Get the inside scoop on these major contributors to the industry, plus an honorable mention for 9 more.
For every reputable sports supplement on the market, there are many more that are pure junk. Unfortunately, far too many companies have placed greed and profit over quality and performance. This article is designed to reveal what we consider to be some of the best companies in the industry. This list of the Top 10 is in no particular order and also includes an honorable mention section for further reference. Your favorite brand may or may not be included here. And of course, these results can be debated. But one thing is for certain, each of these companies, at one time or another, have made significant contributions to the extraordinary world of bodybuilding, either in one or two specific categories or in the industry as a whole. And for that, every athlete and supplement user can be thankful! MAXIMUM HUMAN PERFORMANCE (MHP)(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1997
MHP was born of a fortuitous friendship between Gerard Dente "world-class competitive bodybuilder" and Vincent Giampapa, MD, a renowned expert on hormone supplementation for athletic performance and founder of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M). The company's first product was Secretagogue-One, a clinically proven formula that continues to be one of the top HGH-boosters in the nation. The success of Secretagogue-One was followed by further innovations and accomplishments that cover a full array of sports nutrition categories.
Giampa's staff of top-flight sports science researchers and physicians, working closely with Dente, has made MHP one of the most dynamic forces in the sports nutrition industry. As President, Dente directs MHP's entire operation toward technologic superiority, quality, service and value. Dente was featured on the cover of ProSource's 1999 Performance Nutrition Buyers Guide, and MHP now celebrates its 10-year anniversary and rise to the top as " The Breakthrough Brand of the Year" in this year's 2008 Buyers Guide.
Dente's personal passion for bodybuilding and nutrition has driven the company to the heights it now commands. He is continually seeking new ways to enhance muscle development and athletic performance. Even though he no longer competes, Dente is still a bodybuilder at heart, and having just turned 40, he depends more than ever on high-tech supplementation to keep in shape. His product ideas are often triggered by a desire to maximize his own performance and physique.
Apart from his duties as President, Dente is an accomplished author, writing authoritative articles in numerous fitness magazines. He recently completed his magnum opus titled Macrobolic Nutrition, which is a distillation of Dente's life experience and knowledge in sport and nutrition supplementation.
MHP has sponsored numerous physique and power sport champions, such as Victor Martinez, Joe Mazza, Brian Siders, Ryan Kennelly, Rob Luyando, and Phil Pfister (now World's Strongest Man). Notably, in most instances these stars were taken-on before they had reached their zenith. MHP literally helps guide them to the top. As Dente remarks, "we take great pride in helping build our champions, not buying them." MHP is best-known for its outstanding contributions to two product categories: nitric oxide (NO) boosters, and testosterone boosters.
In 1999, the company introduced TRAC: the very first product to reliably increase peripheral NO levels for circulatory and anabolic enhancement. The product was far ahead of its time, employing a patented time-release delivery technology. TRAC literally led the entire field into the (now-huge) NO category. This success was followed by the release, in 2001, of T-BOMB, the first of its kind in this important subcategory.
As if that were not enough, MHP bested itself in 2004 with the release of T-BOMB II , a 5-stage testosterone optimizer and complete male hormone metabolic enhancer. T-BOMB II includes an incredible array of natural and powerful compounds that optimize the body's entire sex steroid balance.
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Unsatisfied with its own accomplishment in the NO category, MHP went on in 2005 to develop TRAC Extreme-NO, a product that experts have acclaimed as achieving "mastery of the nitric oxide pathway". TRAC Extreme-NO contains the exclusive nitric oxide synthetic catalyst Biofolin, for an NO boost unseen with any competing product. Last year, MHP introduced two new muscle-building breakthroughs: SARM-X and Cyclin-GF. SARM-X is the first of a new class of designer androgenic/anabolic steroid-memetic compounds called Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs), which are engineered to exert powerful anabolic effects without being diverted to androgen receptor-bearing tissues elsewhere.
