Silence of the Scams
The supplements industry has a dreadful reputation. And quite frankly, it deserves it. In amongst the good guys there lurk all manner of pirates and bandits using every trick in the book to make a quick buck.
In this article we’ll examine some of the red flags, obvious or otherwise, you should definitely give the swerve when selecting a testosterone booster.
These always look great on paper; it’s no wonder so many of us are tempted in. You know the basics, right? Try it free for a set time and if in the end you decide it’s not for you, you simply walk away having lost nothing.
Unfortunately, for products like testosterone boosters, which make such a selling point of big – BIG GAINS, BIG PHYSIQUE, BIG PERFORMANCE, all in a font that would make the Hollywood sign feel inadequate – it would surprise you how many brands are fond of small print.
The most common way a free trial becomes an anything-but-free obligation is a process whereby immediately after the provisional period ends, you’re automatically entered into a subscription scheme and charged a sizable rolling monthly fee. All this usually happens as quickly as it does quietly, giving you no notification and using bank details which were probably given originally only to a cover a small postage and packaging cost. There are plenty of examples of customers being billed literally hundreds of dollars or pounds by unscrupulous companies and getting product they don’t want or, worse still, nothing at all.
Best Thing To Do?
Once you’re in, these types of setup can be incredibly difficult to put right. If you’re lucky enough to find an option for cancelation, trying to use it can often convince you that famed Batman villain The Riddler must’ve got himself a Saturday job in customer service, as you begin following a torturously frustrating trail of unanswered emails and disconnected phone numbers.
The easiest way to cancel any suspect subscriptions then is to bypass the company altogether and ask your bank to stop payment. Refunds can be a whole new headache; regrettably it often comes down to either calling the whole experience a lesson learned or calling a lawyer. As with any of these tricks though, prevention is better than cure. If you haven’t committed to a free trial yet, don’t. We would strongly recommend you go for a brand which offers a solid looking money back guarantee instead.
By solid we mean prominently displayed, clear and in-depth terms and conditions on the website, with a dependable means of contacting the company if you’re dissatisfied. Money back guarantees are far more straightforward, much fewer opportunities for those lingering ties we’ve talked about and no secret opt out clauses.
It’s just a regular transaction with the possibility of return, the way buyers and sellers of anything and everything have been doing it for centuries now. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, that’s what we say. And if it is broke, return it.
Anyone familiar with this site will know how much we’re irked by proprietary blends. I probably needn’t say anymore here, but I’m going to.
These rants are almost like our ‘Hey Jude’ at this point, articles aren’t the same without it. So, one more time with feeling. Proprietary blends aren’t so much an active scam as just a bit of an open goal inexplicably handed to manufacturers by the FDA. The rules for supplements state that all individual components and their quantities must be detailed on the label, unless they are part of a patented formula, in which case only the names of separate ingredients and the total volume of the mix need be stated.
Why is this important? Well let’s say you’re looking to get into the testosterone business and you’re pricing up ingredients. Ouch, that top of the line, really effective stuff is a little steep, eh? No problem, just take a few miniscule amounts of the really good stuff and mix it in with plenty of budget garbage. All you need now is a name for this concoction – usually something which sounds like it was found balled up in the waste paper basket of the guy who invented Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Something only a celebrity couple in search of baby names would take seriously – Strengthomatic Matrix or PowerGrunt 3000 Formula, say.
Once that’s patented, hey presto, you’ve made an all but worthless product on the cheap, which is still making all the right noises on the label. AND, you can also list those ingredients on the promotional material. Better yet, the money you saved on quality you can now plough into the advertising budget to convince people of its quality.
Best Thing To Do?
It’s up to you, if you’re a fan of lucky dips and not a huge fan of your own money, you don’t have to do anything; but if you expect clarity when it comes to exactly what you’re putting into your body and you appreciate value for money, then it’s as simple as avoiding any booster made up largely of proprietary blends.
Brands that use them will tell you that they are an effective method of safeguarding particularly impressive recipes which they don’t want copied. This might sound reasonable at first but when you consider how well market leaders like TestoFuel and Prime Male do with full disclosure, that old KFC chestnut starts to sound at best childish, at worst highly suspicious. Our recommendation is a supplement of high quality ingredients, listed in full so you can investigate precisely what you’re taking. There’s no need to save money for advertising because when a booster works well you become that company’s walking talking advertisement.
