In a previous post, I discussed the use of chemical nomenclature on supplement labels vs. common names. For whatever reason, some people are more impressed by stuff they don’t understand, so – from a supplement marketing perspective – the more complex you can make it, the more “high tech” and “cutting edge” it will look. 3′,5,7-Trihydroxy-4′-Methoxyflavanone looks waaaay kewler than “hesperitin,” though they’re the exact, same thing.
To put it another way, just because “Science = Complicated,” doesn’t mean the reverse, “Complicated = Science,” is also true. In science, things are no more complex than they need to be. K.I.S.S. is standard operating procedure, even if it’s expressed in technical terms that most people aren’t familiar with.
This brings us to yet another supplement marketing tactic: labels with a long, loooonnnng list of ingredients. This adds needless complexity – sometimes to an extreme degree. Anyone catch the label for Muscletech’s Anabolic Halo, for example? Count ’em yourself: there are 74 different compounds/extracts listed (not including the artificial sweeteners and other additives).
This is a laughably ridiculous number of ingredients. Do you seriously think this is the simplest configuration for achieving the desired anabolic effects? If so, please give me a call!!! There’s a bridge I’d like to sell you… 😀
To provide a simpler example, let’s take Muscletech’s classic supp, Cell-Tech. Whereas the original Cell-Tech contained creatine monohydrate (boooooorrrrring!!!), the newer “Hardcore” version contains a blend of 7 different creatines:
Creatine Monohydrate (Featuring Nano-Diffuse™ Technology)
CREAKIC™ (Creatine-6,8-Thioctic Acid-Ketoisocaproic Acid Calcium)
Think about it: how are 7 creatines better than one? Do any of the alternate forms work better than creatine monohydrate? If not, then why are they in the formula? If so, then why is creatine monohydrate still in the formula? Where is the science that shows that a combo of even two different forms works better than one? Why seven, and not three or five…or eleven, for that matter?
But all them creatines shore do look purdy though…don’t they? Plain old creatine monohydrate is so…so…plain. It’s so yesterday, even dressing it up with “Nano-Diffuse™ Technology” doesn’t cut it.
Now, this isn’t to pick specifically on Muscletech (as amusing as this can sometimes be) – Cell-Tech is just an obvious example that many people are familiar with. As far as I can tell, it works well enough, although no better than competing, simpler products.
The take-home lesson is that a long list of ingredients doesn’t make a supplement somehow superior to one with only a few (hopefully) well-chosen ingredients. In addition to adding needless complexity, it also increases the odds that you’re buying a lot of “label decoration” (although that’s a topic for another post). To make a long story short, more isn’t better.
Former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals, freelance writer and researcher, writing on bodybuilding nutrition and supplements