How to Spot Amino Spiking in Protein Powders

The Spread

March 13, 2023

For most fitness enthusiasts, assuring you get enough protein in your daily intake is a high priority. That’s precisely why athletes and gym regulars often drink protein shakes before or after exercising.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams and fraudulent products on the market. For that reason, we are dedicating this article to teaching you how to spot amino spiking in protein powders.


The purpose of protein powders

Protein is one of the most significant sources of energy for your body. It is recommended to increase your protein intake if you will be sticking to any strict diet, regardless if it’s losing weight or gaining muscle. Protein powder shakes are probably the most efficient way to supplement your diet and intake additional proteins when you need them.

Let’s be frank; whey protein isn’t the cheapest option on the market. Yet, it’s immensely popular with lifters and athletes. This is due to its high BCAA content, which helps with muscle building.

On the other hand, supplements rich in amino acids can also be helpful when recovering from a workout. Just because something has amino acids shouldn’t be cause for alarm.

Unfortunately, most consumers have no idea what they are buying and don’t know how to spot amino spiking in protein powders. Beginners, who are just starting to work out, can especially have difficulty understanding the label information that lists the content. Some companies try to exploit their lack of awareness by cutting costs and trying to get by with an inferior product.


White protein powder in measuring cup.
Make sure you know what you are buying; don’t overpay for amino-spiked products.

What is amino spiking?

Manufacturers will sometimes add cheap amino acids such as glutamine, arginine, glycine, taurine, and creatine to their protein powders. This is done to artificially inflate the quantity of the powder without actually giving you more protein. Labs that do the product testing sometimes only test for nitrogen content instead of testing for specific amounts of individual amino acids. That’s how these nitrogen-rich yet protein-light (more accurately, non-proteinogenic) amino acids manage to sneak by undetected.

Not all amino acids are equal, and some are cheaper by the gram. As the end-user, you are getting fewer grams of protein than you would if it wasn’t inflated. The actual amount can vary; for example, if the label states 25 grams, but the powder is amino spiked – you could be getting as little as 10 or 12 grams of protein. Adding amino acids to supplements isn’t illegal; however, you still should try to avoid getting ripped off. Your best course of action would be to get a protein powder that is tested by a third party and comes with a guarantee of no amino spiking.


Here is how to avoid scams when buying protein powders

First of all, don’t go for the cheapest brand on the market. Amino spiked powders can be suspiciously cheap. Basically, quality whey isolates are expensive to produce, so they naturally cost more. You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive luxury product either; just buy products from trusted brands and manufacturers.


Woman making a protein shake before a workout.
Check out the list of ingredients if you are unsure of what goes into the mix you bought.

When trying to spot amino spiking in protein powders, you should look at the list of ingredients and pay special attention to the ones listed under “other ingredients”. If they mention glycine, glutamine, arginine, and creatine, you are most likely dealing with an amino spiked protein powder. However, you shouldn’t panic if you see these amino acids on the product label among the supplement facts. Some manufacturers fortify their protein mix with amino acids, and that doesn’t mean it’s spiked. But again, if you see the mentioned amino acids among the other ingredients (or grouped together in brackets) – it could be cause for alarm. This is important because ingredients that are listed in brackets or put under other ingredients don’t need to be listed in order of inclusion percentage.

Sadly, labels rarely list the exact amounts of individual amino acids, so it really can be hard to spot amino spiking in protein powders. You can look for leucine content because, for whey protein, about 11 percent should be leucine. Again if we are looking at 25 grams of protein, the leucine content should be about 2.7 grams. Creatine also sometimes gets listed as an ingredient and counted towards the total amount of protein. So if a product states that it is an “all-in-one package” with 25 grams of protein and 5 grams of creatine – you might be getting scammed. What that actually means is that you are getting 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of creatine.


Maintain a healthy diet

At the end of the day, you should treat any supplement as just that – an addition to what you are already getting from your regular diet. Unfortunately, you can’t rely only on protein powder for your daily intake. Nothing will replace a diet with enough nutrients, which can keep you healthy and give you the strength and stamina you need to exercise. If you are having trouble figuring out an appropriate diet for your workout plan, it might be a good idea to consult a nutritionist.


Meat and vegetables prepared in a healthy way.

Eat healthy food to get the most out of your workout routine.

Although there is no exact limit to how much protein you can intake through shakes, taking too much protein powder can result in bloating and constipation. On its own, this isn’t a reason to worry since it usually happens to people who have an intolerance for lactose. After all, the main ingredient in most protein powders is isolated whey, a dairy-based protein.

Of course, shakes aren’t the only way for you to supplement your diet with proteins. You can use the protein mix for baking and create tasty dishes for every occasion. We have a bunch of creative recipes for you to try, which are sure to boost your strength and energy levels.


The bottom line

As you can see from this article, learning how to spot amino spiking in protein powders can be pretty tricky, even when you know what to look for. Instead of experimenting with unproven brands and suspicious sounding offers, we recommend that you stick to brands that have consistently delivered quality and have proven themselves time and again. Now mix up your favorite protein shake and start working out!