Cyclin-GF is the first to target Muscle Precursor Cells (MPCs) in muscle tissue, which is premised on the theory of activating them to initiate new muscle growth cycles and achieve muscle fiber maturity. The company recently released a stunning new addition to the post workout category, called Dark Matter, a creatine-based formula that employs a new Nano-Physics absorption technology called Precision Nutrient Infusion for powerful anabolic synergy. This elite mass builder combines a carbohydrate matrix of waxy maize, glucose polymers and dextrose to spike up insulin, along with multi-phase creatine and a protein synthesizer matrix of key amino acids for faster and greater anabolic effectiveness. All the way around from the TRACs, to the T-BOMBs, to SARM-X and Dark Matter, and beyond—MHP stands as one of the few companies on the forefront of real innovation. Clearly, MHP's advanced new product entries have earned them "The Breakthrough Brand of the Year."
UNIVERSAL NUTRITION(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1982
One of the "grandfathers" of the sports nutrition industry, Universal Nutrition has been at it for over a quarter century, bringing quality formulations and solid value to a growing crowd of loyal consumers. With over 200 products, Universal also boasts one of the most complete lines in the field, with something for virtually every specialized need. Over the years, this company has developed an integrated operation, featuring R&D, manufacturing, quality control lab, and virtually everything else in-house, under one (150,000 square-foot) roof. And everything Universal produces is backed by a 100% money-back guarantee. Universal's core is its very popular "Animal" line. The bold black and white imagery of "Animal" stood in stark contrast to the technicolor glitz and hype of the competition. These are products with a primal attitude, and they are supported with the extensive training and nutrition information resource Animalpak.com. The Animal line includes:
- ANIMAL TEST: billed as "the ultimate hypertrophic test pack", combining a patented arachidonic acid with natural testosterone boosters and anti-estrogen compounds.
- ANIMAL PUMP: a preworkout creatine/nitric-oxide matrix, containing creatine, volumizers and NO-enhancers, all shoe-horned into a convenient dose pack.
- ANIMAL FLEX: a joint support formula for hardcore lifters, providing an array of joint lubricators and chondro-protective compounds.
- ANIMAL PAK: THE definitive, comprehensive multivitamin/mineral pack used by bodybuilders and powerlifters for more than two decades.
Universal's core is its very popular "Animal" line
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ESTABLISHED IN: 1999
CytoSport is a family-owned business especially devoted to the needs of endurance athletes. President/CEO Greg Pickett, himself an athlete, is a 30-year veteran in the industry, with a background as a professional race car driver. CytoSport's consulting scientist is Dr George Brooks, a world-class exercise physiologist and sports nutrition expert at UC Berkeley. Dr Brooks was responsible for developing the breakthrough compound polylactate (more on that below), and provides input on CytoSport formulations. Since its founding in 1999, Pickett and staff have guided CytoSport to become one of the top performance nutrition manufacturers in America.
Another unique ingredient that shows up exclusively in CytoSport products is called polylactate: a patented compound that lowers blood lactate during exercise, and reduces muscle cramping, burning and soreness both during and after intense workouts. The benefits were demonstrated in a double-blind trial of male cyclists; this stuff really works! Look for it in CytoSport products such as Muscle Energy and Cytomax Recovery. Another favorite by CytoSport is called CytoGainer: a calorie-dense formula with complex carbs, glutamine, branched-chain aminos and partially pre-digested whey proteins. This is a solid "fast protein" source for immediately pre-workout, during-workout or after-workout feeding.
Watch CytoSport for novel formulations that might be your personal ticket to substantial muscle gains and improved workout performance.
GASPARI NUTRITION(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1997
|See Gaspari Nutrition products|
Other products currently being offered by Gaspari include Intra-Pro, a whey concentrate and isolate blend, Size On, a creatine-based intra- and post-workout formula and the thermogenic called CytoLean. Look for Gaspari to out-do itself once again with an all-new product soon to be released PlasmaJetwhich is destined, they say, to "totally redefine the entire nitric oxide segment".
