Down underhanded

If you’ve spent any time exploring natural T boosters, you’ll have come across brands that present themselves as ‘safe steroids.’

These products are being dishonest, sure, but they’re not fooling anyone. Like a little kid in an Incredible Hulk costume, they’ve got the look, but they’re so unconvincing it’s almost cute.

We’re not saying organic supplements don’t have the power to seriously improve strength, muscle mass, stamina, mood, libido and reduce fat.They absolutely do. But it’s a case of natural in, natural out. You’ll be optimizing your bodies ability to produce it’s own test – not introduce wholly unnatural levels.

Our bodies are not designed to cope with the sheer volume of testosterone artificial steroids introduce.

Which is what makes the new flipside of this trickery so dangerous. A study carried out in Australia and New Zealand has identified certain supplements on sale there – T boosters and others – presenting as 100% natural that in fact contain anabolic steroids.

Worse still, the unwelcome extras are strictly off-label. So users have no knowledge of the risk they are taking.

Think less kid dressed as the Hulk, more adopting a baby and unwittingly getting Vin Diesel in a diaper.

The fake test test

The trial was carried out by teams from the University of Otago and the University of Technology Sydney. Led by Professor Alison Heather, from Otago’s School of Biomedical Sciences, researchers created cell bioassays to use on the supplements.

Bioassays are a scientific means of breaking down something in minute detail. In this case they were specifically designed to detect any bioactive androgen that is able to switch on our body’s androgen response, regardless of chemical structure.

They examined 116 over-the-counter, supposedly natural T boosters, pre-workout and fat burning supplements on sale in Australia or New Zealand.

In all, 5.4% of the samples had their bioassays handed to them and were outed as containing anabolic steroid.

Doesn’t sound a lot, but that’s about 1 in 20. Similar work from Europe puts that number as high as 16%. Again, not huge, but it’s a worry.

Contrary to what some believe, natural supplement fans won’t welcome artificial help. You might think improvement hungry users would consider this a bonus. This is not a matter of just extra fuel for the fire or added sizzle on the steak.

For users of natural supplements it’s not about gains at any cost. We choose natural supplements because we know the benefits of T, but also the risks of steroids. It’s about improving quality and quantity of life.

These findings will impact the sports world too. Precisely because natural supplements enhance performance but don’t fail drug tests, more competitors are taking them. Nasty surprises lurking under the radar in a minority of these products could damage careers, as Prof. Heather points out:

“Sports supplements contaminated or adulterated with androgens are a major concern because, for the unsuspecting consumer, they pose a potential health risk, while for an athlete it could result in a positive doping test.”

Shame of the game

So how did this happen? How did these products slip through the net? Well unfortunately there are plenty who would argue, ‘What net?’

That’s a little harsh. Safeguards are in place, but no question supplement regulations need to be tightened up. Hey, at least we can now steer clear of the offending brands in this study, right?

Hear ye, hear ye! Nobody buy…wh-what are they called, sorry?

Well as it turns out the authors of this study haven’t revealed the names of the failed products yet. Apparently they want to approach the companies in question privately first.

Woah, woah, wait a minute. Fair enough, sound a warning klaxon about dodgy brands but if you then don’t name them it leaves a cloud hanging over the whole industry. Understandably, legit supplement makers have openly called for cheats to be named.

Mark Landale, of TopMark Nutrition is one outspoken critic of the decision.

“I just want them named and shamed, to be honest, because it casts a bad light on all of the legitimate businesses out there, and all of the legitimate products.”

He continues,

“I’ve run my business for nearly 15 years now, and we’ve always done things properly. It’s just a shame because your everyday person will be looking at every product now, wondering if that has something in it.”

Hard to argue with that. We’re very quick to go public with the names of athletes who are caught out, why should supplements be different? Seems odd to prioritise a mystery company’s excuses over public safety.

Landale is dismissive of the idea this could be an accident.

“I can’t see it as being an accident. I don’t know of sports supplements being made in the same factories as they handle steroids, you know. It must be something that’s been done on purpose.”

Playing safe

The question is where does that leave us? Should we swear off natural supplements until the con artists are exposed?

Quite honestly we don’t think so. Firstly because we are talking about a small percentage of products here. The vast majority of natural supplements, which number in the hundreds of thousands, are perfectly safe. The worst most bad ones will do is disappoint you,

Also because it’s possible to take steps to make sure there’s almost no chance at all of getting stung.

A good start is making sure you’re supplement is cGMP certified. This proves there is a strong regime of testing and Quality Assurance where the supplements are produced. cGMP okayed brands aren’t shy about telling you.

The other thing you can do is a bit of old fashioned research on a supplement. Credible testimonials and reviews of it by other users, a lot of info about the formula, with clinical studies to back ingredients up. That sort of thing.

Establishing company background and motives is vital also. As Landale points out:

“There are some real cowboys out there. Some real cowboys, and it’s usually these smaller companies.”

Editor’s Note: I agree with Landale here. I would be very surprised if the big players in the industry are involved in this – they simply have too much to lose. My money would be on newly established/smaller brands that are doing this.

They will be producing on unregulated premises where it’s easy to adulterate products. They have nothing to lose, no reputation or client base. And they need to deliver BIG results in order to ‘muscle into’ the guys at the top. So they cheat.

My Advice?: Stick to the big, established brands.

Playing safe

A little bit of research goes a long way in keeping your supplement intake pure.

Stick to the bigger, established brands, look for cGMP certification. Only purchase from reputable sources.

Of course if you’d rather save your leg work for the gym you could always let this site do the checking for you. We’ve got your back…front, triceps, biceps and everything else.

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