Review: ALR Industries HumaPro

Review: ALR Industries HumaPro

Is your protein more anabolic than catabolic? As usual at ALR Industries we are pushing the envelope in product formulation for those who want real results not hype. So let’s start with the first fact that is going to change an industry and start more fights than Helen of Troy. Your protein sucks and it’s not my fault. Please do not misunderstand me. There really are some well designed and researched products available from companies like Progenex® with brilliant people like Dr. Scott Connelly and of course some of the creative and high quality proteins from good companies like MHP®. But there is an inherent flaw in most proteins available on the market: They were not made for humans… You are not a cow so why are you drinking cow proteins like whey and casein? Last time you had human protein was when Mom made it fresh for you.

Hoo-boy. It’s the old “mother’s milk” argument. Again. ALR Industries has given it a bit of a modern spin, in that the claims are focused on individual cow’s milk proteins, rather than milk itself, but it’s no less illogical.

Why so? After all, cow’s milk wasn’t made for humans… so what’s the problem?

Got Milk?

Simple: this argument extends to more than just “cow proteins.” It basically damns ALL food proteins. None of the foods we eat contain proteins that were “made for humans”—not beef, chicken, fish, egg, etc. But we seem to thrive on them, just the same.

And contrary to what the spiel for HumaPro implies, even human infants can thrive on cow’s milk proteins. While I doubt most bodybuilders have ever looked at the ingredients on a can of infant formula, the vast majority of non-soy products are based on—surprise!—whey protein concentrate or nonfat milk powder (go here, here and here for examples).

Sure, “breast is best” (particularly because of the immune and growth factors), but if cow’s milk-based formulas contained proteins that were more catabolic than anabolic, formula-fed infants would be a sickly, stunted bunch… assuming they survived infancy at all.

By extension, if only human proteins were anabolic, “Soylent Green” would be the ideal protein source for bodybuilders. 😀

Sigh…

I wish I could say that this was the only howler I encountered while reading up on HumaPro… but it isn’t. Virtually all of ALR Industries’ copy and supporting “studies” read like a bad 7th grade Science Fair project.

Piling it On…

Here’s another sample:

“In short that gut bloat is not just extra calories anymore than the excess gas you assumedly avoid sharing with friends and training partners is a supposed side effect of an anabolic environment. Gastronomical distress is not new to cow protein utilization by humans. As I said, you are a human so there should be little shock here. Immune issues will slow or stop growth and recovery while increasing cortisol production. Sometimes decrease in immune function can even lead to Immunotoxicity, but certainly rare in regard to proteins sources.”

“Gastronomical distress???” LOL! Is that what Jamie Oliver feels when his souffle collapses in the oven?

Note to ALR Industries: it’s “gastrointestinal,” not “gastronomical,” distress. Likewise, “immunotoxicity” refers to the effects of toxic substances on the immune system. Sure, immunotoxicity can lead to a decrease in immune system function, but it doesn’t work the other way around. And how the author(s) of this bizarre paragraph managed to leap from “excess gas” to immunotoxicity is anyone’s guess.

Unbelievable.

But you wanna know even something more unbelievable? The fact that ALR Industries ran off the “your protein sucks” cliff in the first place. There’s actually some solid science behind the ingredients in HumaPro, so I’m frankly puzzled as to why the company would overlook it in favor of this far more dubious approach.

The Reality Behind the Hype

Y’see, HumaPro is basically an essential amino acid (EAA) supplement… no more, and really no less. Here’s what’s on the label:

Nanosized Essential Amino Acid IR (Immediate Release) Proprietary Matrix:

L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine, L-Lysine, L-Phenyl Alanine,* L-Threonine, L-Methione,* L-Tryptophane, L-Leucine Malate
5.15g

Extended Time Release Proprietary Anti-Catabolic and Insulingenic Matrix:

Bitter Melon Fractional Extract, Coffee Bean Concentrate
210mg

Vitamin & Mineral NNU Co-Factors:

Vitamin B-1 0.7mg
Vitamin B-3 9mg
Vitamin B-6 1mg
Vitamin B-12 1.5mcg
Magnesium Citrate 87.5mg
Calcium Carbonate 175mg

*Seriously: this is how they’re written on the label. Sheesh…

As an EAA supp, HumaPro is one of several competing products on the market, such as iSatori’s “Amino Phase,” Optimum Nutrition’s “AmiN.O. Energy,” Controlled Labs’ “Purple Wraath,” Beverly International’s “Density” and Champion’s “Amino Shooter.”

