GQ asks former rugby player and renowned personal trainer, Moodi Dennaoui, for his advice on reading sport supplement labels, to ensure you're not being fooled into buying junk.
When looking for a nutritional supplement you want to know you’re buying a high-grade, high-quality product. Of course, you do, you're about the shovel the stuff into your body. Thankfully Australia has very strict rules and regulations surrounding claims on nutritional supplements, so purchasing Australian brands is always a good place to start, but what about everything else? Knowing how to read a supplement label will help you to understand what’s inside.
GQ leaned on the knowledge base of Moodi Dennaoui, a personal trainer often referred to as “the diet doctor” who is also an 'expert' for Body Science, to give us his tips on what to look out for.
Check for genuine claims “If a supplement is making a therapeutic claim about their product it should have an AUST-L number,” says Dennaoui, asserting that it is this number that illustrates that it has been listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). “Products listed on the ARTG must have relevant clinical evidence to substantiate all claims made on the label. Food products are permitted to make certain nutrition and health-related claims but must not make therapeutic claims.” However, Dennaoui points out that product registration is different from product listing and knowing and understanding that difference is important if you truly want to understand what is in your protein powder. “Registration is for higher-risk products, used to treat more serious illnesses and cover prescription and over the counter medicines,” he explains. “TGA assesses the safety and quality of Aust-R medicines and also looks at evidence that medicine works effectively. Listed medicines are evaluated as lower risk by TGA and can generally be purchased off the shelf.”
Check the ingredients “In Australia, you must list the active ingredients of a product in ascending order, says Dennaoui, which gives discerning shoppers a better indication of the bulking agents and naughty additives that may be cut into the supplement. “The ingredient that fills most of the product must be listed first,” he says. Dennaoui recommends looking out for products that contain processed ingredients listed first that may not be recognisable citing sugar substitutes like sucanat, dextrose and maltose as the main protagonists.
Check for illicit substances Scarily, research on a survey of supplements available for purchase in Australia found that one in five supplements contained banned ingredients. This should be of interest to any aspiring athletes out there. “If athletes were found to be taking these supplements they run the risk of being banned from competition for up to four years,” says Dennaoui. The research showed that of the 67 supplements audited, 13 showed up with ingredients that have been banned within the sports industry. Of these 13, the banned ingredients were not listed. “In addition to this, some ingredients such as methylhexaneamine, methyl synephrine and N,alpha-diethyl-benzeneethanamine are stimulants which have been found to have serious health side effects, but will not always be labelled. Not only is it important for professional athletes but for anyone purchasing supplements is the importance of opting for a reputable brand.” Australian Olympic Swimmer Melanie Wright says she has been taking supplements for years to help her push her body to its limits, using supps as nutritional support in conjunction with a good diet. “When I choose my supplements, I need to be sure of two things," she explains. "First, that the supplement will not adversely affect my health or be packed with fillers like excess sugar. “After all, I want to be in the best physical shape to perform. And second, being subject to up to 20 drug tests a year, I want to make sure I am not inadvertently taking any prohibited substances. “Being familiar with the ingredients in my supplements, and confident in the brand I am using is critical. Most brands are made overseas, and aren’t subject to high manufacturing standards we have in Australia, which means there’s no way of knowing exactly what you’re taking.”
Check the origin of the product “Where are you buying your product? In 2014, there were over nine million pseudo and illicit medicines found in Australia, with many holding claims for weight loss, nutritional benefit or for erectile dysfunction. “Buying online isn’t always a safe bet, especially if it is an overseas brand, which may not have the same strict manufacturing standards as Australia. If you’re unsure as to what is a good brand you can always refer to the Australia Register of Therapeutic Goods which lists all products listed and registered in Australia.