, Q&A WednesdayQ&A Wednesday: Protein Powders, Fat Burners and Supplements… Oh My!

Q&A Wednesday: Protein Powders, Fat Burners and Supplements… Oh My!

Q: Now that you are training to run and preparing for your ‘bikini’, have you thought about taking supplements? I’m referring to everything from protein shakes to amino acids to fat burners….thanks

Q: What are your views on thermogenics and supplements?

There are a lot of people that aren’t going to like what I have to say about this.

Sorry, I guess?

I don’t do any of it. This shouldn’t be a surprise, y’all. It really shouldn’t.

Before I get deep into the thick of this, I have two things I want to say.

First, there’s a reason that this is a lifestyle change. The reason that this is a lifestyle change is because the way you lose the weight is the way you will keep it off. Period. And quite frankly, I don’t want to be burdened with the added financial responsibility of living off of a god-awful disgusting protein powder… or supplements the size of horse pills… or a fat burner that might eventually get pulled from the market because it’s been deemed far more harmful than helpful.

I’m just… not interested in that.

Secondly… none of this stuff is “clean.” Don’t get me wrong – there are people who proclaim that they are all #TeamCleanEating who will let “supplements” slide under the rug because many members of the “clean eating” crowd would cringe if they were told they couldn’t have their supplements and vitamins. They don’t want to lose the support of the supplement-lovers, so they let it slide. I can’t really claim that I care, to be honest.

Why aren’t they clean? Take things that are made with enriched white flour, for instance. Bleached, “enriched” flour is flour that has been bleached, stripped of its nutrients and “enriched” with “vitamins” in a way that supposedly both nourishes us, yet still keeps the rodents and bugs away… even though we both thrive on the same things, yet the bugs have enough sense to stay back.

I mean, I’m sure it sounds like a good idea and all… until you learn that a lot of diseases that are kept at bay by the very vitamins that flour is being “enriched” with… are making a comeback. Considering the amount of enriched flour used in almost everything nowadays… if the vitamins that flour is being enriched with are so valuable and useful, why would the illnesses be returning? Not only do I feel some kinda way about taking vitamins outside of the source of their origin (read: fruits and vegetables), I feel some kinda way about the implication that taking vitamins is somehow equal to or superior to simply cleaning up your nutritional lifestyle. It’s not. You can look at the health of the nation to see that.

Besides… as much as he annoys me, Michael Pollan’s take on this feels adequate to me: The people most likely to be found taking vitamin supplements are also equally likely to have the best nutritional lifestyles, anyway. They might not even need them.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen Foodmatters. I don’t believe that “too much of anything can kill you.” (I actually think that’s a load of crap.) I simply believe that nature, in and of itself, has mechanisms in place that prevent you from overdosing on whatever “it” may be. As “they” say, “In nature, the poison is always packed with the antidote.” I’d prefer to let nature nourish me. Not pills.

The bottom line is this – I want my nutrients to come from the sources in which they are grown. That just… makes more sense to me. And while there are people out there who love to proclaim “Well, I don’t eat vegetables” or “I’own like veggies like that” or whatever else… I’d also question their ability to eat cleanly like that. That’s a hard life to live. I’m just being real.

I’m sure science knows a lot… but I can promise this: science doesn’t know enough. Look at the state of the country. This much is obvious. And yeah, I’m a nobody with no scientific credentials. I’m just someone who would rather get my nourishment from my most unadulterated food source. That’s how I’ve acquired the body I’m after now, and that seems to have proven to be far more useful for me.

That covers vitamin supplements and protein powders. And while I’m quite aware of the fact that bodybuilders and their ilk are heavily reliant upon protein powders, always looking for whey protein powders, or whatever… there’s three things that bother me: 1) bodybuilders also have “on and off seasons.” This is a lifestyle for me. No “off season.” 2) why stir a protein shake when I could just eat my protein? I don’t even eat much meat, and my protein intake is beyond adequate. 3) There’s no way in hell I’m paying $20 a week for a protein powder. I’m cheap. There. I said it.

