Amino Spiking: What It Is and How to Identify If It Really Is Whey Protein

Amino Spiking: What It Is and How to Identify If It Really Is Whey Protein

If you already have a lot of experience in the world of supplements, perhaps it won’t take you by surprise, but if you still don’t know what the title of the post refers to, we invite you to come find out some of the fraudulent techniques that some manufacturers use when making their products.

What is Amino Spiking?

Also known as “Protein Spiking”, this is a technique that consists of adding (manipulating) a series of low-cost amino acids to the protein formula to increase the total nitrogen value.

Or in other words: increasing the amount of protein by lowering costs, and “cheating the customer”.

Protein amino spiking

What are the Tricks to Increase Protein Percentage?. Click this link.

How do the Manufacturers take advantage?

The amount of protein is measured as a function of the nitrogen content.

Just as protein contains amino acids, so too with nitrogen, and the tests that are used to check the content of this nutrient based on this principle.

However, the test seeks to measure Complete Proteins, or so it is assumed when entering the sample.

What happens is that it is possible to “falsify” the results, and due to the extra contribution of amino acids, increase the total protein

Protein aminoacids

The result? A protein per service value that will be a mixture of the amino acids present in the protein + “cheap amino acids”, including amino acids that are not used for protein synthesis (not proteinogenic).

Why is Amino Spiking done?

The mechanisms and procedures for obtaining the protein, including its packaging, transport and marketing campaign, are costs that the manufacturer must assume.

Therefore, if he can reduce the total investment, in a fraudulent way, as in this case, they will save a good amount of money.

There’s no other justification.

What are the Amino Acids used in the Amino Spiking? Generally: glycine, creatine, taurine or even glutamine. These amino acids are much cheaper than complete proteins, so the manufacturer can take advantage of them to falsify the results of the food products.

Is Amino Spiking legal?

The short answer is yes (if the amino acid content is indicated on the label).

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is in charge of the regulation. And, it seems, by subjecting any protein to an analysis, such as the Kjeldahl Method, which detects nitrogenous substances, the result will be interpreted as protein.

Thus, you might find the label of a protein indicating that it provides 22g of it, but if it has been treated by these false techniques, you will be ingesting its protein and the extra amino acids.

Obviously, nobody wants this.

Legal amino spiking

According to the FDA, pure amino acid products are not counted as protein, but nothing is specified specifically with respect to protein that includes additional amino acids.

What’s the problem with Amino Spiking?

Well, we could talk about bad practice on the part of the company that manufactures the products, and from the customer’s point of view, a deception.

Unfortunately, many people are playing with the lack of knowledge of many people, who place their trust in these companies, but in the end what interests these companies the least is precisely the customer who buys from them.

Another point to note: we might think that if amino acids are added to the formula, it will be strengthened. But the truth is that this is not completely true. The only thing that’s achieved, depending on which amino acid is added, is to increase the nitrogen content, without any other benefit.

Lastly, remember that these added amino acids are not proteogenic, that’s to say, they are not directly used as building elements.

Creatine is a supplement that helps improve physical performance, and its contribution, in terms of the service you are looking for from a protein, is not the right one.

Quality proteina

If we want creatine, we can always buy the supplement and add it as we see fit

The amino acids that interest us are those that our body can’t synthesise: the Essential Amino Acids.

Taurine, glycine, glutamine, peptides, creatine… What are they doing in my protein shake?

Due to the FDA’s very loose definition of the term ‘protein’, this practice is technically legal if indicated on the label.

Furthermore, the lack of regulation at European level doesn’t help much to clarify the issue.

You might think that in the end what they add are amino acids and will positively influence protein synthesis…Error.

80% whey protein concentrate (WPC 80%) and whey protein isolate (WPI) are proteins that have been shown to be particularly effective in contributing to muscle mass gain. Glutamine, glycine and taurine, however, are simply not as effective.

Concentrated whey price

In this article on protein synthesis it is very clear that the greater the amount of leucine, the greater the muscle protein synthesis.

How to identify Amino Spiking?

We’ll have to check the
labelling or nutrition factsheet provided by the manufacturer

On its labelling, information regarding the composition must be included. Therefore, if there is “amino spiking”, its easily detectable on the label.

Important: when we refer to the alteration of the protein, we always refer to a protein supplement without any further additions, i.e. the “All-in-One” formulas, or those that are mixtures of various types of proteins, we’ll not consider, as it’s already indicated that they are made up of various sources (proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates…).

What do we have to look for on the label?

  • As we already know, the list of ingredients appears ordered from highest to lowest content, therefore, if there are elements at the beginning of the description, they may have been added
  • If among these we find: strong>creatine, glycine, taurine… when what we have is a pot of proteins, it’s another weighty reason to reconsider whether we really are interested in that product.
  • Search . Among these we can mention: cGMP certification and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
  • We must know that each flavour produces a deviation in the total of proteins. Generally, the chocolate flavour has less % of proteins due to its cocoa content.
  • Lack of information, such as the aminogram. Many manufacturers attach the corresponding amino acid profile to the raw material, but not the one we actually get when we buy the product, once it’s been processed, the flavour’s been added…
The food preparations based on proteins from HSN contain these mentioned certifications, and are being working on continuously to continue improving the formulas. All this information is entirely transparent, and, in addition HSN, offer technical advice to the client, at all times.

Learning to read the labels

The images below compare a 100% Premium Whey Protein Plus from Muscletech with Evowhey 2.0 from HSN where differences in composition can be seen due to the addition of ingredients, a priori unnecessary in a protein.

The Clean Label (i.e. make it as simple as possible) is a very important factor and therefore take great care when reading the label.

Info amino spiking

Conclusions

In this sense, a good example of how to present the information would be one that includes

  • A product image.
  • Certification stamps on those that have them (key aspect).
  • Purpose of use of the supplement in question in sport.
  • Nutritional information of macronutrients and micronutrients per 100 grams and per recommended consumption dose.
  • Flavours available, size and mode of presentation of the product.
  • Complete aminogram (products with proteins and amino acids) and additional ingredients (e.g. sweeteners or emulsifiers).

Sources

  1. Bruno, G. (2014). Do your proteins meet label claims
  2. European Commission. (2014). Food Supplements
  3. European Food Safety Commission
  4. Finete, VL.; Gouvêa, MM.; Marques, FF.; & Netto, AD. (2013). Is it possible to screen for milk or whey protein adulteration with melamine, urea and ammonium sulphate, combining Kjeldahl and classical spectrophotometric methods?. Food chemistry, 141(4), 3649-3655.
  5. Food and Drug Administration

Related Entries

Review of Amino Spiking

Identifying - 100%

Added amino acids - 100%

Reading the label - 100%

Products with certifications - 100%

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HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
A specialist in Pathophysiology and biomolecular effects on nutrition and sportive activity who will show you the elaborate world of sports nutrition in his articles, employing a simple and critical writing.
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