How To Know If Your Supplement Is Safe, Legal And Contains What It Says It Contains.

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Podcast, Supplements

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

How do you know if the nutrition supplements that you are using are safe and legal? 

How is the supplement industry actually regulated?

What should you look for to know if your supplement actually contains what it says it contains?

You're going to learn the answers to these and many more questions in this podcast episode.

My guest for this episode, Tom Nikkola (pictured right) is a fitness and nutrition expert who is well-versed in the nutrition supplement industry. He was cured from leukemia when he was five. He spent years doing follow-up testing at the Mayo Clinic, and during that time, often thought of becoming a doctor.

This interest in health turned into an interest in fitness, which eventually led him to graduate from university, cum laude, with a pre-Med Biology degree. Shortly after graduating, Tom started working for Life Time Fitness, and was there for nearly 12 years working as a personal trainer, and holding various management roles, before finally leaving after holding the position of  Senior Director of Nutrition & Weight Management. During that time, Tom was responsible for Life Time’s nutrition, metabolism and weight management programs and products.

Tom holds a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, as well as my Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).  Beyond his standardized education, Tom has also read hundreds of books on fitness and nutrition and currently has a personal library of about 900 published research papers and articles.

Tom now uses his insights and experience to advise and build the one of the world's leading fitness supplement brands – EXOS – with a focus on producing products and services in which fitness professionals and the clients they work with can have complete trust. In today’s episode, Tom is going to walk us through everything we need to know about whether the supplements we’re taking are actually safe, legal and contain what they say they contain.

-The history behind EXOS

-How multivitamins are made, from idea conception to final product…

-How to know whether supplements actually contain the exact amount of product that is on the label…

-What kind of third-party certifications you should be looking for on a supplement label…

-Why fillers, binders, excipients and other additives are added to supplements – and which are safe and which are not…

-4 things you must completely avoid in any supplement, capsule, powder or tablet…

-Tom's three favorite supplement “stacks”, and why he chooses them…

-And much more!

thorneFinal Food For Thought

These are all important issues.

And here's why…

A woman in Hawaii recently died from liver failure due to her use of the weight loss supplement OxyELITE Pro. Following actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Texas-based company has agreed to recall and destroy a dietary supplement linked to dozens of cases of acute liver failure and hepatitis, including one death and illnesses so severe that several patients required liver transplants.

A recent journal of medicine presented a case report on two soldiers who were taking commercially available energy supplements and who both collapsed during physical exertion from cardiac arrest and ultimately died.

In many cases, there are reported risks of deaths actually increasing with long term use of supplements such as multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper and there are athletes who have been banned from competition due to their “innocent” electrolytes and sports fuels being tainted with hormones and steroids.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about whether your supplement is safe, or any other thoughts about this episode? Leave your comments below, and go to EXOS to view any of the products we discuss in this podcast!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

37 thoughts on “How To Know If Your Supplement Is Safe, Legal And Contains What It Says It Contains.

  1. Matilda says:


    I live in Sweden and is interested in buying exos, for example The B vitamins. Is there anywhere I can order it in europe?

    Best regards


    1. Not right now, they are actively working on a shipping solution for distribution in other countries. For updates email [email protected].

  2. Danny says:

    Hello Ben or Tom,

    I just listened to the podcast and I thought it was great, full of good honest information that is hard to come by these days. I have a question regarding the three stacks mentioned, I want to start eating healthier and being more physically active. When I do start eating healthier and start some kind of workout routine, will these three stacks be sufficient in getting results physically and being healthier or would I need to take more stuff? I know some people take fat burners with other supplements, but I haven’t looked into that. I’m not very knowledgeable on this stuff.

    1. Honestly, it really, really depends on you your exercise history and your health history. In my opinion, bare minimum = multi + fish oil. From there, it's best to build a specific supplement stack based on your specific needs. I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  3. Jonathan Khawlhring says:

    I mean ” muscletech hydroxy hard core elite” , Is it safe ? I am considering to use it as a fat burner? [email protected]

  4. eilee66 says:

    I am interested in the Thorne FX amino complex powder. I don't know if you know anything about this but I am MTHFR +/+. I have read that one should avoid, I believe essential aminos if you have this snip and just do the BCAA's. I don't know where i heard that from, but vaguely remember it. Wondering your thoughts? I'd like a good amino powder to take pre/post workout to facilitate recovery.