On to fat burners and thermogenics. This stuff is gross. It is so gross.

It’s lightly regulated – all that has to be proven is that the stuff will not kill you – and you rarely have any idea what’s in it. If fat burners were ever researched by the purchasing public, you’d find that they, more often than not, have the most nebulous ingredient lists you’ve ever heard of in your life.

Do people experience weight loss on fat burners? Of course. Do people take fat burners forever? Do they eventually go off of the pill and experience weight gain? Do people ever realize that they’re just taking glorified caffeine pills? That’s all that most “fat burners” really are. That is… if the manufacturer even knows what’s in the pill they manufactured.

I’m going to quote the hell out of You Are Not A Fit Person right now. In his take-down of Jillian Michaels – a well-respected (for some reason) and well-known fitness specialist… whose ads, I’m sure, are going to appear on this page now (and, in advance – yes, I can request to prevent her from sponsoring this site, but it’s up to my network to block her…but in the meantime, feel free to check her out?) – and her fat burning pills:

According to Jillian Michaels:

I created the products with the top bariatrics doctors in the world. And I do mean the world. These are some of the same doctors I have been working with for years to help me with my Biggest Loser contestants and my books — especially Master Your Metabolism.

The products refer to her diet pills and cleanse and detox.  When asked who those doctors were, the answer we get is: “Dr. Arnold Astrup at Harvard and Dr. Nathalie Chevreau RD” in answer.

Dr. Astrup may very well be Arne Astrup from the University of Copenhagen, a world renowned bariatrics doctor who appears to do research into how protein produces a sense of fullness.

Dr. Nathalie Chevreau is a little different.  First and formost, the correct way to list  her name is Dr. Nathalie Chevreau Ph.d.  She is not a medical doctor.  According to her Plaxo profile she is currently ‘the Director of Women’s Health for Basic Research, LLC, the distributor of prestige cosmetic products and dietary supplements‘ and has been since 2001.

I discovered this by googling her name.  To my surprise, the three letter acronym that showed up connected with her name more than Ph.d was FTC!?!

Basic Research

Yes, the ‘prestige cosmetic products and dietary supplements’ that Basic Research LLC has manufactured are not seen as prestigious by the FTC.  These products included

  • Tummy Flattening Gel,
  • Cutting Gel,
  • Dermalin APg,
  • as well as 2 ephedrine products, Leptoprin and Anorex and
  • 1 fiber pill that is marketed to obese children: PediaLean!!

The FTC alleged the marketers lacked a reasonable basis in support of the claims, noting the sellers falsely stated clinical testing proved  claims for four of the challenged products and misrepresented their spokesperson as a medical doctor.

I can’t express to you how far a company has to go to run afoul of the FTC.  The commission only issues a complaint “when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated”.  You can see some of the claims of how far Basic Research has gone down this road.  You can read the FTC press release here and some additional claims found here.

“Dramatic, unsubstantiated weight and fat loss claims continue to tempt the overweight with new hope for a quick fix. It’s particularly disturbing, however, when marketers peddle such pills and potions for children without adequate substantiation,” according to Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  I have heard that Basic Research sues people a lot so I will step lightly here.  I would have to agree with Howard Beales characterization of this being ‘particularly disturbing’ to ‘peddle such pills and potions for children’.  I have no idea if Basic Research believed that this product worked or not.  If it did, I would have to think they would have done the research though.  In any case, I can’t tell you how utterly vile someone would have to be to market a false weight loss pill to overweight children.  I can’t imagine what circle in hell would be reserved for them.

The Role of Dr. Nathalie Chevreau Ph.D

You might ask yourself what does Dr. Nathalie Chevreau Ph.D have to do with all of this?  Is she actually involved in these products being the Director of Women’s Health at Basic Research LLC?  The answer is yes.  Clearly.  Not only was she part of the fat cream development and marketing that was so egregious it led to congressman Rep. James Greenwood, R-Pa., to call the  Basic Research executives “scam artists”.  Yes, scam artists.  She was quoted in advertisements and mentioned specifically in legal proceedings for these products that earned the company over $66 million.  You can read about her role with Akavar here (Akavar is their new diet drug, the one that is causing the FTC to recommend that the Attorney General’s office take action against Basic Research as well as getting them a fat class action suit.  The article is a great read by the way!).

