Walk into any health food store and you'll likely find 100's of Protein Powders and Weightlifting Supplements to choose from. Even big box retail stores and grocery stores are getting into the market. The sports nutrition industry is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone and it's not slowing down.¹ Those in the market for weightlifting supplements often don't do much research on the topic. We take what's the cheapest or most convenient, or what's recommended by our personal trainers or friends.
The average person likely spends more time researching movie reviews than they do the supplements that they put into their bodies, and the supplement companies are betting on this!
Look at the fine print on any weightlifting supplement or vitamin you pick up at the store and you will find one thing in common between them. This disclaimer is required to appear on every product: "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). This product is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease." So does that mean that because big brother FDA isn't monitoring the claims of these products that they're harmful for us? No not necessarily. What it means is that the FDA allows the companies to police themselves so to speak.² The Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) is only responsible for taking action against a company that may mis-brand itself or make false claims after it has reached the market. In order to sell to consumer, these companies simply have to show that the product meets "reasonably safe" standards.³
So let's assume that everything's on the up and up. All things being equal, which weightlifting supplement is best? It really comes down to doing your homework and asking the right questions. Recently a personal trainer friend of mine recommended I try the 1st Phorm products. I've worked with a lot of trainers and have been in this industry for awhile myself. I tend to put more trust in those trainers that I feel really know their stuff versus those who just jump on the band wagon of a brand that courts them. My bud Ryan Van Dyke definitely speaks from personal experience and I trust his advice.
1st Phorm Level-1 Protein Review
For the sake of this post, I'm comparing the protein powder / weightlifting supplement that I was using previously, Met-Rx Protein Plus (Chocolate) to 1st Phorm Level-1 (Chocolate).
1. Price - 1st Phorm Level-1 is almost twice as expensive. Met-Rx Protein Plus is $24.99 (at Trader joe's) or .78 cents per ounce versus Level-1 at $45.99 or $1.24 / ounce
2. Taste - This claim always makes me chuckle. ALL products make claims they taste great. Let's be real, no label's going to read "This Is Some Gross Chalky Crap You Won't Like." I always liked the taste of the Met-Rx Protein Plus and the 1st Phorm Level-1 tastes the same to me if I'm being honest. Level-1 however does seem to mix better which is a huge plus. There's nothing worse than grabbing your shaker cup at then end of a workout and getting a mouthful of undissolved powder chunks!
3. Protein - There really isn't a difference in protein amounts. Met-Rx offers up 23g per scoop and 1st Phorm Level-1 has 24g.
4. Fat - Met-Rx has 1g of fat per scoop whereas 1st Phorm Level-1 has twice that with 2.5g. This isn't a deal breaker for me, but if you're watching your fat intake it may be important.
5. BCAA's - 1st Phorm Level-1 has 5g of BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and Met-Rx has 4g per serving.
So What's The Difference?
If you're keeping score, you've noticed that there's really not much difference between Met-Rx and 1st Phorm when you're comparing label to label, but now pay attention. This is where it gets a bit more complicated (and controversial depending who you ask). The big difference between these two seems to be the method of processing.
1st Phorm Level-1 claims that it offers "Ultra High Bioavailability." Bioavailablity refers to the amount of a nutrient or dose that is actually absorbed by the body.¹¹Looking into this further I think I've translated what this means in practical terms.
Level-1 uses a process called Low Temperature Processing (LTP). If you do a bit of research on this you'll come across the word denatured which sounds fancy but when you break it down it's pretty simple. DE-nature means an alteration from it's natural form. A simple way to understand this is to think of a dairy cow on the farm. The raw milk you'd get from a cow is in effect "pure protein." In order to sell it to the public, producers must pasteurize the milk first. This heats heats the milk kill off any potentially harmful pathogens, thus denaturing the product.²² EVERY weightlifting supplement and protein powder is denatured to some extent.
The process by which protein is processed can alter its molecular breakdown and ultimately it's bioavailability to the body. It's widely accepted that Low Temperature Processing does less damage to the natural properties of the protein. I think most people understand that cooking a product changes it's molecular structure. A bunch of spinach picked from the garden and eaten raw in a salad will offer more nutrients that that same bunch of spinach that's been cooked. The same concept applies to protein powders. For those with digestive issues this may be of concern to you. A more purely processed protein like Level-1 may be more easily digestible for you.
Ultimately I think the most important thing to realize when comparing products or reading weightlifting supplement reviews is that THEY are not responsible for creating the body you're working towards - YOU are. You can buy a paycheck's worth of supplements but if you're not doing your time in the gym and focusing on maintaining a clean and healthy diet you won't see results. It really is that simple. You'd spend hours if not days reading about which supplement is better for this or that, but it's still a SUPPLEMENT to everything else you're doing. If a perfect body came in the form of a pill or powder... everyone would have one!
You can ONLY purchase 1st Phorm Products from their website. Met-Rx however is available at lots of retail locations or via Amazon here or here:
Is 1st Phorm Weight Lifting supplements a lot of hype? Or is is surrounded by a brilliant marketing and branding strategy that projects a higher precieved value on their products? If the brand were indeed to go head to head on the store shelves of your local supplement retailer, would 1st Phorm still be able to command a price 3 times more expensive than their counterparts? You decide. Don't let your Personal Trainer sell you on something without first doing your research.
1. McGinn, Dave (11/07/10). The Globe and Mail "Are protein shakes the weight-loss magic bullet? 2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (05/11/14) "Who has the responsibility for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe?" http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/QADietarySupplements/default.htm#responsible 3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (03/20/14) "What information must the manufacturer disclose on the lable of a dietary supplement?"http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/QADietarySupplements/default.htm#FDA_role 11. Heaney, Robert P. (2001). "Factors Influencing the Measurement of Bioavailability, Taking Calcium as a Model". The Journal of Nutrition 131 (4): 1344S–8S. PMID 11285351. 22. (09/24/13) "The Myth of Undenatured Whey"http://3fu3l.com/the-myth-of-undenatured-whey/