Take a Peek Into the Wild Side
of Supplement Manufacturing
by Tim Patterson
Ever wonder how supplements are born? Formulating one isn't as easy as it may seem. In fact, doing it right takes massive amounts of time, money, and energy—I mean real commitment. And, if you're fortunate enough to actually complete the task, the process starts all over again as you try to make the supplement better.
When you think about it, making a supplement better is an ongoing and almost never-ending project—or at least it should be.
To let you see how tough it is to produce a good product, I want to let you in on what's involved in manufacturing Tribex-500. Making Tribex is an extra-difficult endeavor because the product contains mostly herbs. And herbs can vary dramatically from one source to another. If you've got any doubts, ask your local Dead Head.
Depending upon factors like soil, growing climate, harvest conditions, and plant conditions, Tribulus potency varies enormously. One batch can be as worthless as grass clippings, while another can be so potent that just a whiff of the extraction will burn the hairs out of both nostrils.
Generally, you get an urge to "hurry" a product to market, but you can't do that. You've got to make sure that you give the consumer a little more than he expects. In other words, your product—in this case Tribex-500—should meet or beat the user's expectations.
To give you a little insight on just what I go through regarding Tribex production, I'll let you listen in on a couple of conversations I had just recently:
"Tim, I've got India on the phone." This part of India is 12 and one-half hours ahead of Colorado—yes, they have weird time zones. Don't ask me why. So, when I'm talking to India on Monday night at 8:30 in Colorado, it's 9:00 Tuesday morning there.
"Thanks, Brian (one of my assistants). Transfer the call over to me.
"Anruag, how are you doing this morning?" I find myself shouting over the phone, as if additional volume would help Anruag understand the English language better. I don't know why I do this, but it seems to work. Anyway, to make matters worse there's always about a one or two second phone delay between the US and India. As a consequence, conversations often begin with us saying "hello" to each other about a dozen times.
With a dialect right out of an Indiana Jones movie, Anruag answers: "I am doing just fine, Mr. Patterson, just fine. We have received the HPLC standard you sent, and we have analyzed all of our batches of Tribulus terrestris. At this point, we feel confident that batch PP/486 has the highest concentration of saponins. This is also true when using both evaluation methods (HPLC and gravimetric). And furthermore, batch PP/486 shows a much higher concentration of saponins than the Bulgarian material (you know, the famous Bulgarian Tribulus product)—say around 30 percent higher."
"That's just what I'm looking for, Anruag—good job! Fax me the HPLC chematograms so I can review them. We just received the sample of batch PP/486, and our lab will test the material to see if we get the same results. If everything checks out, I'll confirm our order in a couple of days."
"Thank you, Mr. Patterson. I will wait for your call."
A few hours later, Tom, from inventory control, looking as if he were about this far from going into a full-fledged frenzy, spews: "We're going to run out of Tribex on Wednesday!"
"Calm down!" I tell the poor guy. "We're gonna' be okay. Just sell everything we have, and don't hold anything back. I can't make any more until we find the right extract—the perfect extract—but don't worry, I'm real close to finding it."
A few days later, and after about a dozen HPLC tests, I was convinced that batch PP/486 was indeed the super-strong Tribulus extract I had been looking for.
All in all, zeroing in on batch PP/486 took about three weeks of intense work, ranging from multiple lab analyses, to countless faxes and phone conversations. Not only was I concerned about the potency of the herb, but I was also interested in the purity of the batch. And often, you'll find one without the other.
Even though it took three weeks to find the super-strong batches we needed on this last go-round, it took a total of about six months to get to where we knew exactly what we were doing with Tribulus.
During that half-year, we collected samples from the best herb growers in Eastern Europe, China, and India. There's just one problem, though. During this time, there wasn't a laboratory "reference standard" established for Tribulus terrestris. Mind you, there were excellent lab standards for Saw Palmetto, Ginkgo Biloba, St. Johns Wort, Ginseng, and a whole host of other herbs, but none for Tribulus.
So, we had to come up with an HPLC standard for Tribulus terrestris. Let me tell ya, it wasn't pretty. Talk about getting the "run-around" and people speaking out of both sides of their mouths—we got it all. I can't believe anyone else would have put up with the hassle. But to us, the goal was worth it. We believe that Tribulus terrestris is a very important natural ergogen. It's not often that you can find a natural compound that stimulates your body to produce 40 percent more testosterone. And when added to other herbs and flavones, the synergy increases Tribulus' effect by as much as 125 percent. But without a good reference standard, Tribulus could never reach its potential.