Seriously, I couldn’t be making this stuff up, I can not believe who this Dr. Nathalie Chevreau is.  You can find her quotes for some of these products in the legal proceedings between the FTC and Basic Research and on websites:

On Dermalin APg: ‘This new, highly concentrated formula allows for precise, targeted delivery… making it the first true spot-reducing gel capable of effective reduction of dense abdominal fat. ‘ -Dr. Nathalie Chevreau, PhD, RD, Director of Women’s Health, Sovage Dermalogic Laboratories (note the company name here…)

Of PediaLean she says: “This is a safe, natural weight-loss compound developed specifically for children,” said Dr Nathalie Chevreau, Klein-Becker’s director of women’s health (notice the company name and role now). “This is an outstanding fibre. One of the main reasons for obesity in children is overeating food packed with high calories. If they can just eat half a bag of French fries or potato chips, that’s half the battle.”
According to this archived email, the most disturbing thing about PediaLean is this:

Basic Research criticism is apparently a case of the kettle calling the pot black, perhaps because of its competing product, PediaLean, containing an unidentified product “Pediatropin” derived from the P. rivieri root – all shrouded in mystery and scientific-sounding hype.  A letter  from the Committee on Energy and Commerce points out the deceptive nature of PediaLean advertising and notes the lack of safety or efficacy data.  We found no genus to correlate with “P.” rivieri, but the plant in question may be Amorphophallus rivieri also known as Konjac Root.

WHAT!?!! We don’t even know what the hell is in this stuff?!!?  Seriously!?!?  This is happening in the United States!?!? Dr. Nathalie Chevreau, the doctor of the company that makes this product is in support of it?!!?  OMG!! Not only is she in support of it, but in her role as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Supplement Watch, she is a supporter: “One of the supporters of PediaLean is Nathalie Chevreau, member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Supplement Watch.  Opinion: Caution is necessary in weighing the endorsements of “Supplement Watch”.  A random sampling of the reviews on Nutraceuticals revealed that some valid criticisms were given where appropriate, although it is far from rigorous or comprehensive – for instance, the very important induction of cytochrome oxidases by St. John’s wort is not noted, and warnings concerning Ripped Fuel and Ephedra are understated.  Despite the HON affiliation, source literature is rarely cited. At least one member of Supplement Watch is listed with a university affiliation, but it turns out that he was only a postdoctoral student at the university.  Many of the members do not hold doctorates.  Supplement Watch is “internally financed”.

Is this seriously going on??? Yes. So far as I can figure, Dr. Chevreau was testifying to a congressional hearing as a member of Supplement Watch, without identifying herself as ‘scientist behind the science of this product’.  Congress was a little leery of this group without evening knowing that the person testifying was actually a co-conspirator at the company that created the product… I don’t think that kind of behavior is legal is it?!?!?  I hope I am misunderstanding this.

To simplify… not only does she use a company that creates fat burning pills for children, but the company that she uses has a history of putting unidentifiable chemicals (or, at least, they don’t know how to identify their own chemicals from their own recipes) in their stuff. As loosely moderated as this stuff is, as difficult as it is to understand and as little as these people know about their own products… I should put this stuff in my body and rely upon it to help me lose/maintain my weight?

Not now. Not ever. No thanks.

And, really – for every study that says “vitamins are harmful,” there’s a study that says they are helpful. I don’t agree – or disagree – with either stance. Obviously vitamins are helpful… I simply question the need for supplements. Huge difference. I’m not even touching the “study” element of it all.

The answer to these questions… I gave it much earlier in my post. These things aren’t clean. In fact, the further you get away from nature, the more nebulous the ingredients/the process to create the product/the actual value of the product becomes. It’s just… not worth it to me. I’m not judging people who make these choices… just know that you’ll never – ever – find me discussing that, here.

