Supplements: The Unregulated Industry

By: William Lien

Have you ever wondered where you protein comes from, or what type of fish  your fish oil comes from? When you’re in the supplement store, do you wonder which brand of protein to buy, or why certain brands are more expensive than others? These are questions anyone who takes supplments should be asking him/herself.

I spend my days  doing research in an omega-3 fatty acid laboratory, so I am indirectly involved in the fish oil industry. Through basic research and consultation with fish oil distributors, it is revealed that all fish oils come from either one or two suppliers, with both coming from the same sources. Since the industry is unregulated, distributors can change the composition of the fish oils whenever they want. In my research, the amount of fatty acids listed on the label often does not match up with what I find. Unfortunately, reputable brands are guilty of this as well.

What are you really taking?

The same “fishy” business is found in the protein supplement market. Everyone is aware of the seemingly endless number of protein supplement brands. What isn’t such common knowledge, though, is what is actually contained in these products.  Be honest withyourself..when you look at the nutritional label, you probably don’t know what more  than half of  the ingredients are. You see names like malto-dextrin, dextrose, sucralose, waxy maize and medium chain triglyercides, just to name a few. These are filler ingredients that are cheaper and when mixed in combination with protein, are used to mark up the price, decrease the protein content, and market to those that don’t know better. The bottom line, be wary of any added ingredients. Always pick supplements with the fewest ingredients and the ingredients that you are looking for.

Don't let this be  you.

Don’t let this be you.

It’s all about making a profit, so competing brands will do whatever it takes to outdo their competitors. Their tactics range from adding a “newly discovered ingredient” to having a “special proprietary blend,” or even to utilizing some sort of special marketing gimmick that will convince the buyer that their product is the best. The reality is that there is no supplement that is going to boost your testosterone by 10000%. So, the take away message here is to do your research and know what you are buying before you invest in it and ingest it.

You can be badass without taking this.

Remember, supplements are supposed to facilitate your gains on top of how well you eat. Don’t be the guy in the picture above. Spend money on food first, then supplements. The bottom line is, do whatever you can to aid in your gains and recovery with food before entertaining the thought of an ergogenic aid. There is no magic supplement on the market that is going to make you swole or look like you don’t eat carbs after 6pm.



Having a plan and sticking to it is the key to successful gains inside and outside the gym. The cheapest supplement you can buy is real, whole food.


Will you think twice before buying your next supplement? Do you think the supplement industry should be regulated Comment below and remember to”like” us on facebook!

ArticleNot only does he push himself everyday in training as well as many of the varsity athletes that he coaches on a daily basis. William also coaches several aspiring weightlifters who are looking to perform competitively in the future. He identifies movement flaws in both the snatch and clean/jerk, applying his knowledge and using progressions to correct the flaws. At the very moment, he is currently pursuing his Masters in Physiology. More specifically, looking at omega-3 fatty acids associated with cardiovascular disease, inflammation and sports performance. With regards to his training, he supplements his training with the concept of ‘Crossfit’ and several applications of powerlifting as well. Lastly, he enjoys food and long walks on the beach.




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4 responses to “Supplements: The Unregulated Industry

  1. What are your thoughts on fish oil supplements? We’ve all heard the good things they can do for your body, but then you read articles like the one below and it’s hard to know what to believe. What are your thoughts?

    Here’s the article:

    • wlien

      I believe that fish oil supplements are still beneficial in many ways.

      The issue with the research industry is alot of research groups will often misrepresent data/exclude relevant data that doesnt go along with their hypotheses so that the reader will mis-interpret the data especially towards people that are not in the field of academia.

      This creates controversy, which inevitably the government increases research funding and these research groups are now even more pressured to produce more data that people expect to see.

      Like i said in the article, do all you can with foods first.

  2. Nice article Will! My background is in Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance. I’m very aware of the unregulated supplement industry. I really wish the industry was regulated to purge 95% of the borderline fraud that occurs in this industry! Nice job on getting the message out.

    Greg Guyatt

  3. Corey Tsang

    That’s the fundamental problem with supplements: no regulation. Impossible to make any real informed decision because there will always be the question: “Is what’s on the label actually what’s inside the bottle?”. Without regulations or your own HPLC-MS machine, no one can answer that. And if you can’t answer that, how can you make any judgement on the product, if you aren’t even sure with 100% certainty that’s what you are actually taking.

    Many of the supplements that actually “work” is because they are “contaminated” with prescription drugs.

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