Muscle for life

3 Ways Supplement Companies Are Screwing You

3 Ways Supplement Companies Are Screwing You

“Pills in a bottle, brother.”

I frowned. Was he serious?

“It’s pretty sick, right?” Anthony said with a sideways grin.

Anthony (named changed) has a simple business. His supplement company spends about $2 million per month on pay-per-click advertising and brings in close to $4 million in sales.

And what is he selling, exactly?

“Pills in a bottle, brother.”

“Right,” I said. “What kind of pills?”

Amazingly, Anthony doesn’t even know what’s in his supplements, which purport to be for weight loss and muscle building.

I’m serious. He couldn’t even tell me a single ingredient.


What he did know, though, was this: each bottle cost him $2 and sold for $39.99.

And his shady (and illegal) rebill platform swiped an average of $89 from customers before they were any wiser.

And his million-dollar renovation of his multi-million-dollar mansion was coming along beautifully.

When I first got into the supplement game, I thought Anthony was an anomaly. A bad apple in the orchard.

Well, I was wrong. When it comes to selling supplements, guys like Anthony are more the rule than the exception.

Don’t believe me?

Even more pitiful than the Anthony’s are the people that can’t face the fact that they’re actually scammers. The ones that seem to think that simply saying they’re selling high-quality products and helping people makes it true.

Ironically, I have less contempt for the brazen criminals in this space than the self-deluded weirdos. There’s something slightly disarming about the person that can look you in the eye and say “I’m a scumbag and I just don’t care.”

The sad lesson I’ve learned is the majority of supplement companies are first and foremost marketing companies.

They’re like wheedling politicians that shake your grubby hand and kiss your unwashed baby with their fingers, toes, and balls crossed.

They aspire to, as one supplement company CEO I spoke with put it, “tell you what you want to hear to sell you what you probably don’t need.” (He thought that was pretty clever.)

Or, as someone else explained, “I didn’t think I could rip people off for a living but I have to provide for my family.” (Why take the trouble to figure out an honest living when selling sawdust pills is so easy?)

And why all the skulduggery and shenanigans?

The accumulation of “small green pieces of paper,” of course.

Money makes people weird and shitty, and the more money that’s on the line, the weirder and shittier people get about it.

Let’s face it: when you’re presented with an unethical opportunity to make millions of dollars fast, you quickly learn who you really are.

I like to believe that at least some of the depraved people I’ve met and observed in this space didn’t get into selling supplements with the explicit goal of lying, cheating, and stealing.

Morals have a funny tendency to become…supple…when plied with enough cash. And people can start sounding like bemused philosophers (“What’s right and wrong anyway, man?”).

Rat Studies and Third-World AIDS Research Sorta Kinda Implies This Will Make You Swole!

One of the easiest ways to influence people is to appeal to science. For some reason we’re just hardwired to tuck our tails go compliant when we hear the words “research shows.”

This means money in the bank for supplement sellers. So much so that if a company isn’t misusing science to sell their asparagus pills, well, they’re not even trying.

These days everyone is all “scientifically proven” this and “clinically effective” that. It’s like a high-stakes poker game between sociopaths…

“I’ll see your bet of 3 rat studies,” company A says, snarling and frothing at its competitor, “and raise you this inconclusive in vitro research AND one fraudulent human trial!”


And what do you do if you’re trying to hock your wares and you can’t even find any animal research to incorrectly extrapolate from or any biased or poorly designed human studies to cherry pick?

Wait for it…

Just cite anything. Less than 1% of customers are ever going to look it up anyway and a sizable portion of them are going to assume you just know something they don’t.

The reason supplement science is so loopy is simple:

When it comes to losing fat and building muscle–which is what people are willing to spend the most money on–there just isn’t much you can do beyond eating and training right.

But that’s about it.

No natural substance will ever begin to approach the effectiveness of the anabolic steroids and cutting drugs that pervade the fitness scene.

Which brings me to my next point…


You know you’ve arrived as a supplement company when you have a front line of chemistry experiments pretending you’ve found the secret to gainz.

And you know you’ve become a true muppet when you believe their puffery about hard work and dedication and buy whatever it is they’re selling.

Look, I’m not anti-steroids, per se–I don’t recommend them but support people’s rights to do whatever they want with their bodies–but I’m against using steroids to sell supplements. And a whole lotta that goes down.

So much so that, in many cases, supplement companies are paying for some or all of their “athletes'” drug cycles so they can keep flexing on Instagram and fleecing their followers.

Don’t Trust Supplement Companies Lightly

That pretty much sums up the moral of this article.