By | 2017-06-10T11:25:27+00:00 April 8th, 2014|Fat Loss, Q&A Wednesday|32 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. LaCrecia January 26, 2011 at 1:21 PM - Reply

    Great response! I know many followers value your opinion and your answer hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing.

    • Erika January 26, 2011 at 1:33 PM - Reply

      I don’t know that I have followers… just lots of awesome readers. 🙂

    • ChellBellz January 26, 2011 at 2:18 PM - Reply

      You know a friend of mine tried to put me on to some hair nail and skin vitamins, and I looked at the packaging and there was a ton of filler in there besides the vitamins. Our bodies really are smarter then people give them credit for. Why do you think some of them have to be taken with food? because if you don’t your body knows that Vitamin D isn’t real and it will reject it, so you hide it in there, and hope that your body takes it.

      Now i’m all about researching these foods and switching them into my diet every other week in order to gain those natural vitamins i need. I dont think after all this time anybody should assume that you would be taking suppliments especially when you eat the way that you eat. You get a ton of things out of foods that people don’t even think twice about eating, or cooking.

      • Erika January 26, 2011 at 2:52 PM - Reply

        I have no idea, either… but if it busts another window in the “consumerism” house for me to proclaim that these, too, are unnecessary… then I’m all for it. LOL

  2. Sarah January 26, 2011 at 1:54 PM - Reply

    When I think of vitamin supplements (and not those horrid weight loss/fat burner pills), I think of them as additional shots of medicine, to be taken in conjunction with the changes in diet that I’m already doing. I take kelp (iodine) and selenium to help boost my thyroid (in addition to my regular thyroid medication), and doses of phytosterol vitamins (another fighter against cholesterol). Both of these are things I’ve talked about with my nutritionist, so we’re cool with this path.

    The other exception I can think of for being pro-vitamin supplement are for groups who, because of their diet or other medical reasons, need extra vitamins to thrive or survive (so, B12 for vegans, since it’s available only in animal products; or prenatal vitamins; or extra Vitamin D in the wintertime.).

    I definitely agree with you–taking these pills shouldn’t take the place of good nutrition (and, more importantly, common sense!). Like all other medicine, there’s a time and a place for a little extra help if, for whatever reason, you can’t get it from your regular diet.

    • Erika January 26, 2011 at 2:05 PM - Reply

      “…B12 for vegans, since it’s available only in animal products…”

      …this is what makes veganism a non-option for me. I won’t be replacing anything deemed vital for a pill. Ever.

    • NinaG January 27, 2011 at 12:34 PM - Reply

      Very true. Since I was a kid, I have been prescribed folic acid (although now I’m okay w/ B Complex) for my sickle cell. No matter how healthily I eat, if I skip my folic/B complex I’m so easily fatigued.

  3. NinaG January 26, 2011 at 2:00 PM - Reply

    Two questions:
    (1) What do you think of vegan-friendly protein powders such as hemp powder and brown rice powder?
    (2) Can you give some tips on getting more protein?

    And just to let you know, I’m trying to gain weight in a healthy way and you’re blog has been quite helpful.

    • Erika January 26, 2011 at 2:16 PM - Reply

      Powders aren’t clean.

      I do have a post coming up about other sources of protein beyond animal and animal by-product, though, if you can sit tight for it? 🙂

      • christine March 26, 2014 at 2:28 PM - Reply

        I crack up in the break room every time I see these folks mixing and measuring their protein powder and smoothies. I asked one lady why she just didn’t exercise. She looked at me like I had just asked if I could sleep with her husband.
        The first of the year all these companies pushing their latest weight loss fad, get bikini ready..smh

  4. GiGi January 26, 2011 at 2:20 PM - Reply

    LOVE THIS ONE.. All to often we want a “quick fix” for something that has taken years to get to that point. I have tried fat burners before when I was in my 20’s then the stories of people having heart attacks and that stopped me with the quickness. So this time around I have worked on my eating habits and actually getting the point where I am happy to move my body. I still take a multi – vitamin but that is it. I am so glad I found this site and I am going to send a link to it to all of my sister girlfriends that are working to make changes for life…