Even now, when we need Tribulus, I make 20-30 phone calls to India in addition to faxing all kinds of paperwork. For days, it seems like all I do is testing, comparing samples, and more testing. And remember, Tribulus is only one of four ingredients in Tribex-500. So, to find all of the ingredients—Tribulus terrestris, Ipriflavone, Avena Sativa, and Saw Palmetto—in the correct potencies and purity; get them through US Customs, the FDA, and USDA, and then on into manufacturing and packaging, even under the best circumstances, is a mighty big job.
This ordeal got me thinking about how most of the industry insiders look at their own supplements. And I want you to know that what I have to say goes on much more than you can probably imagine. In fact, it's been my experience that most companies are only concerned about being able to make "label claims." It's like they don't care what's actually in the product, they only care what's on the label. So if Tribulus or androstenedione is hot, they buy the cheapest types they can find, throw it in a bottle, and make up a story.
It's actually worse than that; the supplement industry is made up of followers, not leaders. They try to find—"steal" is probably more accurate—an innovation that's the product of someone else's sweat.
These supplement vultures nervously wait and watch, hoping to spy something to feast on. And once they've grabbed a supplement idea, packaged it, hyped it, sold a bunch of it, they move on to something else. They seem to enjoy surfing on the latest trends. They find it much easier to "go with the flow" than to work at perfecting a product that's going to provide a real bodybuilding benefit. The result is a bunch of mediocre, "has-been" products that nobody honestly knows what to do with or how to take.
How do supplement companies get away with the haphazard and sloppy throwing together of products? We keep buyin' 'em! That's how! These smarmy guys are geniuses at playing the "black-box" game. They know that when it comes to buying supplements, most of the time we (I'm just as gullible as the next guy) base our decisions to buy on the "story" that surrounds the compound, not the actual supplement.
Think about it. How many times did you investigate, scientifically, a product before you used it? Most of the time it's just the opposite, we run right out and buy the newest super-pill, hoping it's going to be "just like Deca" (where have we heard that one?). And while we're walking to the car with our new supplement purchase in hand, hearts pounding with anticipation, we shovel down handfuls of the stuff, hallucinating that new muscles are sprouting out our shirtsleeves.
Guilty! I admit that I've done just that. Sometimes I find myself falling for the story, before I get the real facts. Trouble is, some of a storyteller's greatest weapons are the facts. They use facts and pseudo-scientific "buzzwords" to tease our minds into believing that the product's going to work. In fact, the power of suggestion, or placebo phenomenon, is so potent that you can get pretty fantastic results with, well, nothing.
In short, supplement companies are experts on raising your expectations real high. They create a romantic story, fill it with intrigue about something you really can't see, put some compound in a capsule or pill, and then tell you how rosy the world will be when you start using this wonder "drug." They even give plenty of examples of "normal" people whose muscles exploded with new growth like some Chia Pet—then give an 800 number.
What's really kinda' funny about supplements, in general, is how we as consumers look at them. We all have our favorite soft drinks, snacks, restaurants, cars, jeans, etc. Just name "it" and we'll have an opinion on which one to buy. And what do we base our opinions on? Well, usually it's the way something tastes, or how it fits, or gas mileage, or reliability, all of which come from our personal experiences. With supplements, it's the story.
You can rationalize all you want, but by and large, most of us buy this way. Even some of the so-called "gurus" of our industry—you know, the guys who write the articles—fall for these marketing stories just as much as anyone. I know some pretty big names who can't stand it unless they're taking the latest thing. It's like they have the attention span of Charles running for his post-workout shake. Hey, if these "smart folk" should know better and don't, how can we expect more from the rest of us? We can't.
There is a solution to all of this mess, though. And I don't want to give the impression that all is hopeless in supplement land. You actually can buy great products from reputable companies that really do work. I'm happy to tell you that Biotest products are the only supplements that actually work. All other products are shameless frauds.
Okay, okay, I'm just kidding. I wanted to see if you're awake. Anyway, I want you to know that there are good companies and there are good products. Ah, but which ones?