If you’re not careful with supplement purchases, you’re probably going to get screwed.

And how do you be careful? My personal criteria for judging a supplement company looks like this:

  • I want to see a genuine interest in helping people get fit and healthy…
  • I want to see honest (sober) marketing claims…
  • I want to see no history of ridiculous scandals or scams…
  • I want to see proper and transparent use of science…
  • I want to see no proprietary blends…
  • I want to see ingredients and dosages backed by good research…
  • I want to see no unnecessary artificial junk or fillers…

There are brands that more or less meet these criteria. The list is short but it includes companies like Optimum Nutrition, NOW Foods, and Jarrow.

I’m also leading by example with my own line of supplements. I want to set a standard by which other supplement companies can be judged and am working hard to continually raise the bar in terms of product quality, consumer education, and customer service and engagement.

So, in closing, do yourself and your fellow fitness folk a favor and choose wisely when you buy supplements. You vote with your dollars and can force shady supplement companies to change for the better, even if it’s only to get your business again.


What’s your take on the current state of supplement companies? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Anonymous Atom

    So if what “Anthony” was doing is illegal, was he ever caught or punished for it?

    Where do you even report scams? It seems like they’re everywhere, in plain site, yet able to get away with it. (example: “Tummy Tuck” belt TV infomercial still runs on cable all the time)

    • Nope he’s still going strong AFAIK.

      There are things like Ripoff Report and such and then the FDA and FTC but most of these guys go on for years and years unmolested…

  • Andrew

    Great article Mike! I agree 100%.

    I do have a genuine question though that I hope doesn’t offend you (or anyone here). You preach against these companies that peddle dishonest products and especially those that use steroid users as a front for their products (which you rightly should) but, then you will post articles highlighting your workouts and philosophies accompanied with pictures of “hyooge an shredud” dudes that, to me, look like they are on steroids or atleast something a little “extra”.

    Now, I could be completely off base and mistaken. These guys may not be on any drugs and I’m just an ignorant yup. I also understand why you would attach an image like that to the related article and I know you probably don’t have any shady intentions behind it. I’m just calling out, what I perceive to be, a small tinge of hypocrisy.

    Again, I am not trying to offend anyone. I’m a huge fan Mike. I’ve read all your books (so has my wife), and I’ve been following your program for about 8 months now. Looking forward to BLS 2.0 to be available.

    Keep carrying the torch!

    • Ollie Bale

      This is just common sense, it would be incredibly difficult for Mike to find a picture of someone that’s not only relevant to the article but also make sure they are not on steroids, his can only put so many pictures of himself up with them and he rarely puts picture’s of massively huge dudes up anyway with the odd one or two with people like Arnold.

      • Haha that’s the long story short.

      • Andrew

        Yeah makes sense. Thanks Ollie for the feedback.

    • Thanks Andrew!

      Hmm I usually only include pictures of me? Or do you mean the featured images on posts? (Those are just from stock photo websites and I try to stay away from massive bodybuilder dudes because most people simply don’t want to look like that…)

      Thanks for all the support man. You rock. Talk soon.

      • Andrew

        I was referring to the featured images on the posts. It’s no bd.

        Thanks again for all the advice and support.

  • Thomas

    Really wish you could name names and give more specifics, but I’m sure you would like to avoid the law suits that would follow lol. My only complaint about your supps, the cost. I wish there were smaller sizes so that I can buy what i can afford.

    Thanks for what you do Mike, I’m healthier and in the best shape of my life in large part because of what you do.

    • Haha thanks Thomas. Yeah naming names and companies would be a bad idea, haha.

      I totally understand on the pricing. My production costs are WAY higher than the industry average so I have to be at the higher end price-wise to make a decent margin.

      Who knows though maybe in the future when my production runs are very, very large I will have more wiggle room…

      • Mark cuban

        You should apply to shark tank, and see if they can help you taking those cost down! just an idea!

        • Haha

        • Joe

          Problem with shark tank is the price would remain the same or maybe a bit more because they would expect a share in the profits. He could go in shark tank or dragons den and ask for a ridiculous amount, to get it on the show. That alone will increase demand.

  • Sam

    Great article. For those in Australia who can’t afford shipping, bulknutrients.com.au is the place to go. Similar philosophy to Mike’s and are leading the charge by providing free testing (through a government body) of protein powders. They also use clinically effective dosages. They have also just announced they are a sponsor at the Arnold Classic in Melbourne next month, which is cool.

    • Nice! Yeah BN is a good company AFAIK.