    1. The challenge with this polymorphism is that you are more likely to create more homocysteine. In general, one would advise either caution with how much protein people eat and/or take 5-MTHF (such as in in the Thorne multi) to aid in the proper metabolism/methylation of homocysteine.

  5. fritzbo says:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge – incredibly helpful. I have a question about the EXOS AM/PM ingredients. I was so impressed by your review that I ordered the product. However, the Vitamin C is listed as being just ascorbic acid. With all your knowledge, there must be more to it than that. I expected to see all the cofactors and C complex that the body needs instead of just ascorbic acid. I haven't taken vitamins for years, since I believe in concentrated foods which would supply me with all the nutrients, not just isolated forms. Could you please comment on this. I'm sure others would be very interested in this as well.

    1. ISOLATED ascorbic acid in a non-chelated or non-whole foods form becomes an issue in HIGH doses (e.g 1g+/day), and even this was not shown to be the case in hard-charging athletes, who can likely benefit from the added antioxidant effect of the Vitamin C (e.g. when I am traveling or very stressed, I take as much as 5g of Vitamin C/day – but it is chelated form – I use this:

  6. Sarah says:

    I have been taking the Thorne FX am/pm complex and am quite happy with it, thank you! My question is how is it that everyone of all shapes and sizes has the same dosage recommendation? I am a female, weighing 120lbs, and an endurance athlete. Would I be able to get away with taking 2 at each am/pm? Or I should I stick with the recommended 3 per?

    1. There is not research showing the benefits of this in the same way there is for protein or carbohydrate intake. It's not to say there is not some validity to the idea, but we have no way to know how to scale the intake. Also, though you are lower than average in body weight, it sounds like your level of activity is quite high, which would mean you're still metabolizing a high amount of energy.

  7. Rodrigo Gonzalez says:

    Great podcast one more time. I will be in Houston TX for 3 days, live in Singapore. I am a 46 year old man Father of 3 busy executive trying to qualify for Kona. I am currently training for IM langkawi in Sept. The question is what lab test to take while in Houston and where and potential supplements to get on.

    Look forward

  8. MoneikL7 says:

    Hello Ben or Tom. I love your podcast Ben, new listener.

    I've been on a new way of eating (cutting out sugar and grains) basically high fat, low protein. Im 52 menopausal, undergoing series of test for adrenals & gut. Anyway, I was so excited to hear about the multi-vitamin, ordered and just started taking the AM/PM Friday. Sunday, I found that it was very hard to go to sleep and heart rate was up, beating fast. Could it be something in the vitamins that triggered this (cucurmin?). I have been taking Magnesim, Fish Oil, K2/D, Relora & Holy basil, but stopped these Friday. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you.

    1. There are no stimulants in Multi AM/PM Complex. Curcumin does not act on the nervous system, so it would not be unlikely that curcumin would cause any stimulatory effects. Relora, in the evening formula acts as a mild sedative, but you may not need to take the extra Relora you mention, on top of what’s included in the PM formula of Multi AM/PM Complex. Everyone responds differently to nutritional supplements. If you continue to experience issues, please contact [email protected].

      1. MoneikL7 says:

        Thanks Ben. This morning I took a break from the Multi Am, instead a couple of cups of homemade beef broth. I figured since, the broth has lots of nutrients. What's your thoughts on this?

        1. You are correct, but the broth is primarily amino acids, gelatin, and minerals, and doesn't contain a lot of the other compounds, especially the herbals, that you're getting in the multi. No harm to do both.

  9. zvolo says:

    Great podcast, I am already using AM/PM multi. The results are incredible. People keep asking, what is wrong with me, whether I have started to take some drugs (only multivitamins, lol) In the podcast you were discussing the amount of turmeric root needed to be consumed to match the equivalent of the amount in the supplement. Do you think you could ask Tom to provide this info???

    1. Tom Nikkola says:

      Hi Zvolo. Great to hear you like the multi.

