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This article is not meant to demean supplements in anyway. In fact there are numerous advantages to using such products to balance your nutrition and improve performance. Just like every food product, however, there are some to avoid and the more educated you are when making a purchase the better off you will be. Typically when you sign up at a healthclub, both the salesperson and personal trainers will take you by the “pro-shop” and tout the advantages of nutritional supplements. Since there is generally a commission involved they will of course push you toward the gyms own product line or brand with an arranged marketing agreement.

I and a few others were rare in that regard; we generally looked at the label and told our client’s to head for the nearest supplement shop*. I remember we had the head of the corporate offices’ nutrition products division conducting a meeting on the importance of selling Bally’s product line tell me one of our supplements mixed differently because of a “filler” when on the label it stated no fillers were used. It made me wonder how many other “healthy” products are being pushed on unsuspecting consumers.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: the Apex bar available at 24 Hour Fitness and the Bally Snack Right bar. I have highlighted some of the ingredients in question below.

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apex-bar.jpg

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1 Bar (55g), Amount Per Serving: Calories 220, Fat Calories 50, Total Fat 6g (9% DV), Saturated Fat 3.5g (18% DV), Cholesterol less than 5mg (1% DV), Sodium 160mg (7% DV), Potassium 50mg (1% DV), Total Carbohydrate 28g (9% DV), Dietary Fiber less than 1g (3% DV), Sugars 20g, Protein 13g (26% DV), Vitamin A (10% DV), Vitamin C (10% DV), Calcium (15% DV), Iron (20% DV), Vitamin E (10% DV), Thiamin (10% DV), Riboflavin (10% DV), Niacin (10% DV), Vitamin B6 (10% DV), Folate (10% DV), Vitamin B12 (10% DV), Biotin (10% DV), Pantothenic Acid (10% DV), Phosphorus (10% DV), Iodine (10% DV), Zinc (10% DV). Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

INGREDIENTS: Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, calcium caseinate, sugar, fractionated palm kernel oil, almonds, whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate, nonfat milk, lactose, cocoa (processed with alkali) high oleic sunflower oil with tocopherols added to protect flavor, natural and artificial flavor, cellulose gel, salt, dextrose, vegetable oil (coconut and/or palm), soy lecithin, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean), calcium phosphate, butter (cream, salt), guar gum, sodium ascorbate, ferric orthophosphate, alpha-tocopherol acetate, niacinamide, zinc oxide, calcium pantothenate, coffee, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid, biotin, potassium iodide, vitamin B12. Manufactured in a plant that processes peanut, tree nuts, soy, milk and egg products.

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bally-snack-right-bar.jpg

Nutrition Facts: 160 cals, 4.5 fat, 23 g carbs, 7 g protein

Ingredients: Corn Syrup, Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Sugar, Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Natural Flavor, Nonfat Milk, Lactose, Barley Malt Extract, Rice Bran, Calcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Milk Mineral Concentrate, Dextrose, Honey, Calcium Caseinate, Guar Gum, Milk Protein Isolate, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Ferric Orthophosphate, Maltodextrin, Alphatocopherol Acetate, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodate, Vitamin B12.

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If you were to compare these products, the Bally bar comes out ahead of the Apex for a few reasons. First, both contain corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which can contribute to obesity, but when it comes to the Apex bar it is one of the first two ingredients. In addition to HFCS, the Apex bar also contains partially hydrogenated oils that can possibly lead to a slower metabolism (not something you want if you are trying to get in shape). These problems are not unique to these two bars alone as there are several on the market with similar ingredients. In some cases you would be better off grabbing a Snickers instead. Just remember when looking for a decent snack the first ingredients on the label should not be sugar based.

* When choosing a supplement shop keep in mind that there are several options. The most popular is GNC/Livewell largely due to the fact they were one of the first to the market and invested heavily in advertising. In general they are the most expensive even on Super Tuesday, GNC’s first-Tuesday of the month sale. My advice would be to find a local shop which generally locate near larger gyms. Smoothie Factory, Smoothie King, and Fitness Essentials are all good examples. Their prices are almost always lower than GNC’s Super Tuesday sale all month long.

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