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Nutrition

Are You Racing Clean?

How some sports nutrition companies are dropping serious cash to ensure you get only what’s on the label.

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How some sports nutrition companies are dropping serious cash to ensure you get only what’s on the label.

Just over a week ago the topic of doping in triathlon was forced into the spotlight with the announcement of sanctions against two American female triathletes. Both of the athletes, Beth Gerdes and Lauren Barnett, tested positive for muscle-builder Ostarine at races they won last year. Both claim they unintentionally ingested it, and Barnett was able to prove that a salt tablet she had taken was contaminated and caused the positive test. Most of us aren’t worried about ingesting ingredients banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. But we do want to know exactly what we’re taking in when we use sports nutrition products, and the fact is sometimes labels lie. Protein spiking, for example, has been a problem in the protein powder market. That happens when dishonest companies add a non-protein substance to their powders. So how can athletes know that they’re getting exactly what they think they are? That’s where clean certification comes in.

More and more sports nutrition companies are taking an extra step to ensure their products are free of any banned substances—and that their ingredients are true to their labels—by getting them certified clean. Klean Athlete, Herbalife, HotShot, CytoSport, GU Energy, Science In Sport, Glukos, Powerade and even RedBull all have some if not all of their products certified. They do it to give athletes peace of mind and to make it clear they’re avid supporters of clean sports. Here’s what you can expect from clean certified products.

NSF-CFS-logoThe certification process works like this: Manufacturers who want to get certified have two companies to choose from. The NSF Certified for Sport program (part of the National Sanitation Foundation, a Michigan-based product testing organization) tests final products to ensure that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the product, and that no banned substance is present. Companies that carry the NSF logo include CytoSport, BeachBody and Klean Athlete.

The other certification company is Informed-Sport. In addition to testing finished products, Informed-Sport will certify the raw materials and entire facilities that produce the finished product. Companies using Informed-Sport include GU, Science In Sport, Herbalife and Glukos.

Both certification companies provide online directories of the brands they work with, and both have a seal of approval they let certified companies use to show consumers their products have been certified.

“We [get certified] to provide the clarity and confidence to the pro athlete community that uses our products,” says Srinivasa Chandra, GU’s director of quality assurance and regulatory compliance.

The rest of us would be wise to choose certified products for safety. “Research shows that there is high prevalence of adulteration in sports nutrition products,” says Kelly Heim, the senior director of scientific affairs for Klean Athlete. The NSF, for example, has written about some protein products getting spiked with melamine, the same chemical some IKEA shelves are made of. “Part of what the NSF Certified for Sport Program is for is to verify that what is in the product matches what is on the label.”

Companies also undergo testing as part of partnership deals. “CytoSport partners with hundreds of professional sports teams, endurance athletes and sports professionals that hold NSF Safe for Sport certification as a requirement for any and all supplements used by their athletes,” says Tricia Griffin, R.D., senior marketing manager for technical content for CytoSport.

Companies who don’t produce all of their products in-house also like to get their production facilities certified. GU Energy, for instance, produces all of its energy gels in its own facility in Berkeley, Calif. But drink mixes, capsules and stroopwafels are produced in what GU calls a co-packer facility, where GU provides the recipe and sometimes the ingredients to a manufacturer who then creates and packages the product. For GU to be sure its products are clean, it needs to know the co-packer is also following the correct process.

informed-sport-trusted-by-sport-logo-nutrition-xSo for extra peace of mind—and to support companies taking the extra step to ensure their products are pure—check for clean certification. Go to Nsfsport.com or Informedsport.com for a full list of certified companies.

These seals will give you the confidence that your sports nutrition products are what they say they are.

This article appears in the March/April 2017 issue of Triathlete magazine. Find it on newsstands now.