After 6 long days of meal prepping and dieting, following a strict workout routine, trying to get a healthy amount of sleep, and a full work week, it’s finally Sunday! God Damn Cheat Day! You’ve been fantasizing about that beautifully greasy, masterpiece of a cheesesteak with a bag of your favorite chips to go long with it all week.
You keep subtly peeking out the window waiting for the delivery drive to arrive and then you hear a knock. The door opens and as you transact, the aroma that engulfs your foyer makes your heart skip a beat as you try not to salivate. You close the door, run to the kitchen and tear open the brown paper bag that the grease and oil is now starting to saturate, to unwrap your well deserved prize after a week of discipline. You unwrap the white butcher paper and reveal….disappointment.
A few measly crumbs of burnt steak-ums, barely covered by an unmelted kraft single, laying atop a stale, soggy roll and a bag of air that a few potato chips may have accidently fell into. This disgrace is the epitome of Pixie-dusting and it’s exactly how many of the big brand supplement companies are making big bucks off of selling you a fancy ingredient label.
So what exactly is Pixie-dusting?
In the world of Dietary Supplements, pixie-dusting is done by adding ingredients to a proprietary blend in such small doses that it renders the benefits virtually useless. However, it is added to the Supplement Fact Label since it is still an active ingredient.
Honest and transparent companies will always do their best to disclose the dosage of each ingredient in their formulas. You need to think twice about the ones that group all of their ingredients together and tell you how great the blend is.
How can you spot it?
You go to your local supplement store and pick up the most extreme pre workout on the shelf. It’s a loud red tub with a dinosaur fighting a bull or whatever on the label but it looks super aggressive! You see on the label that it has 3 grams of creatine in every serving and a “Scientifically-tested pump blend to maxxximize every rep!” that consists of four ingredients totalling 3g.
Let’s say this pre workout consists of one(1) 10g scoop per serving. First thing you need to do is add up the total volume of the ingredients on the Supplement Facts label. These are called the “identified ingredients.” Everything else is your sweeteners, flavoring, clumping agents, dyes, etc. called unidentified ingredients. Every product is different so the ratio of identified to unidentified depends on what you are looking at. For example, you’ll typically see higher unidentified ingredients with all natural products. Natural sweeteners are nowhere near as potent as artificial ones and require more for the same taste. For the sake of easy math, were going to say that this pre workout has 6g of identified ingredients and 4g of unidentified.
Quick math. We have a 10g serving. 6g of identified ingredients. The front label said that every serving had 3g of creatine. That leaves 3g for the rest of the ingredients. So far, everything checks out. Most energy ingredients are scaled in MG so no problems there, but this is claiming to offer heavy pumps. The most common ingredient for pumps is citrulline malate and a clinical dosage is anywhere between 3-8g. There are still 3 other ingredients in that pump blend that need to be accounted for. Since the label isn’t fully transparent, it’s tough to say exactly what was shorted, but in the end it’s. YOU just got shorted.
You may have just overpaid for a supplement. Hopefully, you compared this product to a few other ones and the price difference was only a few dollars off. Not the biggest loss. BUT! When products are formulated this lightly, consumers then feel like they can try more than one serving at a time. Whether it’s healthy or not is a different discussion, but you are now using this product twice as fast. 30 servings just cut to 15 and now you’re buying twice as much. Music to the ears of big executives. This is how you ultimately lose money from companies that pixie-dust their products.
Anyone who is familiar with supplements knows this product wouldn’t even make it out of its own comments section before it was taken off the market. BUT STILL! As dramatized as the example is, this still isn’t uncommon. Test boosters, pro-hormones, and fat burners are notorious for this! They sell you and dream instead of the science.