The preworkout marketplace is a fucking joke.
And today I’m going to look at one of the primary areas of said ‘jokiness’ – the dreaded proprietary blend.
If you’re new to the gym or are trying your first preworkout supplement, you may be wondering “What does proprietary blend mean?” as you stare at the ingredients on the back of the tub. Well, you ain’t alone, buddy.
That’s why I’ve put out this article!
First off, there are two meanings to the phrase “proprietary blend”..
That’s right, two meanings!
There’s the definition the supplement manufacturers provide you, and there’s the actual truth.
What Is A Proprietary Blend?
A proprietary blend occurs when a company documents which ingredients are included in their product, but declines to give any dosages.
The FDA requires a manufacturer to list all active ingredients within the product, including the dosage of each ingredient, unless that ingredient is part of a proprietary blend (in which case we just get the weight of the entire blend itself).
So basically you could be buying a preworkout that contains caffeine, beta-alanine, and other popular energy boosting substances but you have no idea how much of each ingredient is in the product.
Instead, all we get is the total weight of the proprietary blend (i.e. 12 grams containing 8 active ingredients with no reference to the split between them).
Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, you’re correct!
.. and it’s about to get even more ridiculous.
What Supplement Companies Want You To Believe
If you contact any supplement manufacturer asking for an explanation of the phrase “proprietary blend” you’ll get a reply which looks something like this..
“We use a proprietary blend in <product name> in order to protect our highly sought-after formula from rival companies looking to steal the powerful combination of cutting edge ingredients and extensive research which went into the development of this product. We do this to also protect you, the consumer, from cheap knock-offs, so you can always be assured you are getting the very best product for you cash.”
And it makes sense.
They want to protect their top secret formula from other supplement companies who are looking to steal it and push out a carbon copy product. And, of course, they want you to believe they’ve discovered some never-before-seen magic formula which is going to take you from Annie to Arnold the second you drink it.
What Proprietary Blend Actually Means
Yeah, that’s all BS.
In fact, writing this in late 2017, if your preworkout supplement hides it’s active formula behind a proprietary blend I encourage you to destroy the product in a blaze of pure rage.
A proprietary blend is a sign of a weak product. A sub-par preworkout which is looking to play you for a fool, by taking your hard earned cash in exchange for a product that is going to under-deliver.
For years, I genuinely had no issue with proprietary blends all. It was just the way it was done.
For example, I remember using iSatori H-Blocker when it first hit the bodybuilding scene back in 2006.
If you’re too young to remember that, let Grandpa Russ fill you in. H-Blocker was the first popular preworkout supplement to really go to town on beta-alanine, giving us that tingly, skin-crawling sensation which has since become so familiar with preworkouts in general.
Back then, it was a game changer.
So it was totally legitimate and understandable when iSatori wanted to hide their formula in order to prevent other companies from ripping their product off, right?
But then things changed.
By 2014, the supplement industry began taking a more direct and open approach (thanks largely to the work of Jim Stoppani and forward-thinking companies like The Protein Works) by listing their key ingredients in a very clear and concise way.
Because, as common sense tells you, if a company has built a product with a kick-ass formula then they are going to want to shout about it! And what’s the best marketing tool they have in a world full of hype? That very same kick-ass formula!
It removes doubt. It becomes less about who can hype the best (see below) and more about who actually is the best.
And it caught on. Fast.
Pretty soon, all major supplement manufacturers were using a clearer, more transparent approach to labeling their preworkout supplements than they had in the past.
Looking at any of the current top of the line preworkouts, you’ll notice that the key ingredients come from the same short list of substances (beta-alanine, citrulline malate, betaine, creatine, and of course caffeine). There is literally no point in trying to ‘hide’ a formula any more.
Heck, I even make my own!
So while they might want you to think that they are doing it for your own good, or that their researchers climbed the highest mountain in search of new muscle building enzymes, the real reason couldn’t be further from the truth.
Try to stay away from proprietary blends.
Nowadays, proprietary blends are a tactic usually deployed by lesser-known supplement manufacturers looking to push out sub-par products on the cheap, but despite the huge strides made to clear up this type of shady behaviour, you may be surprised to hear that there are still some very popular preworkout supplements out there hiding their formulas behind proprietary blends. Gaspari SuperPump Max, Universal Animal Pump and Cellucor C4 are some big name examples to name just a few.
Thankfully, there are a few “good guys” out there, too. For a list of the current top preworkouts on the marketplace (according to active ingredients, not hype!!) read this post. It’s regularly updated, so you can trust that the information therein is still relevant.
Meanwhile, get the hell onto my free email list for future tips!