    • Sam, have you checked out Venom Protein at all? I’m a long time user of BN and Venom – protein and supplements in general are pricey here in Australia!

  • Conrad

    Are there any regulatory authorities that check even just protein supplements for quality? This article has me rethinking my budget protein choices…

    • FDA is the regulatory agency but the supplement industry is incredibly unregulated and this gets exploited by shitty people/companies.

  • Janan

    Thanks for the article Mike! As a biomedical science graduate, I’ve spent the last few years critically analyzing loads of primary research literature (albeit of a slightly different nature). It’s possibly the only reason why I’ve joined the 1% of cited literature readers. I laughed while reading the section on “scientifically proven” studies. It’s hilarious, but it’s so true! It’s made me somewhat skeptical not only of the supplement industry, but also of the pharmaceutical industry to a certain extent.

    • Thanks and yeah AFAIK much of the same shenanigans go down in the pharma industry too. Especially with psychotropics because you’re dealing with what some medicos call “fake diseases” in that you can’t reliably test for mental disease…

  • Stumpy

    This is great! How on earth did you manage to get that Texas court document?? You certainly know how to do research Mike.

    BLS 2.0…next week

    • Haha the power of Google. 😉

      Lol I’m sitting here with my thumbs up my ass waiting for the dumb sales page to get finished. Everything is ready. Meh.


    I don’t know if anyone have ever look at this website ? they are testing supplements and pretty interesting .
    anyone know anything about them ?

  • I worked in a supplement warehouse and thought I was doing good things for people… until an executive let slip that these $80-$90 supplements were only costing the company $2-$3 and another $3 to ship. My search for a new job commenced pretty quickly after I learned that. Even if the supplements did work, charging 18 times their worth just doesn’t sit right.

    • I know the “standard” margins in this industry are an absolute JOKE. 100% greed.

  • Storm

    What is your opinion of the quality of True Nutrition’s custom protein mixes?

    • What I tasted was pretty nasty but I would probably trust the product.

  • Mike, what’s your take on amino acid spiking?

    • It’s pretty commonplace and sucks. I talked about it in one of my recent podcasts.

  • Francisco ibarra

    Mike you are an inspiration to me. Keep doing what your doing.I’m spreading the word about your products to coworkers and friends. I absolutely love your pre workout and protein. They are by far the best tasting and are the most effective. I work at gnc and I know exactly what you mean about these big brands (bpi,cellucor,muscle tech) they even make cheap sub companies(image sports, neon sports, and fuel one) to try and pass off their products as “cutting edge” or “clinically researched” it’s all complete crap. I’m really happy someone is truly honest in the supplement industry. You have my lifelong support. You just gained a permanent customer. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Francisco. I really appreciate the kind words and support.

      Let me know if you have any questions or run into any issues. I’m happy to help.

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  • Eric Whitesell

    I totally agree with you and your ideas for a better supplement world… but, I don’t live in the US and your products aren’t available here so it would be a big help if you could have some recommended products (I know you do already but the availability changes overseas), and maybe some recommendations to avoid as well:) One of the big ones that I use that I am unsure about is Dark Matter and Secret Sauce (post work-out carb blends…proprietary blends). Are these ok as post workout carbs? All that’s left other than protein and creatine then is Muscletech Glutamine, NaNo Vapor, Amino build, and fish oil. Anything else I should drop or switch? My wallet thanks you

  • Barry Harrison

    A few years ago my best BF was 14%, but then my body said no more. I was doing up to three training sessions per day and this was for 14 weeks solid and my diet was rock-on. I was taking the usual legal supps, whey,creatine, animal cuts, a hormone booster and Scitechs Monster Pak. I thought Id got a great self built stack. Then I stopped training because my burn out lasted nearly three weeks. So now Im back in training and have been using the same supps apart from Scitechs Monster Pak. I cant get it in the countries I am visiting. Now here is the interesting part. My current supps are Dynamtize or ON Whey, Animal Cuts, Jym Post Workout, Universals multi vit and ON creatine. I don’t feel any of these products are helping in my fat loss programme. Now Im thinking maybe just using Scitechs Monster Pak would do the trick, any thoughts? Also Im all for mixing up my supp companies. Right now Im ready to make some purchases. I am going to boy Jim Stoppanis Whey, Im gonna ditch his post workout because it has 200g of sucralose. And Im going to use Muscle For Lifes products. Any comments appreciated.
    PS Male, 46, 6ft 1, 180lb and 17% BF.
    Just finished an 8 week plan by Obi and have lost 15 pounds in 8 weeks. Could have been better but my diet hasn’t been brill the last month. Have been switching countries.

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