NUTREX RESEARCH(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 2002
Nutrex Research was founded by Jens Ingenohl and Jeff McCarrell; a dynamic team with decades of experience in sports nutrition and bodybuilding. Hailing from Germany, Jens is a prolific author with great depth of knowledge about performance enhancing substances. He is best known for publishing, in 1996, the World Anabolic Review, a journal of advanced sports enhancement strategies, authored under the pen name of Manfred Bachmann. Jens still owns a successful sports nutrition company (BMS) and runs a nutrition and training magazine in Germany. Jeff McCarrell has been involved in the sports nutrition industry for 20 years, working with such notables as EAS and MET-Rx. With broad experience in sales, marketing, and product development, as well as being a successful competitive bodybuilder himself, Jeff has been a powerful force in building and assuring Nutrex' success. Nutrex has committed itself to the needs of hardcore bodybuilders, and expresses this commitment by sponsoring several top IFBB pros: Markus Ruhl, Mark Dugdale, Troy Alves, Armin Scholz and Dennis Wolf. Of this company's most notable products is their popular fat burner called Lipo-6. It is a solid caffeine and synephrine stack, teamed with yohimbine and guggulsterones for metabolic stimulation and fat mobilization. The new Lipo-6X builds on that success by adding thyroid-stimulating trace amines, and the body repartitioning CLA, to the formulation. Best of all, Nutrex has developed a unique liquid multi-phase capsule formulation system; the first in the industry. Acting like two capsules in one, multi-phase capsules deliver a fast-acting liquid outer capsule and a sustained-release inner capsule. Several Nutrex products, including Lipo-6X, Ignite and Anabol-5, are now available as multi-phase capsules.
|See Nutrex Research products|
ESTABLISHED IN: 1996
ProSource's pricing and quality strategies had a tremendous impact. But aggressive cost-cutting and enhanced quality weren't the only innovations they introduced to the industry. Unlike its competitors, ProSource diligently investigated and analyzed every product it sold under the ProSource brand. This was unheard of in a marketplace where companies were accustomed to selling anything they could get their hands on regardless of whether a product had merit or not.
"Right from the very beginning," ProSource Chief Scientific Advisor Jeff Volek, PhD. said, "there were highly hyped products out there that ProSource simply refused to carry. These were supplements that didn't do what their manufacturers claimed they did, but yet, were in high demand because of marketing hype. Needless to say, this adherence to high standards of quality control ruffled some feathers. They made a few manufacturers unhappy by exposing some of the hype," continued Volek. "But they had a commitment to their customers, which was apparently unwavering. ProSource has demonstrated that they are simply not willing to sell a product unless there is evidence of a legitimate performance benefit."
This meticulous attention to detail carried over to ProSource's landmark annual Buyer's Guides and Performance Nutrition Catalogs. Rather than a shotgun approach to merchandising, ProSource has always been extremely selective with the product lines and brands it carries.
"In preparation for each issue of our annual Buyer's Guide, we analyze thousands of products, review volumes of scientific studies and technical data, and in many cases, even "field test" the products with members of our product testing team", said Jeff Orr, Senior Product Tester at ProSource.
"This information is instrumental in creating the informative product reviews that competitive bodybuilders have come to rely on for optimally effective supplement strategies", said Jeff. The ProSource Buyer's Guides also became famous for their insightful articles, invaluable advice on training and supplementation, Q&A features, and other cutting-edge research content. Those catalogs have since been augmented and reinforced with Prosource.net, the industry's most informative and user-friendly shopping and information website, and one of the top online bodybuilding destinations.
"One of the things that makes this site unique," said Bill Kispert, ProSource Senior Editor "is that the editorial content is researched and authored by highly credentialed experts in the field. The bodybuilding world is unfortunately loaded with much misinformation due to low editorial quality control standards of many internet sites, which utilize writers who have no legitimate qualifications. In contrast, our credential requirement for writers is extremely stringent. We typically seek out the preeminent authority in a given field to author each particular article. Our objective has always been to provide reliable authoritative information on the supplements we sell. In many cases, this leads us to university researchers with volumes of published scientific work on the particular subject they are writing about."