Their existence—alongside a wide number of other, related (BCAA!) supps—confirms that there’s a lot more to EAAs than silly comparisons to mother’s milk, invented measures of protein utilization like “NNU,” and poorly conceived and written “studies” on their “affects” [sic].

Essential Amino Acids

So let’s talk about EAAs and what they have to offer to those of us willing to bust our butts in the gym.

Essential/Non-Essential… What’s the difference?

There are 20 amino acids used to make up all the proteins present in the human body—including skeletal muscle proteins. These are divided into two groups: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be synthesized by the body, and must be consumed in the diet. For adults, these are leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine and tryptophan.

Most bodybuilders know that training provides a unique stimulus for muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which can be kicked into high gear if the right amino acids—leucine and other EAAs—are provided. This is the rationale behind various pre- and post-workout protein/protein-carbohydrate formulas—high quality protein and/or protein hydrolysate powders are good sources of these critical nutrients.

EAA supplements (like HumaPro, et al.) differ from protein powders, in that only a limited number of free amino acids are provided in relatively small amounts. This may come as a surprise, if you’re accustomed to thinking “more is better” when it comes to protein and/or amino acid intake. However, neither large doses, nor a full spectrum of essential amino acids are required to stimulate post-workout MPS—modest amounts are quite sufficient.

Research has demonstrated that as little as 6 grams of EAAs can elicit a significant anabolic response when consumed immediately before or after resistance exercise. Thus, the recommended 10g dose of HumaPro (5g pre-workout and 5g post-workout), provides enough to get the job done.

But… does this mean EAAs are better at stimulating MPS than high-quality proteins/hydrolysates?

ALRI certainly implies that this is the case, but there’s no scientific proof of this. In truth, research has shown that proteins—especially those “sucky,” made-for-calves-only whey proteins—git ‘er done pretty well, too… so well, in fact, that even fairly recent research doesn’t make any distinctions between them. Take this comment, for example, from a 2008 paper studying the effects of EAA + carbohydrate (CHO) ingestion:

“Our recent data (10) are in agreement with a large number of studies in which nutrient ingestion (i.e., amino acids, protein, or EAA + CHO) following a bout of resistance exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis in human subjects (4, 5, 10–11, 18–19, 21, 28, 30–31, 36). In addition, recent work has shown that when subjects ingested fat-free milk (i.e., protein + CHO) following each resistance exercise bout (during 3 mo of training), the increase in muscle mass was greater than in either an isoenergetic soy protein group or an isoenergetic CHO control group (14).”

These researchers clearly lump “amino acids,” “protein” and “EAA + CHO” together, and why not? At this stage of the game, at least, there’s little reason to separate them… they all work.

Now, it’s undoubtedly true that—as ALRI proclaims—some of the surplus amino acids consumed in a protein supp are wasted (i.e., broken down and used for energy, vs. incorporated into new proteins). Certainly increased amino acid oxidation is seen when rapidly digested whey proteins are consumed. But this doesn’t mean that they “suck.” Multiple studies have made the opposite quite clear. Likewise, there’s little evidence that “wasted” amino acids cause any harm. So there’s little foundation for the fear-mongering ALR Industries’ engages in.

To make a long story short, EAAs work. But if you’re happy with your protein supplement, there’s no need to chuck it in the trash. Sure, there are reasons some might prefer EAA supplements to protein powders, such as dairy protein allergies, lactose intolerance or a vegetarian lifestyle.

Vegan bodybuilders in particular would likely benefit from a concentrated, “vegetable” (actually, bacterial) source of supplemental EAAs. But the rest of us have no need to fear… our protein powders aren’t letting us down.

What About the Other Ingredients in HumaPro?

Ok, but there’s more to HumaPro than just EAAs… what about the “Anticatabolic and Insulingenic [sic] Matrix” and the “Vitamin and Mineral NNU Co-Factors?” Do these add extra value to the product?

