If you have ever been to any vitamin or supplement store, you’ve seen them, and you may not even know it. They’re deceptive, misleading, and even dangerous. They’re one of the sports nutrition supplement industry’s dirtiest and most frequently used tricks: the proprietary blend.
A proprietary blend, in a nutshell, is a combination of two or more ingredients in a supplement. Sometimes an entire supplement is comprised of just one, or several proprietary blends. For example, that Nitric Oxide pre-workout drink you’re convinced you have to chug in order to have a productive workout may contain several proprietary blends. For instance, the creatine portion of this drink may be listed as a “Homicidal Crea-tastic Matrix,” and it may contain 3 different types of creatine, such as Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) or a Creatine Chelate… The “matrix” (a proprietary blend) may be 5,500mg. However, that’s the quantity of the proprietary blend itself; the sum of all of the creatines. The fact is, you don’t know specifically how much of each ingredient is in the blend!
This practice often results in ineffective, under-dosed, and over-hyped products. Just because a product is labeled as “EXTREME!” or “HARDCORE!” or “UNDERGROUND!” doesn’t make it “EFFECTIVE!” While quality is often more important than quantity, in the case of supplements, they should go hand-in-hand. If you’re paying your hard-earned money for a product, shouldn’t you know exactly what and how much is in it? More importantly, you’re putting this product and all of its ingredients–whatever they may be and their quantity–into your BODY, which is far more important than the money you could be wasting.
One of my favorite examples is a fat burner currently on the market with a 400mg proprietary blend as its only ingredient. It has everything you’d come to expect from a thermogenic fat burner, including, you guessed it, caffeine. Well, if there are about 115mg of caffeine in a typical cup of coffee, then it stands to reason that to get a good “boost” of energy for a workout, one should have at least twice that amount of caffeine, so about 230mg of caffeine. So if an effective dose of caffeine is in fact in this proprietary blend, that leaves you with only 130mg TOTAL of SIX other ingredients, including green tea? If this is the case, that would mean that you are getting 21.6mg (next to nothing) of every other ingredient other than caffeine. What do you think? Does that sound effective to you? Worthy of your money?
The supplement industry, like any other industry, is business-driven. It’s 1 part science, 2 parts marketing, 1 part presentation. Their primary goal, sadly, is not your personal success, but their profit and potential for growth. Having said that, it’s important to realize that most supplements are pretty well-dosed and effective. Think about it, how would a supplement company make any money if none of their products did anything? Who would buy their stuff?
The key to understanding the strategy of the supplement industry is to realize that in the case of proprietary blends, they’re often giving you just enough of a lot of different things to make you see limited results– just enough to make you want to keep giving them your money in hopes of better results with continued use.
Proprietary blends aren’t the Devil. As a matter of fact, there are some products that I use (but won’t advertise because they don’t pay me!) that have proprietary blends. But here’s the catch: they’re not exclusively made of proprietary blends. For instance, my protein powder has a proprietary blend of digestive enzymes, and that’s OK with me– as long as they’re not cheating me on my protein!
So what’s the rule? Keep it simple. If there are more proprietary blends than listed ingredient amounts, and especially if a product is made exclusively of proprietary blends, don’t waste your money. You can do better.