      It's really difficult to assume the equivalents as the curcumin concentration in turmeric varies quite a bit. Purified turmeric powder in this study <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( was shown to have a curcumin concentration of 3.14%. The other forms that they looked at were less concentrated.

      Multi AM/PM Complex contains 200 mg of curcumin phytosome, which provides 20% curcumin (40 mg), 40% phosphtidlycholine (80 g). In the phytosome, the curcumin extract has been shown to be absorbed 29 times better than standard curcumin, so it would be roughly the equivalent of consuming 1.16 grams of curcumin.

      Going back to the findings from the study above, if the most turmeric provided a concentration of 3.14%, you'd need to consume 36.8 grams of pure turmeric powder to get the 1.16 grams of curcumin.

      Having said all that, there isn't a study to show that whole math problem plays out like that, but it's probably the best answer I can come up with.

  10. SusieLNYC says:

    Excellent podcast! I've switched all my supplements now to EXOS because of you, Ben, and have been very pleased with the results.

    Will drinking fresh squeezed lemon and water affect the efficacy of supplements – impede, enhance, or no impact – given its high acidity?

    1. The only evidence I've seen for lemon juice would be to enhance iron absorption…

  11. michael219 says:

    Hey ben, when will this be availible in europe?
    Alot of products you endorse i like but am unable to get in europe or due to extreme shipping costs.

    i currently use a brand called Whole foods (take 2000 IU) (i break it up in two halfs, twice a day) (this has one of your favs Ashwaganda in it)

    if you click the links under the picture you can see the ingredients your thoughts on this as an alternative and ofcourse when can we expect (better) delivery in europe? :)

    1. Hopefully very soon. They are working on it. I'd go to and contact them through the contact form on the site to encourage them!

  12. dawgoboy22 says:

    Hey Ben, so when running marathons or on a long training runs I will take 2 X2 performance before my run would I want to add the Amino Complex with my water? Also is that similar to MAP?

    1. Yes, the would be synonymous with the MAP, just easier to mix and carry than tablets…

  13. alisongs says:

    A quick Vitamin D question: I heard on the podcast that they use MCT oil for their Vit D. I have been taking drugstore purchased Vit D, 2g for past year, but have made little progress in boosting my Vit D level from 38 to the recommended 50-60. Could it be quality or quantity that is preventing better absorption? Thanks!

    1. That, and the lack of Vitamin K. This is what you need:

  14. KymmChatty says:

    Loved the podcast- thank you for the information! I'm in Canada and currently use a number of Throne Research supplements. Will ThroneFX be available in Canada? If so, can you direct me to a practitioner?

    Keep up the amazing work – it's working!

  15. ltr2014 says:

    Hey Ben…
    your research and sharing on all facets of health are truly, truly appreciated. However, I do have a questions that may be sensitive, but I think you will agree…transparency is key…
    When I order my EXOS multis via you as my 'consultant', do you get compensation from Thorne?
    Is it like a MLM program?
    I am just wondering, since you sure to endorse Thorne,
    Hope you will show us what's behind the curtain.

    1. Thorne is NOT an MLM or pyramid marketing company. They simply have decided to sell through physicians and personal trainers (like me) instead of via online channels where distribution and quality can't be controlled. When you buy Thorne through me it is the equivalent of going to the store to buy a supplement. Except I'm the store. So yes, I profit and as we mention on the podcast, I am also an adviser to Thorne.

      1. ltr2014 says:

        Thanks for the reply.
        I'm glad you are an adviser, as that means the product will evolve to be the best it can be…

  16. Neil Taylor says:

    Which is the EU company they license the Amino Complex from?

    1. Tom Nikkola says:

      Hey Neil. We can't disclose that. Partly due to licensing restrictions, partly due to the fact that people may contact that company with questions and they should be routed through Thorne. We produce the actual product, and license the ability to use the specific mix of amino acids.

      1. floatbeyond says:

        Cool, thanks Tom. Living in the UK I'm interested in Thorne products, but shipping and taxes currently make it impractical.

        1. Tom Nikkola says:

          Our shipping rates have been really high. We're hoping to have much better rates in the next couple weeks through one of the major carriers. Sit tight. Hopefully you'll be able to affordably get the products there soon.

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