I know this is a highly polarizing and contentious topic in the supplement industry, both for companies, formulators, and consumers.
I’m curious to know what everyone’s thoughts are on prop blends here.
It seems like, while there has been a trend to move towards full-disclosure and away from proprietary blends in recent years, there have been a few/several products/companies, including some highly lauded ones, that have employed proprietary blends in at least some of their products. It appears that, even among people who are not fans of prop blends in general, these few companies are getting a pass because people trust the formulator/company (I’d assume this trust extends not only to their knowledge, but also to their integrity and the integrity of the company/formulator not to play around with the formula from one run/batch/etc. to the next) to use effective doses of ingredients.
While I’m not saying I don’t think the people formulating these products are very smart and know their s**t, I’m sure they do, or that I don’t trust them, only that I don’t think this is inherently a solid argument, as there will always be SOMEONE who will say they trust “Company/Formulator X,” and now we end up trying to defend the character/knowledge of a person/company instead of a product.
That said, if we’re talking about purely subjective effects, like a stimulant/energy blend, then one can argue that “full disclosure” may not be as necessary, as you either enjoy the feeling of the product when you use it, or you don’t. Yes, you can have a better idea before buying/trying it with a fully-disclosed blend, but there’s still some level of variability, and it’s fairly easy/fast to see if you enjoy a given product. That said, I still think it’s inexcusable to not at least disclose the caffeine content of a product that contains caffeine. This is very rare not to do, and with good reason; a consumer should know if they’re about to have half a cup of coffee worth of caffeine, or four cups of coffee worth of caffeine.
However, I think proprietary blends become more inexcusable in products that are intended to be used daily, or that have more subtle effects. Objective effects on things like muscle mass or strength that are not only harder to gauge than acute/subjective energy, but also take weeks to even start to be able to observe. Or for supplement intended to improve memory, which itself can be subtle thing, and hard to gauge in a very short period of time.
Stimulant-Based PWO “X”:
Prop Blend: 2500mg
Taurine, L-Tyrosine, Caffeine (300mg), Dynamine, Theacrine, Huperzine, Yohimbine
So, the above blend is clearly geared to provide acute energy and focus. Only the caffeine content is disclosed, as it almost always is (and should be). While I’d certainly like to know the doses of everything, I still have a decent idea what to expect from the above blend, and how strong it should be, within reason I suppose. And I’ll know within one or two uses of the product if I like the subjective feelings, since subjective feelings are ALL I’m going for here really (well, that and the acute power-output enhancing effects of caffeine, and some endurance benefits from taurine, but I digress).
At the end of the day, while I may not like this approach, and would opt for an open label, all other variables equal, I suppose I can live with this. I probably won’t buy it unless it has/does something an open-label doesn’t, but it’s at least not the worst thing ever IMO. Big praise, I know.
However, if I now try to diversify a blend more, to go from purely a focus on acute energy and focus to, say, a nootropic product designed to provide acute energy and focus but ALSO improve memory and cognitive function:
Nootropic Blend “Y”
Proprietary Blend: 3885mg
Taurine, Tyrosine, Lion’s Mane Extract, Caffeine (300mg), Bacopa Extract, CDP-Choline, Sceletium Extract, Huperzine-A (1%)
So, with this formula, assuming the caffeine is disclosed, we can figure out very little about the product. If the caffeine isn’t disclosed, we can figure out almost nothing.
Now, it can be dosed pretty well. We can have 1g each of taurine, tyrosine, and lion’s mane, with 300mg caffiene, 300mg Bacopa (Bacognize), 250mg CDP-Choline, 100-200mcg Huperzine-A, and 25mg Sceletium(KannaEase or Zembrin). This would be a pretty solid formula. I can look at it and know it’s pretty well-dosed. I can also look at it and know that the dose of Bacopa is solid, which I should know, since bacopa needs to be taken daily for several weeks to really improve memory. I’m not going to be able to determine how well it works from just trying it once or twice. Same with lion’s mane. And, while cholinergics have acute benefits, even they really shine with daily/consistent use, and memory is really hard to gauge from one or two days/servings.
But the above formula can just as easily be (give or take a few hundred milligrams of taurine; I didn’t do all the math exactly here): 2g taurine, 300mg tyrosine, 300mg tyrosine, 300mg lion’s mane, 300mg caffeine, 100mg bacopa, 100mg CDP-Choline, 100mcg Huperzine, and 10mg Sceletium.
Now I’m getting solid doses ONLY of taurine, caffeine, and huperzine (companies usually dose huperzine well). But the label is otherwise IDENTICAL.
Since I’m looking not only for subjective acute effects/benefits, the “just try it and see if you like it” isn’t quite as easy or solid IMO, as I’m taking it daily, and some benefits take weeks to kick in, and likely also take weeks of testing and observation to even be able to attempt to gauge the magnitude of benefits when using it.
But this still isn’t the worst potential offender. The worst offender would be a proprietary blend for a product that has NO acute/subjective effects and ONLY, or at least predominantly, objective benefits on things like body composition and strength that take several weeks to reach any observable level of significance, and are often subtle even at that point.
Ergogen Product “Z”
Proprietary Blend: 15g
Creatine Monohydrate, Beta Alanine, Betaine Anhydrous, LCLT, HICA
Now, this can be really well dosed. 5g creatine, 4g beta alanine, 2.5g beaine, 2g LCLT, and 1.5g HICA.
Or we can bump up the creatine by 2.5g and cut the LCLT and HICA from 2g and 1.5g to 0.5g each. So I just gained nothing in terms of efficacy by bumping up the creatine dose, but I just lost pretty much all the benefits from LCLT and HICA; going from the studied doses of 2g and 1.5g down to small fractions of those doses at 500mg each.
But you would never know looking at the label, and it’d probably take weeks of daily use to tell the difference in terms of progression and gains.
I see no justification for the use of a prop blend in an instance like this last one.
Anyway, that’s my rant. I’m curious what everyone else thinks about prop blends? Hate them? Don’t care abut them either way? Think they’re fine as long as you trust the company? Etc.