Dietary Supplements.....And Alphabet Soup

dietary_supplements_usp_gpm_bscgI am reading Nutrition Periodization for Athletes by Bob Seebohar right now and it is a great read if you are interested in how to fuel your body for heavy training, tapering, recovery.  It goes through how to view the macro and micronutrients we need in our system.  It explains weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance for athletes but one chapter that hit me in the face was the discussion of dietary supplements. (By the way I will be reviewing this book in more detail in the future and doing a giveaway.  Speaking of which have you entered the 22 Days Nutrition Giveaway?  It ends today at 5pm CST.) In the chapter on dietary supplements the author discusses vitamins.  Did you know that a multi-vitamin is a dietary supplement?  I guess I did know that but never thought of it that way.  I take a multi-vitamin daily along with a Vitamin D pill and never thought of where it came from or who the manufacturer is.  After all its just a vitamin right? Well I would be wrong, and I would be wrong based on where the vitamin came from.  What I mean by this is that the vitamin may have been produced at a lab that has supplements that are tainted and it winds up in the batch for the vitamins you are taking.  Right now you might be thinking to yourself who cares?  I guess the answer to that question is I care.  I want to know that what I purchase as a supplement is clean.  I don't want to one day qualify for Boston or Kona and find out that I have been cheating the system the entire time.  I want to do so on the fact that I train hard, eat right and not because I had an extra ounce or two of some drug that pushed the limits. [caption id="attachment_3231" align="alignright" width="240" caption="First Endurance is a top notch product produced in top notch facilities"]first_endurance_dietary_supplements[/caption] In the chapter the author, Bob Seebohar, discusses various groups that are known for being a sort of watchdog over the supplement manufacturing industry.  He specifically points out USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) and that your supplement should have that on the label.  That label means that the supplement passes tests for dissolution, disintegration, potency, and purity.  I went to their website and found so much information that it made my head spin.  I couldn't believe how much information was there and what this group does.  I decided that I was truly only interested in dietary supplements because I use Herbalife24 and was concerned about how and where their product is manufactured.  I did not find anything on the label and nothing on the website of USP and that is when I came across the article about First Endurance in Lava Magazine. As you may recall from my race report on the Disco Triathlon I used the EFS Liquid Shot for the first time (great product by the way.)  While reading this article I kept thinking about how great it is to know that the product I used for that particular race was definitely clean.  First Endurance practices high quality and puts a lot of effort into manufacturing their various products. I had blindly taken Jeff Irvin's (Dangle The Carrot) recommendation for this product.  Please don't misread that for me saying that Jeff would put just anything into his body, because I don't believe for a moment that he would.  I believe that Jeff is one of the hardest working triathletes I know and all his accomplishments are through hard work.  My point is that I did not take the time to look it up, and if you know anything about WADA and banned substances it is the athlete's responsibility to know what they are ingesting.  Similar to the fact that it is the athlete's responsibility to know the course.  I just went ahead and took this product and thought nothing of it.  This article put my mind at ease and I know without a shadow of a doubt that Liquid Shot will be a staple in my race bag (along with drinking more water on the run.) First Endurance runs a clean facility based on the article, but one point that stood out from the rest for me was the following:

The only way to know is if the product is produced in a Good Manufacturing Practice-approved (GMP) facility, a federal government-instituted process that effectively brings nutritional products to an approval level close to pharmaceutical grade. Few sports nutrition brands produce in a fac- tory with the GMP stamp of approval. First Endurance is one of them.

I did some research on listings of facilities or companies that were GMP approved but did not find a comprehensive list although I found that companies that are GMP approved do mention it and so you have individual listings.  The interesting item is that I went to the FDA website and there is no mention of GMP approved facilities which I found odd.  There is a whole section on dietary supplements but I could not find anything that was related to GMP.

[caption id="attachment_3232" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Herbalife24 is BSCG Tested"]herbalife24_dietary_supplements_bscg[/caption]

Now with USP and GMP floating around in my head I emailed my sponsors with questions regarding these two regulatory bodies and ran to my counter to read my labels again and that is when I saw another set of letters.  This time the letters on the canister of Herbalife24 said BSCG.  I thought.....oh great what in the world does this mean.  BCSG stands for Banned Substances Control Group.  This happens to be another regulatory body that checks for banned substances in dietary supplements.

A quick google search and I was on their website.  I was thrilled to see the following in the Certified Products section:

By participating in the BSCG program, each and every batch of a product is required to be analyzed and certified. Failure to meet this requirement results in immediate disqualification from the BSCG program. The below products have met this requirement. 

Be sure to look for the BSCG seal on the packaging to ensure that a sample from that batch has been analyzed and certified. 

You can find a list of companies that have been BSCG approved by clicking [HERE]

More importantly than that was that the group is led by Dr Don Catlin who  is a well-known anti-doping scientist and considered one of the founders of modern drug-testing in sport. "Some call Dr. Don Catlin... the father of drug testing in sports." (New York Times, Sept. 18, 2007.)

In addition to this impressive description Catlin has overseen testing for performance-enhancing drugs at the three most recent Olympics held in the United States since the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, as well as testing for the United States Olympic Committee, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Major League Baseball’s minor leagues and the National Football League (NFL). He has also developed drug identification techniques currently in use at the Olympic, professional and collegiate levels.[5][6]

In 1982, Catlin founded the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, the first anti-doping lab in the United States and now the world's largest testing facility of performance-enhancing drugs. He remained the lab's director for 25 years.[7][8][9] (Thank you Wikipedia.) Now none of this may matter to you but it matters to me and it matters quite a bit.  I like to believe that if I work hard good things will come and I have been working hard at my craft.  I am in the pool swimming thousands of yards per week, or on El Diablo riding for hours and finishing that up with running.  I eat as clean as I possibly can and I do not want the recovery drink or weight management shake I consume to ruin and tarnish that image. Imagine, if you would, reading this blog in two years and I post that I have qualified for Kona and then you find out that I had been using a banned substance for years.  Would you think less of me?  Would you think that you spent all that time reading this blog only to find out that I am a fraud?  I don't want that to happen so I will take every precaution that I can to ensure that what you read is me and nothing less.

What is your take on using dietary supplements?  Do you use any and if so do you care if it is clean?

Will you think about taking Herbalife or First Endurance products now that you know that they are clean?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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