Inevitably, these high standards and uncompromising attention to detail yielded dramatic growth for the highly acclaimed ProSource brand. ProSource continues to purchase large volumes of the very highest-grade premium-quality raw materials on the market; compounds like genuine CreaPure� German creatine monohydrate and Glanbia's super potent CFM processed growth-factor-rich whey protein isolate, which enables them to stay ahead of the competition in both quality and price. In 1999, their first flagship protein, NytroWhey appeared, and the ProSource brand instantaneously became known for delivering an unprecedented level of quality.
"I've personally used NytroWhey long before I began working with ProSource," said ProSource Research & Development advisor Dwayne Jackson, PhD. "As a bodybuilder and researcher, I could immediately notice the difference in quality compared to standard grade proteins. There was no bloating, the taste was excellent, it mixed easily, and most importantly, I experienced noticeably improved recovery and growth with NytroWhey. This impeccable quality is one of the things that attracted me to the company. To this day, I have yet to find another protein that even compares to the quality of the NytroWhey line", said Dwayne. "It's a 100% pure, growth factor-rich whey isolate of the highest quality at a cost comparable to what most customers were accustomed to paying for the crudest whey concentrates. Its not surprising that I see high-level bodybuilders who are under contract with competitive sports supplement companies using NytroWhey."
More landmark products followed, including vital additions to the NytroWhey line, such as new NytroWhey Ultra, or the super potent, clinically-tested testosterone booster AndroTest, the ultra comprehensive super-multi MegaMax, the immensely popular maximum strength joint support formula Joint Command, the fast-acting high-powered creatine formula SynthaTrex Xtreme and many more. The ProSource R&D team was also involved in the development of a quadruple-layer protein bar that completely revolutionized the category.
"Until Supreme Protein came along," Jackson said, "manufacturers were content to fill their bars with crude low-quality proteins such as useless gelatin. ProSource simply applied the same high standards to the Supreme Protein bars that they have applied to the other top-selling ProSource products, like NytroWhey. The quality is impeccable and consumers apparently have been quick to recognize that."
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Working with a leading team of food technologists, these visionary researchers set out to create a truly nutritious muscle-building protein snack. Powered by premium whey protein isolate, Supreme Protein has literally taken the bar category by storm. In fact, Supreme Protein has proven to be such a high performance taste treat that it has quickly become a top-seller in stores across the country.
ProSource's unique dual capacity as both a supplement innovator and multi-line retail giant has placed it in a prime position to offer unprecedented values to its legions of satisfied customers.
"We treat our customers like they're family," said Operations Manager John Gordon. "We are athletes and supplement users ourselves, and in this sport, it's kind of like a brotherhood. As an avid power-lifter myself, I know that when I need a supplement, I don't want to wait. That's why we stock in our own warehouses every item we distribute so that we can get it out to our customers the fastest way possible. Nothing is more satisfying to me than building long-term relationships with our customers and I have found the best way to do that is provide excellent products, great prices, and fast service", said John.
"When we introduce a ProSource brand product, you can be sure it is of the absolute highest quality on the market", added Jim Casagrand, Quality Control Manager at ProSource. "We tell you what's in it, what benefits it provides, and we present the scientific data associated with its effectiveness. Many of our competitors' approaches to selling supplements rely on over the top claims and advertising hype, which can be entertaining at times, but they're not useful tools for judging the real worth of products. At ProSource, we place a heavy emphasis on hard science and that is what truly sets us apart."
Offering the highest quality products, based on real science, with the lowest prices nationwide has helped ProSource establish the most loyal customer base in the supplement industry. "They deeply respect their customer's bodybuilding and fitness goals", said Chief Scientific Advisor Jeff Volek, PhD. "That comes through in everything they do, and that's why more and more bodybuilders and athletes are turning to ProSource for their supplement needs."
