About 10 or so weeks ago I bought two “Pro Packs” from Progenex, which included 2 bags of Recovery and 2 bags of More Muscle. Combined that would be 60 servings of each, enough for 12 weeks of 5 servings a week, one for each workout day. All of this cost about $210 or $3.50 a serving. Ridiculously expensive by just about any standard, but given all the reviews and write-ups and sponsorships I wanted to see what I was missing. Here’s the problem – I don’t want to say that Progenex is garbage, but with a little knowledge and the right sourcing you can get the same thing much cheaper.
Let’s look at what’s in Progenex.
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate
Whey Growth Factor Enriched Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate
Natural Cocoa Powder
Let’s address the common areas, first, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate. When cheese is produced from milk there are two parts, curds which make the cheese and whey which is normally discarded. The whey can be dried, filtered, and processed into whey protein. This is the most basic form, usually called whey protein concentrate. Further filtration and purification gets you the next step of purity, whey protein isolate. The difference between concentrate and isolate is the purity. Isolate removes more of the sugars and fats from the milk, leaving a purer protein with no bi-products including things like lactose. The next step in the process is the kicker. Hydrolysate, or the process of hydrolysis which uses enzymes to process the protein and cleave the larger protein molecules into much smaller peptide chains. The end result is a protein which is higher in di and tri-peptides which are said to absorb more quickly and act more efficiently in the muscle protein synthesis process. Companies vary the process by which they undergo hydrolysis, and usually call it a proprietary process meaning they don’t have to tell you anything about it. And most won’t even report the end products either.
Clearly “Recovery” also contains fructose as a carb source, which is not ideal, my guess is they chose fructose because it would please “Paleo” or “Primal” enthusiasts above something like maltodextrin or d-glucose which might actually work better from an anabolic standpoint. Then there’s natural flavors and sucralose, the sweetener found in Splenda.
That leaves us the Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, more commonly known in the fitness community as BCAA or branch chain amino acids. While they are also present in the hydrolyzed whey isolate, adding them in free form confers additional benefit in the muscle protein synthesis department. Most importantly Leucine which is pretty widely recognized as a trigger for protein synthesis and anabolism. Usually these mixes come in some form of ration between the three, 2:1:1 is the most common, 4:1:1 also appears as well as 3:1:2. Really you can find it in whatever mix you want, but since Leucine is the most important 2:1:1 seems to fair the best.
Now that we have all the pieces, let’s get back to Progenex. I have two major complaints, first, the phrase “whey growth factor enriched” is hokey at best. I can’t find a single scientific article that sites these, nor does anything on the ingredient list hint at what they might be. What are whey growth factors? Growth factors in milk are destroyed when its homogenized and pasteurized, so unless they’re adding enzymes back in I cannot for the life of me imagine what these might be. Second, they don’t release the actual grams of their Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Meaning they could be as low as 1g each, far under what many would consider an effective amount. Nor can you determine the ratio they are provided. So this begs the question – what’s the extra cost, it’s certainly not the Sucralose and natural flavoring.
This leads me to the alternatives, the hydrolyzed whey isolate market is pretty sparse, from what I could find there are three main sources outside of Progenex. The first is Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydrowhey, not a bad option, considerably cheaper per serving but loaded with a lot of extra stuff that makes me suspicious. The second is Dymatize Iso-100 again much cheaper, but again containing soybean oil and Sucralose. The final option was TrueNutrition.com’s Hydrolyzed Whey Protein. The TrueNutrition brand stood out for two reasons, first I could choose the amount by the pound perfectly. Second, I can choose the sweetner, opting for Stevia over Sucralose, minor to some but important to me. Ten pounds of this hydrolysate costs $111 for 75 servings at 46g per serving (the same as 3 scoops of “More Muscle”, 60 servings of which would cost $209).
This brings me to the second part of my replacement, the BCAA additives. TrueNutrition also sells this, in instantized form (meaning it mixes very easily), 100g makes for 10 10g servings at a 2:1:1 ratio which is 5g leucine, 2.5g isoleucine and 2.5g valine. A hefty dose by any standard. 800g of instantized BCAA is about $48.00, combine in with the 75 servings of protein that’s 80 servings of BCAA – if you just combine both jugs it works pretty perfectly. So now we have homemade “More Muscle” for $184.00 shipped enough to last for 15 weeks at 5 servings a week, 46g of pure hydrolyzed whey protein, naturally flavored and sweetened with stevia, and a full 10g of BCAA per serving. Compared to 60 servings with 45g of hydrolyzed whey, Sucralose, and unknown amounts of BCAA at a $209 price tag. Those keeping score at home would notice that that is 15 more servings for roughly $30 less, shipped.
Now let me say this, Progenex isn’t bad. It tastes great, mixes easily, and contains what it says it does. In the right quantities hydrolyzed whey protein and BCAA along with some carbohydrates. As the average exerciser, you’re probably reading this thinking you eat enough and sleep enough and want something more. First I’d say, write down how much you eat, if you aren’t getting at least 1g protein per pound of bodyweight, you aren’t eating enough. If you aren’t getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, you aren’t sleeping enough. Those are your edges, those will make you better. That being said, the extra 30-50g protein Progenex can provide, could easily produce a noticeable increase in recovery. My qualm is not this. My qualm is the price to label measurement. Nowhere can I find a statement that justify’s the cost of Progenex above the TrueNutrition or any other alternative. It makes it especially difficult when they hide being their label and proprietary blends.
As of July 10, I have a discount code for TrueNutrition.com!! How sweet is that?? So now you can take 5% off your entire TN order, making it an even better deal for high quality products. The code is “GRIZZLY”. Enjoy!
My rant is done for now, I tried Progenex, it works, it’s expensive, it’s not the nectar of God’s – my squat did not increase 30# overnight, my muscles didn’t surge with newfound nutrition. From now on I prefer to know exactly what is in my protein.
Update Sept. 24 2013
As of a week or so ago, True Nutrition removed the BCAA option from it’s supplements section, you can no longer buy that in 100g increments from them. Originally this bummed me out, but it turns out they have added the same BCAA Peptides to their “Mix It” feature, which means no more hand mixing your order. So in actuality it’s a very good thing. The math is a little strange, but it goes something like this…In hydrolyzed whey, every 70cc scoop is 32.3g, we were adding to that 5g of BCAA, which is a ratio of roughly 15.5:1, meaning for every 70cc scoop about 15.5% of it was BCAA. Thus we can carry that right into the “Mix It” option. We simply tell them we want a mix of 85% Hydrolyzed Whey Super Grade, and 15% BCAA Peptides. Boom – you’re done. I highly recommend doing “heavy” flavoring, but other than that – everything is the same as above.
The cost comes out to $21.25/lb. meaning the same 10 lbs. I’ve been ordering is now $212.5 minus the 5% discount from my discount code “GRIZZLY”, that leaves us at about $202.5 shipped. So the cost and product didn’t change – just the way we’re ordering it. Enjoy!