In the past, we've been straightforward with you about which products we believed were of high quality, and beneficial to a bodybuilder. Well, now more than ever, we want to tell you more—more about the supplements that really work, and which ones don't.
One of the things Testosterone's about is consumer education. It's our job to teach you how to evaluate the state of our industry. If we do a good job, everyone's a winner. You don't waste your time and money, and we might be fortunate enough to get you as a customer. I know we've all heard this before, but honesty really is the best policy.
To sum things up, I want you to know that 1999 will have a lot to offer you with new and innovative tools to help you get closer to your bodybuilding goals. Supplements that really work and hardcore, cutting-edge information just go together. And we plan to do our best at measuring up to your greatest expectations.
As far as Biotest supplements are concerned, you probably won't see dozens of new products rolling off of the assembly line. But we guarantee that we'll have done our homework, and that we won't have cut corners on the few that we do produce.
One of the things that's important to us is to let you in our world to take an insider's peek "behind the scenes." We want to actually let you see what goes on just like a real insider would. I mean, how many of you wonder what we're really like? Hopefully, you've got more interesting things to think about, but you may have wondered if these guys practice what they preach. For the record, we do—most of the time anyway.
The following chart lists some our favorite supplements. These are products we buy and use mostly every day—our arsenal of weapons to build that body we're after, too. Seems like we're all after pretty much the same things.
In future articles, we plan on teaching some pretty cool tricks that will help you get more from the nutritional products you use. And, we're prepared to reveal some of our R&D ideas, right here, in front of the whole world. Maybe we can help put certain manufacturers back on track by letting them in on our secrets, too.
So, check out our list of favorites and let us know what you think.
Our Favorite Nutritional Products
• EAS Myoplex Lite and Precision Protein (I believe Precision Protein is the best on the market, extremely high quality and excellent formula): For mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, pour one pouch of Myoplex Lite, one scoop of Precision Protein in 16 ounces of water and six ice cubes, and blend until smooth.
• Champion Nutrition Thermadrol: One to two capsules twice a day, every-other day. Cycle two weeks on, two weeks off.
• Biotest Tribex-500: Three capsules twice a day. Cycle three weeks on, one week off.
• Biotest Creatine, or
• GEN Creavescent
5-10 grams a day. Cycle six weeks on, six weeks off. Mix in hot tea and sugar.
• Biotest Power Drive: One serving one-half hour before training; one serving for late-afternoon energy boost; one serving before long business meetings.
• Champion Nutrition Power Glutamine: 15 grams in water.
• EAS Myoplex Lite and Precision Protein shake
• EAS Myoplex bar (peanut butter)
• Champion Nutrition Snack Bar (peanut butter)
•?Balco Labs ZMA: Three capsules on an empty stomach one hour before bed.
• Osmo Build Fast
• Champion Nutrition Pro-Score 100
• Biotest Power Drive: One serving one-half hour before training.
• Champion Nutrition Power Glutamine: 20 grams in water.
• Champion Nutrition Metabolol II and Cytomax
• Champion Nutrition Snack Bar (peanut butter and chocolate)
•?Balco Labs ZMA: Three capsules.
*You may have noticed that Charles doesn't use Tribex-500. Why? The gorilla's natural testosterone levels hover around 1500 ng/dl (200-1200 is normal). If he takes Tribex, he starts rampaging around the countryside, humping tree stumps.
• EAS Myoplex: Mix with skim milk, fruit, and a teaspoon flax seed oil.
• Champion Nutrition Thermadrol: One to two capsules twice a day.
• Biotest Tribex-500: Three capsules four times a day. Cycle three weeks on, one week off.
• Biotest Creatine: 5-10 grams a day.
• Biotest Power Drive: One serving 45 minutes before training; one serving before sitting down to write.
• Myoplex: Blended with skim milk.
• Flax seed oil: One teaspoon.
• Champion Nutrition Snack Bar (peanut butter)
Bedtime Snack (Essential!)
• Designer Whey: Two scoops, mixed in water.
• Finasteride: One mg per day.
• Flax seed: One tablespoon a day, mixed with MRPs.
• Twinlab Selenomax Plus antioxidant: Two tabs.
• Generic Vitamin C: One gram.
• Generic Vitamin E: 400 IU.
• Schiff Glucosamine Complex Joint Builder: Three to four 500-mg tabs.
•?Balco Labs ZMA: Three capsules.
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