Top MUSCLETECH(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1995
All this effort has resulted in relationships with some of the world's top applied physiology and sports science research specialists. Not only does MuscleTech develop relationships with top scientists, it also gives student awards to young scientists, recognizing excellence in student research. MuscleTech also sponsors scientific symposia such as "Dietary regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism at rest and during exercise" (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology 2003). Few companies can claim this level of devotion to the sport, and willingness to put serious resources into research on the science of sport supplementation. Several products are worthy of special note. Under the direction of Dr Heuer, MuscleTech researchers have devised a comprehensive pre-workout formula: naNO Vapor. Containing six (no less!) proprietary ingredient blends, each targeting a relevant physiological system or functional goal, naNO Vapor has lifted the bar in the pre-workout category—possibly farther than anyone else can clear. In brief, the complexes in this formula are:
- NeuroAMP: Amps-up concentration and mental focus with tyrosines, acetylcholine-boosters, and lipo-thiamine, for more intense workouts.
- Infernogen: Turns up the heat with thermogenic compounds and alpha-receptor (fat-release) stimulators.
- Vasoprime: A vasodilating NO amplification matrix proported to deliver more anabolic nutrients to working muscles.
- Anaphex: An anabolic/anti-catabolic signaling complex designed to promote protein synthesis and damp the catabolic bad-guys.
- Intravol: A creatine derivative-based muscle cell volumizing, cell-swelling and hydrating complex.
- Myo-GF: An endocrine stimulant designed to promote optimal testosterone delivery and post-workout growth hormone release.
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OPTIMUM NUTRITION(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1983
Focusing on value and diversity of offerings, Optimum (with its companion brand American Body Building) offers a comprehensive line of products across multiple categories—protein powders, nutritional bars and bites, ready-to-drink sports beverages, vitamins and minerals, and more. Founded by Mike and Tony Costello, Optimum Nutrition focuses on affordability of the most-essential sports nutrition products, such as whey protein. 100% Whey Protein is Optimum's #1 econo-whey product, and one of the category's single best sellers. Their commitment to value is evident throughout Optimum's product development process. Raw material vendors are carefully vetted, and Certificates of Analysis are required. To eliminate the possibility of chemical or microbiological contamination, Optimum has established a unique Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program. Quality assurance professionals make routine checks on all storage, blending and production areas, and conduct final inspections daily.
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BIO-ENGINEERED SUPPLEMENTS & NUTRITION (BSN)(more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 2001
Founded by Chris Ferguson and Scott James—now President/CEO, and VP, respectively, BSN has been an impressive success-story since coming out of nowhere, in 2001. Some of the buzz is due to BSN's associations with numerous top athletes, but the other part of the growth derives from BSN's products including such well-known names as Nitrix, Cellmass and Syntha-6. Most notable are the company's contributions in the nitric oxide category, including NO-Xplode and Nitrix NO-Xplode. NO-Xplode contains an array of performance-boosters, cell-volumizers, insulin sensitivity-enhancers, and more, all wrapped up in a unique delivery system.
Nitrix is a more "pure" NO-boosting product, featuring arginine AKG, combined with NO-enhancing cofactors like nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), L-citrulline, and a blend of essential phosphates that act to promote cellular nutrient uptake. Nitrix markedly enhances the workout pump, muscle fullness, vascularity, strength, and recuperation. BSN claims to have developed a precise "bonded ratio" of L-Arginine to AKG, which promotes NO synthesis better than competing products. Similar to Nitrix is Endorush, a pre-workout energy/NO drink featuring arginine AKG and L-citrulline along with various nutrients, stimulants, taurine and glucuronolactone.
Founded by IFBB Hall-of-Famer Lee Labrada, this company sports a full line of weight-loss and energy products, protein shakes, bars, and more. Their hallmark innovation, has been the meal replacement category, where they've dominated with such products as Lean Body and the delicious Lean Body Breakfast, a recent culinary taste award winner.