Being the nutrition geek I am, I often scan labels of nutritional products while in my local bike shop. Lately I’ve noticed that brands are beginning to employ some of the misleading tactics in their marketing to endurance athletes that have been used to sell supplement in other markets.
One trick I’m beginning to see more frequently is known within the industry as pixie dusting. This is when a company develops a product with hot or popular ingredients, but uses only a fraction of the quantity necessary to elicit the effects sought by consumers. This allows the desirable ingredients to be listed on the product packaging to increase sales while allowing the company to make their product at a fraction of the cost to increase profit.
For example, lets say you need a minimum of 1000 milligrams of amino acid X per serving to improve aerobic performance. When companies pixie dust, they might only use 10 milligrams of said amino acid. This is one hundred times less than the amount required in this case. This is also very close to what I’ve recently seen on several energy gel products.
Unfortunately, the average consumer doesn’t know whether 1 milligram, 100 milligrams, or 1,000 milligrams is an effective dose. All they know is that they’ve heard that certain amino acids might be helpful in certain situations. Thus, they are susceptible to being duped by unscrupulous marketers.
The sad thing is that this is now happening in products by some of the brands I once felt good about recommending and using myself. Regrettably, there is no easy solution. As with all purchases, it’s best to educate yourself as much as possible before parting with your hard-earned money.