares it to be Whey Protein Concentrate 80%. For the highest quality whey protein, stick with Whey Protein Concentrate 80% only or for even a purer whey protein, go with Whey Protein Isolate, this is the most expensive but it will also get you the best results.
Spiking Protein Powders with Amino Acids: The Scam Gets Worse
Don’t be fooled by protein that has free-form amino acids blended in; they look good on the label, but they aren’t always there to make the product better. Amino acids are often added to protein powder with low protein levels to spike nitrogen value on protein tests. What does that mean? Well, to test protein value in a supplement for label claim, you do a nitrogen value test. Guess what? Amino acids test high in nitrogen as well. Spike a protein powder with amino acids, and it gives false reading for protein.
Why do this? Because these amino acids are much cheaper than WPI, and switching them out decreases the manufacturer’s cost while falsely increasing the protein value. It’s win-win for the manufacturer, but a total loss for you.
Here’s How the Scam Works
A manufacturer blends in cheap proteins like WPC-34 or even WPC-80 along with some WPI-90 (to make the label look good). It’s all nicely hidden in a proprietary blend so you have no idea what the formula is. Some companies stop here, figuring you’ll never calculate the protein value. Others take it a step further by adding in amino acids to bolster up the protein value. They throw in some cheap amino acids to increase the protein claim on the label; of course, this is based on nitrogen value only because the amino has no protein value. Here’s an example: creatine monohydrate tests very high for nitrogen; throwing in 5 grams of cheap creatine into a protein powder will raise the nitrogen value, falsely making your protein powder test out like it has an extra 7–8 grams of protein. So although creatine has no protein value, it will show up high in a nitrogen test, which will be used to deceptively make a higher protein label claim. Now you’re starting to understand the protein scam a little bit better.
Hiding It All Behind a Proprietary Blend
I’m sure there are some concerned brands out there that add amino acids to their protein powders for legitimate reasons. I just hope these brands would back out the nitrogen value of those amino acids and not include it in the overall protein value so that their label claim for protein is accurate. If the label is transparent and does not use proprietary blends to hide the dosages of individual ingredients, then you, the consumer, would be able to figure out exactly what was in the product. I’m not putting down amino acids; after all, amino acids do increase muscle and strength. I’m just exposing the deceptive use of amino acids in protein powders.
If you’re not familiar with proprietary blends, read my blog here.
put so much effort into making great products, and I’m not the only one. There are a lot of great products on the market. The consumer just has to be educated to sort through the hype and find them. All brands claim the same hype: pharmaceutical grade, pure, raw, GMP . . . our challenge is in educating you, the customer, so you can read between the lines and understand the difference between hype and reality. That’s why it’s so important not to buy supplements with proprietary blends on the label; it serves no purpose but to hide the truth about what’s in the product.
If a brand is proud of their formula and has nothing to hide, they should declare it on the label for all to see. And don’t fall for that BS story that proprietary blends are used to protect secret formulas. I can take any product on the market, send it into my lab, and know the exact formula within 24 hours. You can’t hide the formula from industry competitors; you can only hide it from the customers. I don’t use whey concentrate of 80% or 34% in my products. I don’t use proprietary blends. I don’t spike nitrogen value with amino acids. I build the best product I can for you and then disclose everything on the label so everyone, including my competitors, can see. Thanks for listening to my rant. I hope it will be helpful in some way.
NutraBio Labs, Inc.