Shawn Wells is referred to in the supplement industry as the world’s greatest formulator. He grew up taking supplements and credits his mother for his early interest due to her work with a popular supplement brand at that time.
His resume is impressive and includes work in clinical nutrition, nutritional biochemistry, sports nutrition, in addition to business and marketing. It was while working to formulate supplements for sports nutrition that he earned his nickname as the world’s greatest formulator, and it stuck.
His guiding principle is quality: “I want to take every product that I make. I never cut corners. I never, ever cut corners. If it can’t be unique, if it can’t be the best, I’m not making it, I’m not putting my name to it.”
In his conversation with Patrick Gentempo for Revealed Films, he shared a long list of practical tips to help each of us make better choices when considering which supplements we should be spending our hard-earned money on.
Wells cautions us to be careful when buying so-called “proprietary blends.” A lot of proprietary blends are simply vehicles for profiteering, and they list ingredients but not amounts – some ingredients are barely detectable.
He explains, “That’s a great way to build in margin… you put in 1000 mg of the cheapest ingredient, and 1 milligram of the ingredients that are more expensive.” This shady practice is known as “fairy dusting.”
It is also a red flag when a company jumps on a fad and rushes to the market with a cheaper version of something, known in the industry as a “me too” product.
Savvy consumers should look for more individual ingredients in the right dosages, the right plant parts, and the right synergy of ingredients. Also, look at third-party testing and sourcing – this information should be available on reputable manufacturers’ websites.
He admits that quality will cost you, and emphasizes that “I think that most of the time, you do get what you pay for. The premium products are more expensive, without a doubt.”
Wells maintains that organic and non-GMO matter a lot. Manufacturers should test for toxins and heavy metals in their source ingredients and finished products. Organic and non-GMO manufacturers will have documentation in place and available to consumers showing that the environment around the plants is rigorous – this is an indication that the manufacturer is a stickler for purity.
He advises us that supplement blends are a tricky business and that there are several factors to consider. In addition to high quality, the blend should contain the right doses, bioavailability, and the synergy of ingredients.
Your own experience with and reaction to a product matter as well, he adds, saying that “The consumer is smart enough to know ‘I like this product – it really works for me.’ …This company has a good reputation. They’re doing all the extra steps. They’re not making ridiculous claims. So I’m going to trust this company and use their other products.”
So what is the icing on the cake when it comes to choosing who to buy supplements from? Wells advises against any supplement advertised with what are clearly ridiculous claims, often paired with celebrity endorsements. “I would run,” he warns.
Shawn Wells also has a lot to say about which supplements you should be taking, so keep an eye out for Part 2 of our discussion with him, coming soon on the blog.