Suspicious Testimonials & Reviews
‘To boldly go where no man has gone before’ is alright for some, but I’m more of the ‘let a couple of men go there first just to check nothing weird happens and then sheepishly go after’ type.
That’s why I and others like me value really worthwhile supplement reviews or testimonials and get so pissed off when they’re obviously fake. There are two main kinds of questionable testimonial as far as we’re concerned, which we call the Secret Service Special, the Unwitting Celebrity. A Secret Service Special is when the reviewer has no picture, hardly any background info and an obviously assumed name. Either these guys are currently so deep undercover that we can’t know anything about them … except their preferred testosterone booster; or they’re the half assed creation of some con artist who couldn’t get any actual humans to endorse their rip-off.
The Unwitting Celebrity can take two forms; either they use a well-known picture as the face of a hastily made up John Doe or they will use an actual celebrity for an endorsement which never happened. A perfect example of this was when the makers of a testosterone booster called Testoboost decided they would chance their arm (and every other bone in their body) by cooking up a non-existent endorsement from renowned bodybuilder Gert Louw. Luckily for them legal action and a damning You Tube video was as far as the big fella went. Reviews that are poorly spelled, light on detail, clearly inaccurate or unrealistically positive can all be signs something is not quite right.
Best Thing To Do?
The best thing you can do in this case is trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel credible it probably isn’t. A good testimonial should have a full name and genuine photo, written testimony, before and after pictures and a video. The more detail the better. You shouldn’t have to go far to find them either, a good supplement will have no shortage of fans and companies won’t be shy about showing you as much.
It’s always advisable to cross check the testimonials on official booster sites with more impartial, independent reviews. What you’re looking for from supplement evaluations is genuine balance, acknowledging both the pros and cons of a booster. An in-depth understanding of not only the product and its ingredients but also our physiology and how the two can interact is a must.
Hidden & Toxic Ingredients
This is probably the most ominous sounding scam. It gives the impression of some guy with a scar on his face and white cat on his lap producing supplements directly from his hollowed out island volcano lair. While it’s rarely quite that cinematic, sadly both of these are a very real concern.
There is a difference between the two however; undeclared ingredients are often included because they give products an edge but violate both the spirit of natural boosters and sometimes FDA guidelines on what’s safe to consume. A particularly relevant example of this is the pre-workout brand Craze which was investigated for including an undisclosed ‘methamphetamine-like compound’ in their recipe.
Now something like that is probably going to sell quite well because, by hook or by crook, it will certainly have an effect. Given the choice though I think most of us would like to see this mystery ingredient on the label so we can decide for ourselves whether we want to put the meth firmly in method as far as working out. Toxic ingredients on the other hand are usually motivated solely by cost cutting. It’s kind of taking the proprietary blend ethos to a whole new level, except the choices aren’t just cheap and ineffective, they’re dangerous. This type of merchandise doesn’t tend to originate in countries with strict regulatory bodies – like the Food & Drug Administration or Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – but imports from elsewhere have in the past been found to contain lead and other extremely harmful chemicals.
Best Thing To Do?
Hidden ingredients can be difficult to guard against because, um, well they’re hidden, but it always helps to familiarise yourself with a company’s reputation and background. Give them a Google, or look for some of those quality testimonials and reviews we talked about; it’s very rare that if there’s genuinely something to be wary of, some switched on person or site (ah-heh-heh-hem.) won’t have picked up on it.
To avoid the really nasty ingredients it’s vitally important to establish where a supplement was produced and whether the location is subject to scrutiny in accordance with universally recognised standards. If they’re not, or even if you can’t be sure, move along, nothing to see here. Cheap and hazardous products will often come in the form of counterfeit versions of successful and trusted brands, so as much as boosters only sold from an official site can be a pain in terms of shopping for bargains, they can be a great way to avoid bad surprises.
