The ‘Shotgun’ Approach to Poor Supplement Design
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The shotgun approach to supplement design involves adding or listing as many different (but still relevant – usually) ingredients in one product as possible, usually at very low doses.
The reason why some companies feel the need to do this is simply to convince you, the customer, that their product is superior to the competition. After all, the product with the most ingredients relevant to a desired effect, MUST be the best one, right?
Why is this a bad thing?
Although it may be true that all of the ingredients listed may have some recognised role to play in eliciting the desired physiological effect, that effect is only achievable at a certain minimum dosage.
Since you can’t fit a quart into a pint pot, the amounts of each of the many ingredients must be lowered, often to the point where there is no effect to be had from that ingredient.
So you end up with (for example) 20 separate ingredients, all striving to attain the same or similar effect, yet all failing miserably, simply because there is not enough of any one of them to actually get the job done.
Often it would be much ‘better’ (in terms of achieving the desired physiological effect) to reduce the number of separate ingredients but increase the dosages of each of the remaining ones according to their profiles and actually see the benefits.
Ahhhh, but this wouldn’t draw the average punter in.
Why buy a product that ‘only’ has 2 or 3 separate ingredients, when for a little bit more money, we can buy one that has 15 to 30 separate ingredients, many of which the punter recognises by name, even if he/she actually has little idea of what that ingredient does, or what dose is actually needed to elicit a proper effect.
So who is to blame?
Can we really blame the supplement company that uses the shotgun approach, or should we criticise customer knowledge (lack of) instead? Well personally, this author feels that whilst I cannot really blame supplement companies for trying to make money, I do expect a certain level of integrity from them. The ethical company will make a product with ingredients that work synergistically and include them in EFFECTIVE AMOUNTS.
But if we consider the flip-side, it could be argued that customer ignorance and skepticism are just as much to blame for the current situation.
For example, a certain well-known strength coach released a product that had this author shaking his head. There were at least 3 separate products (i.e. 3 separate, desirable effects) potentially within the one product that he was selling. I actually quite liked the ingredients and thought they were well-stacked together. BUT the amounts of each ingredient, at the dose recommended on the product label, were ridiculously low.
But here we get to the crux of the issue… If said coach had released this product as it ‘should’ have been, i.e. 3 separate products, then he faces the very real risk of being accused of money making off the back of his clients, especially if he recommends (based upon his sincere belief, NOT a desire for more product sales) that his clients actually purchase and take said products, as a part of their quest for improved performance.
As a result, maybe he caved under pressure and thought that it would be easier to get his clients to purchase the single product, rather than the 3 that ‘should’ have been separate.
In the end though, his compromise resulted in my opinion in a product that was no good, due to the low levels of the right ingredients. That my friends, is a false economy.
So what’s the take-home message here?
Simply that more ingredients in a product definitely does not always equal a better product. In fact, it may pay to be especially wary of products that have a laundry list of ingredients – is any one of them dosed high enough to get the primary effect that the product aims to provide? Perhaps there are conflicting ingredients, which counteract each-other.
The second major point to you my esteemed reader is that it behoves you to increase your knowledge base. You need to have some idea of what constitutes an effective dose for any given supplement, so that you can spot an ineffective ‘marketing dose’ in a product.
Finally – trust your supplement company. Some are ethical, some are marginal. Some ethical companies make marginal products. Some companies are just blatant rip-offs, but we won’t be mentioning them by name!