  5. Mark Vaughan January 26, 2011 at 2:38 PM - Reply


    Great post! I could not agree more. It is amazing how many people are duped into buying supplements. I think it is so much easier for us to believe that we need something to help us lose weight and it is even better when we can buy that something at a store.
    There is another post that you might want to look at that shows just how ‘not clean’ these supplements are. You can find it here: http://youarenotafitperson.com/2010/10/29/dietary-supplements-are-the-wild-west-of-self-medication/
    Take Care, and keep up the great work.

    • Erika January 26, 2011 at 2:50 PM - Reply

      I’m actually going to contact you on the side because the work you did on Jillian’s supplement situation REALLY deserves to be highlighted so that people can see just how shoddy the research and regulation really is behind that industry. I just… I think my readership would benefit from the highlight.

      Thanks – I’m honored to see you here! 🙂

      • Mark Vaughan January 27, 2011 at 2:20 AM - Reply

        Hey Erika, I look forward to it. My email address is on my website or you can contact me through Facebook or Twitter.
        I had a lot of fun researching and writing about Jillian Michaels, Nathalie Chevreau, Basic Research and DSHEA… I was constantly shocked.
        I am honored to be here. It is great to know that people who really get weight loss and making fitness actually work in real life are doing such a great job sharing their insights with people who actually need it. There is so much great information here!

  6. lynne January 26, 2011 at 3:00 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the insightful, well researched article. I appreciate that you don’t just give your opinion, without having any research to back it up. You said exactly what I thought you would…. it’s just not clean. I am learning that the truth is really simple and plain. We have everything we need when we learn how to eat. Keep up the good work, I know it takes a lot of courage to speak the truth. You have really been a blessing to me.

  7. Streetz January 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM - Reply

    Great Post.

    I definitely know and see your point about natural vs powder products, but (for me at least) there is a country for protein powders. When I work out, I like to have quick protein and whey protein works best for me. I also take a multivitamin and fish oil supplements. now with my diet I may get these nutrients already, but the harder I work out, and knowing that all natural foods aren’t always accessible, I like to use supplements.

    I think research should be done by the consumer to make sure that those products work best for them, but by no means should they ever be what you take/eat forever.

    I cycle on and off with the powders, but always take a multivitamin. Natural foods are best though.

    Excellent post again E money!

  8. Shante January 26, 2011 at 3:19 PM - Reply

    I’m surprised that you don’t consider hemp powder clean. I’ve been considering adding it to my green smoothies. Can you explain why? From what I have read on it I consider it clean but I am thinking you may have done more research than I have.

  9. Felice January 26, 2011 at 6:09 PM - Reply

    I was worried about not getting enough protein as well. But I’ve always had the sneaky suspicion that protein shakes aren’t that great for you when they taste so.. weird. So before I workout if I feel I need protein I make this triple green smoothie (recipe courtesy of Whole Foods)with: 1 cup of kale, spinach, & plain soymilk, 4 pitted Dates and 1/2 cup of berries. It makes 2 servings & I gives me the stuff I need to get through my workouts. It also tastes great!
    But I just love Kale!

    Anyhow, Thanks Erika for the insight. I plan to stay away from Protein Powders for life!

  10. Daphne January 27, 2011 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    Thank you, Erika (and Mark!) for this information. I tell you, there is so much info out there about “health” and weight loss and fitness. Seems to me there is unnecessary complication of these things, which serves as a bit of a smokescreen to how much the industries are about generating profit, misleading the public, and gaslighting about what constitutes health.

    The more I read, the more I come to realize that clean eating and genuine health is really about simplicity. It’s not always EASY, mind you, but it really is simple. What I find scary, particularly for black women, is the growing trend in the blogosphere of adopting and spreading misleading concepts on health, and because the author or blog host “looks good” or has always been slim, it’s taken as gospel. I really appreciate your circumspect, concise, and precise take on these matters, all rolled into a comprehensive site.

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