Supporting your ingredient choices with clinical trials is an absolute must for any booster which wishes to be taken seriously, but just because they are there doesn’t necessarily mean they are up to scratch. A 2012 JAMA report into the recent surge in clinical trials found the quality amongst a lot of the newer ones was highly variable.
They described cases where the very basics of good practise were not observed (control trials, double blind and randomised studies etc.) raised concerns about ever smaller participant samples and the fact that 47% of studies registered at clinicaltrial.gov between 2007 and 2010 were industry sponsored rather than academically motivated.
Best Thing To Do?
You can read our article on what makes a good clinical trial on this site, but just briefly, it’s always good to bear in mind the areas the JAMA report highlighted when looking into a trial. Was it controlled? Double blind? Randomized?
Look for a healthy sample of participants too, high double figures at least. And it’s always great to check for sponsors and affiliates involved with the research to establish if it might ultimately have a commercial angle. Wading through clinical trials though is no way to spend your time; it can be dry as hell. That’s why we would suggest you take advantage of our wealth of experience and relative lack of social life to let us do it for you.
We take all the essentials into account when compiling evidence for ingredient and booster reviews. You go out and enjoy yourself, we’ll sort through all that.
This is by no means unique to the testosterone booster industry, but nobody does it quite like certain players in this market. The undeniable effectiveness of steroids in bolstering your hormone levels way past safe amounts has led to so some of the more dubious natural boosters trying to associate themselves with steroids in a roundabout way, which suggests all of the benefits with none of the risk. “Although it doesn’t contain any prohormones, which can have significant side effects, it surpasses any prohormone formulation in increasing testosterone levels” is our favourite so far, from our old friends Testoboost.
This claim or any other convoluted, wink-wink nudge-nudge nonsense like it is patently ridiculous. There’s no way any genuinely natural booster can possibly raise your testosterone to anywhere near the levels steroids do. That’s okay though, neither can your body, that’s what makes steroids the mood swinging, ball shrinking hot mess that they are.
Some natural supplements will feature ingredients containing ‘steroidal saponins’ which do go some way towards stimulating testosterone, but directly connecting these plant based elements with something cooked up in a lab is certainly a scam. You wouldn’t take one look at Bruce Lee and challenge maverick film director Spike Lee to a kung-fu fight would you? Another outlandish claim you’ll sometimes hear relates to instant effects. “Feel your biceps growing after just 3 days!” that sort of thing.
Again, a quality natural booster is not a drug, it’s a blend of totally organic components geared to work with your body’s own biological rhythms to stimulate innate hormone production. That takes time. We’re not talking forever here, but certainly a month or two.
Best Thing To Do?
Your common sense should steer you right on this one. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Claims like this are the get rich quick schemes of the booster industry, not only are they bound to end in disappointment but they say a lot about the character of the brand you might be considering. If they’re willing to bend the truth here, where else are they willing to mislead?
Under Studied Ingredients
Rival testosterone boosters are always looking for the edge on each other, so you can barely go a day without somebody hailing a new miracle ingredient.
Often though, when you scratch the surface, there is very little evidence to support such an enthusiastic P.R jamboree. It can be the case that components undoubtedly look promising but need more in-depth research before we should be prepared to part with hard earned money for it; or that an ingredient just isn’t the star certain brands represent it as because clinical trials have disproved its effectiveness.
Whether it’s a case of the brand getting over excited and going too early on something or being in denial about something which they sunk their money into and doesn’t work, these are usually brands to be wary of.
Best Thing To Do?
As with so much of what we’ve talked about here, research is key. If a supplement has given a disproportionately large percentage of their recipe over to an ingredient, investigate it. Find out its background, what the studies say, find out what peoples’ experiences have been. Or read a decent review of it.
You may have noticed the overarching theme of our advice on all these pitfalls: information.
If you’re well informed it’s almost impossible for the frauds out there to snare you in their swindles. How do you get informed? Well hopefully through websites like ours. With our mix of articles exploring every aspect of testosterone and natural ways to increase it we aim to help you avoid the worst aspects of this industry.
The ingredient and supplement reviews you find on here are to act as a trustworthy screening process to filter out the time wasters and making sure only real performance enhancing quality reaches you.