Editor's note: Since this article was first published in February of 2015 - Progenex is no longer associated with CrossFit HQ or The CrossFit Games. Progenex is no longer listed as a partner on The CrossFit Games website, nor were any of their banners, branding or exhibitor booths visible at the 2016 CrossFit Invitational in Toronto.
“The Progenex orders go out next week so get your order on the whiteboard!”
“The Progenex orders have arrived! Bring your money and pick up at the box!”
Phrases like these are very common on any CrossFit gym’s website or social media accounts. If you have stepped inside a CrossFit gym even once, you are probably familiar with the supplement company’s logo. Athletes from the Games, all the way down to the CrossFit Newb, rock the hats, shirts and consume large quantities of various powders produced by the company and marketed almost solely to CrossFitters – under creative names like “Cocoon” and “More Muscle.”
I tried Progenex for the first time in my life last night. Full disclosure, I would never in a million years give a cent of my money to this company. Someone left some at my house so I tried it. Nothing special. For the price tag on it, I expected to wake up with an immediate 10lb gain in muscle.
It seems however, that I am in the minority – whenever I have attempted to educate the masses at any of the boxes where I have trained - explaining that Progenex is an overpriced supplement that at best offers nothing different, and at worst is far inferior to a number of other companies – I usually receive an eye-roll or someone saying, “I like the taste” or some other piece of anecdotal evidence as to why they spend $70 on $20 worth of product. Nobody just comes out and says, “I am simple-minded and would rather buy a product because it was marketed to me effectively - and I’ll pay for it because I don’t like doing things like research,” or, “The logo is really cool and my favorite CrossFitter says he uses it, because Progenex pays him to say that, so I want to use it too.”
Progenex offers nothing that can’t be purchased at about 50% of the cost from a myriad of other companies. The only difference? These products usually offer better ingredients and they aren’t marketed as effectively as Progenex.
“All Progenex has now is good marketing and decent apparel. Their protein is equal to that of lima beans. These dudes are the Planet Fitness of protein companies,” said one CrossFit coach we spoke with who wanted to remain anonymous for fear he would catch flack from HQ.
“Do they have the best protein? Not by a long shot. They are however the best at marketing and they were in the right place at the right time when they began their relationship with CrossFit,” said Luan Nguyen, founder of Wheelhouse Fitness Consulting and a Level 2 CrossFit Coach.
You see, when the company started, it actually had something different, a patented protein with elevated growth factors and 20% more BCAA’s than is found in standard blends. So what happened? Well, the founder, in fact, all the founders, left by 2010 – and the company was taken over by a bunch of well, folks with less than stellar backgrounds. The patented 2008 Formula that made Progenex different? No longer used. They switched to a widely used commodity blend – available from basically any company that sells protein. But they never alerted the consumer that they switched – and they never changed the labels stating that their product contained these “elevated levels”. Tests have been performed on both the 2008 blend and the current Progenex product - the difference is obvious.
There are a lot of threads about Progenex on the internet (that’s a place you can go to find information): This was one of the best recaps of a Reddit thread regarding the supplement company.
What we've come to as a consensus here on Reddit, based on verified sources, including lab tests and legal documents:
1. Progenex contains the same exact protein as many other brands. Optimum Nutrition and BSN, for example, are owned by the company who sells protein to Progenex. No argument can be made that Progenex contains anything not available from either of those two companies.
2. Based on #1, Progenex is charging 2-3x more, for the same protein as we can find in other products. Also based on #1, their advertising claim that the product contains a "proprietary whey" is false.
3. The company has a background and history that most of us do not wish to support, including but not limited to a criminal background for most of the executives (fraud, etc...) and a currently ongoing lawsuit for fraud and another for patent infringement, plus a lawsuit by the original founder against one of their lawyers.
4. We've seen documents indicating that the "support" they had at their first Crossfit Games was as a direct result of paying off SMEs behind the scenes to wear their shirt and endorse their products.
5. It is still somewhat unsettled to some, but generally there is a belief that they don't respect us or our community.
6. Similar or better products can be had through other vendors.
7. The study we saw passed around the community when Progenex first came on the scene, was based on a whey protein hydrolysate that is no longer found in the product. When Dr. Scott Connelly left the company, that protein went with him, and they replaced it with a generic whey hydrolysate.
It baffles my mind that in this day and age – where literally all the information in the world is available to us in the palm of our hand – you still see sheep fall victim to slick marketing of shit products. It further baffles my mind that nearly every CrossFit gym out there plays into this – schlepping this product to their members every month on the whiteboard. I understand why the biggest names in CrossFit are willing to attach their name to this brand. They get paid to workout and companies like Progenex giving them money, is what makes that possible. They don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.