Let’s take the last first: if you take a multi or consume fortified foods (like meal replacement products or even Total breakfast cereal), these are redundant and totally unnecessary. They may be redundant and unnecessary even if you don’t… but this depends on your diet.

Badda-bing, badda boom. Now let’s tackle the “Matrix”…

Bitter melon is Momordica chirantia, a plant used as both a food and traditional medicine in Asia/Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Bitter melon has antioxidant and hypoglycemic effects, due to the ability of various components to inhibit alpha-glucosidase activity (which slows carbohydrate digestion), improve insulin signalling and reduce insulin resistance. Other elements have anti-tumor and anti-viral activity.

In a similar vein, coffee berries (or “beans,” as they’re more commonly known) are rich in antioxidant compounds. In fact, coffee itself is the number one source of polyphenolic antioxidants in the American diet. In particular, coffee is a source of chlorogenic acid, which has positive effects on glucose metabolism.

So a combo of coffee berry and bitter melon certainly has the potential to exert antioxidant, hypoglycemic and insulin-sensitizing effects… in the right amounts, that is. Problem is, we have no way to confirm that HumaPro contains the right amounts: neither extract is standardized, nor is there any data on how they behave independently of the amino acid ingredients.

And this is an important point, since ALR Industries would like you to believe that these ingredients provide substantial “insulinogenic” effects… which leads me to believe that the person(s) who composed the supporting material for HumaPro doesn’t know what the word means.

To be “insulinogenic,” these ingredients would need to trigger endogenous insulin release. For example, Cassia auriculata extract is insulinogenic, as it raises plasma insulin on oral administration. Ditto a unique amino acid from fenugreek, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which is sometimes added to creatine delivery systems and weight gainers for this reason. Bitter melon, however, appears to reduce—not increase—endogenous insulin secretion. Chlorogenic acid appears to do the same.

Ironically, HumaPro is very likely have an “insulinogenic” effect anyway… but not because of the “Anticatabolic and Insulingenic Matrix.” Rather, this effect would be due to the EAAs themselves. It’s well-known that milk and whey protein have a high “insulinogenic index”—meaning that they induce a greater insulin response than would be expected from their (low) glycemic responses.

And research has shown that essential amino acids, such as leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, and threonine, can stimulate insulin production and enhance glucose clearance in much the same way. Thus, it’s utterly unsurprising that HumaPro failed to elicit a glycemic response in an “in-house” study by ALR Industries. An equivalent amount of whey protein would almost certainly have had the same effect.

Sigh…

At any rate, users can feel assured that, beyond MPS, HumaPro won’t have any adverse effects on their blood sugar… regardless of ALR Industries’ confusion over the mechanisms involved.

The Bottom Line

So what can we conclude about HumaPro from the above?

I’ll admit: I’m conflicted about this product. On the one hand, it’s tough to ignore the shoddy case ALR Industries makes for HumaPro. This site is unapologetically pro-science and anti-BS. Preposterous claims and questionable statements (not to mention, gawd-awful writing and editing) aren’t going to be ignored or dismissed, just because they’re being used to market a decent supp… for once.

More often than not, these tactics are used to sell substandard products, which is why I feel it’s important to call them out. It’s unprofessional, and suggests either indifference to, or contempt for, potential customers.

On the other hand, HumaPro itself is a perfectly decent EAA supplement. We know essential amino acid mixtures can get muscle protein synthesis started. And there are other pluses too: they’re quick and easy to digest; non-allergenic and perfectly acceptable for any number of restricted diets.

In addition, the amino acids in HumaPro hail from Ajinomoto—a top quality source. So, despite the many inaccuracies and misleading statements in the supporting material, if you’re interested in an EAA supplement, you could certainly do worse than HumaPro.

Summary of HumaPro
  • Peer-reviewed support for ingredients.
  • Solidly dosed.
  • Uses high-quality ingredients from a well-regarded manufacturer (Ajinomoto).
  • Basic supplement with a limited number of ingredients.
  • No reliable studies on product (the company’s “in house” studies are worthless).
  • A number of very questionable claims/statements in ads/supporting literature.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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