Monthly Archives: June 2014

John Oliver and the supplement industry.

There’s a fantastic new show on HBO called “Last Week with John Oliver.”  It loosely resembles The Daily Show but is infinitely better.  In fact, it might actually be better than CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc at actually reporting the news…

Last week, the show took the supplement industry to town, which you can see in the link below.  I highly recommend watching it through to the end, especially if you like Steve Buscemi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA0wKeokWUU

The points made in the segment are all extremely valid.

1) Many supplements have no evidence to back up their claims.

2) Some supplements don’t even have the listed ingredients in the supplement (What a bunch of assholes).

3) Some of these over-the-counter supplements have proven to be dangerous and, in extreme cases, lethal.

I think the natural response after watching the segment is to try and improve the regulation system of over-the-counter supplements, perhaps even make it a mirror of the prescription medication system which requires FDA approval.

Let me preface this next sentence by telling you the following, I sell exactly zero supplements of my own so I have no financial ties to the supplement industry.  Despite that fact, the idea of regulating the supplement industry in the same manner we regulate medical prescriptions is not something that I’d be excited about seeing happen.  Why?  Well, if we were to tightly regulate supplements, I think there’d be several major effects.

1) It would likely make the supplement industry safer and hopefully improve the quality of research on supplements (A good thing).

2) It would drive the price of supplements through the roof as basic research and safety trials would have to be conducted prior to sale.  Trials are EXTREMELY expensive and as a result, the end product would have to cost more to make up the difference (Mostly a bad thing).

3) This added cost would likely dissuade many people from starting new businesses around supplements.  For instance, Mike Kesthely’s Max Adrenal product which he sells through Dynamic Nutrition.  Many of my clients have reported insanely impressive result with this product and there are scientific publications supporting all of the ingredients that are put into it.  My guess is that if we were to regulate the supplement industry like we regulate medical drugs, Mike would have never created the product in the first place… (A very bad thing).

In my opinion, the cost of driving good, helpful supplements out of the market outweighs the benefits of getting rid of all the snake oil that Dr. OZ wants you to buy.

Realistically, I don’t see any changes happening to the way the supplement industry is regulated anyway because of all the lobbying described by John Oliver.  Instead, YOU are going to have to take some personal responsibility and figure out how to tell if something is a pile of bull shit or a product that can help your health and/or performance.  Personal responsibility… what a crazy idea.

Here’s how I would go about deciphering whether or not a supplement is A) Safe and B) Useful.

1) Know what happens if you take too much (aka overdose).  Something like magnesium or arginine causes diarrhea when you take too much.  Shit happens, but its not the end of the world.  Other supplements with reported health benefits also can have serious side effects at higher amounts, most frequently liver issues.  Know how to decipher between the two or work with someone that does.

2) If you’re a trainer or consult people on nutrition, I would HIGHLY recommend investing in a guide to help summarize the research on supplements, as doing Google searches (or better yet, PubMed searches) can be overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out safety and efficacy.  I’ve had good experiences with “Stack Guides”  as it has sections about the synergistic effects of various supplements which many other sites lack.   Also, “Stack Guides” doesn’t sell any supplements themselves so they’re not trying to steer you towards their products.  Definitely worth the investment…

3) Listen to people with more experience in the industry than you.  No one says that you have to know everything and I guarantee if you’re thinking of trying a supplement, then so have 1000 other people.  Find the people you respect and listen to their opinions on the topic.

4) You should probably stop listening to Dr. Oz.

Crickets for Protein

Several weeks back I was surprised to receive a protein bar in my gym mailbox from a company called “Exo.”  It was actually perfect timing though as I was ravenous, so I took a quick peek at the ingredients and scoffed it down… pretty damn tasty.

I took another look at the package and saw the word “cricket powder.” I thought to myself it couldn’t possibly be made with actual crickets , but sure enough, the protein source was indeed very well ground up crickets.  I thought for a second about whether or not to be grossed out, but the bar was delicious and filling and really a cricket isn’t so different from crab or lobsters really… or so I convinced myself.

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Of course, for a person like me though, the more important question is whether or not crickets are actually healthy for us.  Lets look at some of the facts:

1) Many modern day “Paleo-esque” societies depend heavily on insects for their diet.  This is also true of our closest primate relatives… Good sign!

2) A serving of cricket powder has a nice balanced ratio of protein, carbs and fats of 13/5/5 with tons of magnessium (76 mg) and iron (10 mg).  Also, much of those fats is the healthy omega-3 alpha linoleic acid. I liked what I was seeing here as well.

3) There’s something to be said about using crickets, etc as a protein source for the health of the earth as a whole.  Crickets are extremely sustainable and have a small footprint on the world.  I could go on but I’d suggest reading this Forbes interview with the founders of Exo as it goes into depth about the idea behind using insects for food.

Should you invest in cricket powder prodcuts?

I really hate most of the protein and energy bars that are out on the market.  The protein sources sucks, they have shitty fillers and a lot of other undesirable qualities, so I sent an email off to the founders of Exo to see how they were different and they were nice enough to reply to all of my questions.

Question 1) You feed your crickets a grain based diet, any concerns about the effects of this on the nutritional aspects of the cricket powder?

They are currently fed a certified organic non-GMO grain-based diet (although we are experimenting with different feeds). Crickets are omnivores in the wild though, so it’s not like cattle, for example, where they should be eating grass and we’re forcing them grains, thereby screwing up the omega 6 / 3 ratios etc. Crickets can thrive on pretty much anything, including grains (and actually each other!).

Question 2) Crickets are reported to be high in omega-3 alpha linoleic acid, do you have any insight into this? Have you done any analysis?

We’re doing some analysis on our flour right now but you’re right–all the literature suggests crickets (and insects more generally) are very high in omega 3s.

Question 3) How do you feel your product is different from some of the other “paleo” protein bars that are out on the market?

The first difference between Exo bars and competitive products is that our bars actually taste great. The recipes were formulated by a 3 Michelin Starred chef, and taste has always been our number 1 priority. The second difference is the quality of the ingredients statement–no fillers, nothing refined/processed etc. And finally (and most obviously), our protein source, which is effectively an animal protein, in a bar.

Ultimately, I’m fairly convinced in the product.  Its HIGH in a protein that comes from an animal and not some shitty protein like legumes, etc.  The additional ingredients consist mostly of almonds, honey, vanilla and salt.  Overall, this seems like a great product to carry around for when you can’t find a normal meal and need to have a healthy snack.

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