I’m no scientist, so what do I know? If only there were scientists who tested Progenex and could prove it was an overpriced, inferior product? What’s that you say? Oh, there are! You can do all your own research – plus you can learn all about how one of the top people at Progenex referred to CrossFitters as an “easy, unsophisticated” market – basically, they all called you stupid sheep – and you fell in line and gave them your money. It was pure marketing genius and everyone went along for the ride.
“Remember when it started? Jason Khalipa was wearing the shirt - and they were just giving them away. It was like the Ricky Bobby moment [in the movie Talladega Nights]. ‘If you don't drink Progenex, then fuck you’,” said Daniel Skidmore, owner of CrossFit Fort Bragg and a 4-time CrossFit Games Regional Athlete. “I don't use Progenex because I am not a sheep. Just because the best athletes say they take it, doesn't mean it is true. There are literally thousands of different brands out there and only so many "whey protein" manufacturing companies. It is grossly over-priced and low quality.”
Skidmore is sponsored by Competitive Edge Performance – a supplement company based in Wilmington, NC.
“Athletes should spend all that extra money and get their blood work done. See if they're deficient at other nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin D, or if adding something else would make them healthier as opposed to just rocking a t-shirt of a chocolate milk company,” said Skidmore.
“If someone asks me about Progenex, I tell them it’s shit and not to buy it…I tell them to stop buying into the nutrition dogma that is shoved down their throats from HQ,” said a competitive CrossFit athlete in North Carolina. The athlete also did not want his/her name used because they work in the supplement field.
So who are the geniuses who have successfully tricked all you CrossFitters into buying millions of dollars of hype – pixie dust sold to you and your coaches through these amazing advertisements and sponsorships?
Adam Zuckerman is one of them, and this guy is a real piece of work– and that would be true BEFORE he turned snitch for the feds.
(Adam is only one of a number of convicted felons, fraud and scam artists who are or were employed by Progenex, prior to being put in prison for crimes they were convicted of while either working at Progenex or working with Zuckerman at an earlier date)
This information below is from www.vpxsports.com
Back in 2007, the FBI indicted 23 people in a sting called “Operation Lease Fleece.” Basically falsifying loan documents and handing out money to people who should not qualify – while taking a cut themselves, to the tune of $20 million.
Zuckerman decided he didn’t want to go down, so he cut a deal with the Feds to turn rat on his friends. Wearing a wire, giving up names, dates – the dude just started singing like a bird. He sang for 5 years before the Feds had to slap him in the face to make him stop. Zuckerman decided he needed to pay some bills – and went to work for every CrossFitter's favorite supplement company, Progenex.
It seems Zuckerman, who was once sued by his own mother for fraud, brought some of his old habits with him. While he was at Progenex (before he began serving a 3 year prison sentence), the company was accused in a major hacking/computer virus scheme that resulted in 3 other employees being sent to prison.
The list of claims, lawsuits and other grievances – plus all the scientific data proving what complete hype Progenex is – can all be found here:
Just last year, Progenex was sued in United States District Court, alleging the company engaged in unfair, deceptive business practices by misrepresenting their product and the quality of their product on their labels.
Despite all this information out there, CrossFit remains married to Progenex. Athletes across the world continue to buy the products – coaches continue to push them in their gyms, each day introducing more sheep to the fold. When new members come in and see the coaches wearing a shirt, using the supplements – it tells these new athletes this is what they should be using. They shouldn’t, and if you are a coach rocking this apparel and using this powder, stop it, now. In fact, if you’re a coach, send me your Progenex shirt. I will give you a wild/STRONG shirt in exchange.
“I think boxes continue to push Progenex because they don’t know any better. Most boxes are still pushing paleo/zone, so I wouldn’t expect them to be in the know enough to know how shitty Progenex is,” said Rowe Martinez*. “Not many people truly understand protein spiking/3rd party testing unless they are heavily involved in the supplement industry. Box owners are relying on HQ to tell them what to do in regards to nutrition and supplementation, and HQ has its own agenda and its own deals with Progenex. HQ basically keeps Progenex in business.”
Go find a company that doesn’t charge 70 bucks for what should cost 30. Go do your own research and find one of the thousands of companies that charge less than Progenex for a product that is far superior.
Don’t listen to someone who wants to placate the masses by saying “different supplements work for different people,” etc. This is someone who just wants to keep the peace and not offend someone they know who uses Progenex. If you use Progenex, you should be offended. I have good friends, family members and training partners who use these utterly ridiculous supplements. I am not going to tell them “it’s ok, maybe it works for you.” This is science, not opinion.