Athletes often turn to supplements such as creatine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to enhance muscle strength and recovery. These supplements may also benefit people with muscular diseases and those recovering from knee surgery. However, tests by ConsumerLab.com show quality problems with 36 percent of supplements recently selected for review. Three creatine supplements were found to contain unacceptable levels of creatine breakdown compounds, and two of these products provided only tiny amounts of creatine. In addition, the BCAA "blends" in some products were found to consist mainly of compounds other than BCAAs, with only 5 percent to 10 percent of listed amounts being BCAAs.
"It can be very difficult for people to know what they are getting from muscle enhancement supplements," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com president. "It is important to read labels carefully and be skeptical of contents unless verified by a third party," he added.
In addition to a range in quality, the price of products varied widely. The lowest cost to get the equivalent of 5 grams of high-quality creatine monohydrate from a supplement was 9 cents, and for 5 grams of BCAAs it was 31 cents, while the cost was well over $1 to get these same ingredients from some other products.
The new Product Review of Muscle Enhancement Supplements is available at consumerlab.com/reviews/review_creatine_BCAAs/creatine/. Included are findings for eleven supplements selected by ConsumerLab.com and eight supplements that passed ConsumerLab.com's voluntary Quality Certification Program . Two products similar to one that passed testing are also identified. Products covered in the report are Betancourt Nutrition Chewies, BIORhythm AfterGlow, Body Fortress Super Advanced Creatine, BodyTech 100 percent Pure Creatine Monohydrate, Dymatized Nutrition BCAA Complex 5050, EAS Phos HP, Life Extension Branched Chain Amino Acids, MET-Rx BCAA 2200, MRM BCAA+G, Muscle Marketing USA ATP Creatine Serum, Muscle Marketing USA Endurus Runners Serum, MusclePharm Creatine, Myology BCAA 2200, ON Micronized Creatine Powder, Precision Engineered BCAA 2200, Six Star Pro Nutrition Creatine X3, Solgar BCAA Plus, Ultimate Nutrition 100 percent Crystalline BCCA, Vitacost ARO Black Series Amino Plus, Vitacost Creatine, and VPX Creatine Plasma.
The report also provides information about the uses, dosage, and potential side effects of creatine and BCAAs and explains differences among forms of these ingredients, such as creatine monohydrate, creatine AKG, dicreatine malate, and KreAlkalyn.