One thing most of us know and love about the supplement industry is that it’s generally policed by the consumer base and peer competitors. Most shady behavior is called out on various levels: social media, bad reviews, class action lawsuits, or, if the situation is bad enough, the FTC or FDA.
But flying under the radar are the smaller companies that unsuspecting consumers come across, never the wiser to their schemes.
Thus the ongoing cautionary tale that is Maximum Shred.
This is a long article. Here’s the short story:
- There’s a scammy product named Maximum Shred that offers you a “free trial”, but then charges you $87 every month for a wildly underdosed, inferior supplement.
One of Maximum Shred’s affiliate marketing “advertisers” is falsely using SupplementReviews.com’s domain in a Google ad, causing much confusion at the expense of SR’s brand.
SR.com does not sell or endorse this product in any way (nor do we here at PricePlow)
We explain what’s really going on here, and break down the Maximum Shred ingredients.
The results: this $87 supplement is really worth just $4 in ingredients, making it one of the worst ripoffs we’ve ever seen.
- We strongly urge you not to fall for this product – or any other similar free trial scams that take your credit card – and to cancel any such “subscriptions” as soon as possible.
The Maximum Shred Scam and their out of control affiliates
Over the past couple of months, proud supplement community forum SupplementReviews.com began receiving messages through their “Contact Us” form. These messages were from upset consumers requesting cancellations from undesired charges for a product known as Maximum Shred.
Needless to say that this was strange to the SR.com team, since SR does not sell any product of any kind – especially not this one!
Upon hearing this news, SR did a quick Google search for Maximum Shred. Keep in mind, SR.com will commonly show up in search results for things such as their supplement reviews and forum threads. The difference here is that SupplementReviews.com is shown as a domain for a Sponsored Ad — yet SR does not pay for ads on Google.
SR was the first to call these guys out in the link below:
There’s more to it than SR’s article, though. On this page, we’re going to fully analyze this product so that nobody else gets suckered into buying it without at least knowing exactly what’s going on.
The flow of false promises
If you click on that ad, you don’t land at SupplementReviews.com (a trusted source for real supplement reviews) like you’d expect.
Instead, you get directed to some site that’s marketing a product known as Maximum Shred, which is used to entice you into receiving a “Risk Free” trial! If you were to click on that “free trial” link, you’d finally end up on the official Maximum Shred website.
So there’s two websites at play here — neither of them being SupplementReviews nor PricePlow — and neither of them have your best interests in mind either, as you’ll soon see.
Something smells fishy here…
Both of these sites reek of the usual late night ‘As Seen On TV’ marketing jargon and hollow promises. They’re also filled with keywords to ensure the product will find itself on the right search results.
The first site (with the fake Google ad) even buries a series of spammy links at the bottom of the page, and the official site displays an “As Seen On” ad in Men’s Health magazine.
Even worse, you have this statement at the bottom of the official order page, which is very carefully worded in minimally visible fine print:
“By clicking “Order Now”, I agree to the terms and conditions. I will be charged today for shipping and handling and receive a trial bottle of Maximum Shred. If I do not cancel within 14 days, I will be billed $87.47 for the bottle received and enrolled in the membership program, where a fresh supply will be shipped every thirty days at the members price of $87.47 thereafter until cancelled (regular price is $120) Remember: You can cancel anytime or adjust my renewal frequency by calling customer support 1-800-622-4871 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease… While clinical studies were not performed on Maximum Shred specifically, the included ingredients have been tested to provide results as specified.“
This does carefully notify the customer what they are getting themselves into, yet also makes a false claim punishable by the Federal Trade Commission, which we’ll discuss below in our ingredient analysis.
At this point you probably see where this is going – nowhere good.
We’re not done yet…
But it gets weirder. If you search around, you’ll find other sites that have been designed to combat “scam searches”. Other websites have been set up in the form of a false ‘buyer beware’ review. The headline even reads … “Do Not Buy *Maximum Shred* – Shocking SIDE EFFECTS!!!” — yet it ultimately becomes another free trial pitch!
If you search Google for Maximum Shred, most of the first page of results will find some way or another to loop you to the Maximum Shred site and sell you that free trial. Red flags galore, but not everyone realizes that.
So what’s going on here?
Surely you’ve seen this kind of thing before – if not for Maximum Shred, for some other product.
It’s what’s known as affiliate marketing, and what you’re seeing here is its dark side.
In a future post, we’ll detail the brutal and gory details behind scams like this, but it generally operates like this:
Build a scammy supplement
Someone with no moral compass decides to make a dirt cheap supplement that’s ineffective and underdosed – and uses it to gouge customers with ongoing credit card charges in an effort to reap massive profits.
In our case, this would be the official Maximum Shred website, which offers a “free trial” in hopes that you forget to cancel (or are unable to) so that they can whack you with recurring $87 bills for a product that costs literally $4 to produce.
Recruit affiliate advertisers
Rather than market the product much themselves, they offer commissions to affiliate marketers who are willing to advertise the product and try to get you excited about a free trial.
To paint a picture of who’s creating these sites, these affiliate marketers are typically males aged 16-30 who are very sharp with web design, technology, and copywriting, yet don’t care for you, your bank account, or your progress in the gym.
Let the affiliates break the rules/laws
In order to get traffic to these sites, the affiliates resort to just about any trick in the book – from making fake news sites (illegal) to spamming Google’s organic search results to cheating the Google AdWords system by any means necessary.
And that’s how SupplementReviews.com got pulled into this – by an affiliate breaking the Google AdWords rules and somehow getting away with using the SR domain as the “Display Domain” on their ad, trying to use SR.com’s likeness to gain trust in the user.
But that [illegal] Google AdWords ad wasn’t free, you know. If you were to go and click that ad but not sign up for the free trial, it would cost them money each time, and they would not get a commission.
It might sound like a nice “get rich quick” scheme, but it’s typically a losing endeavor – just like in MLM (multi-level marketing) scams, the only people who make any money are at the top of the pyramid, and even then, it’s only a matter of time before they get exposed and possibly fined.
The FTC will come, but until it does…
The FTC actively attacks this business model due to its illicit nature and files court orders and regularly fines against companies that operate in this capacity.[2,3,4,5]. They have passed laws against many of the very things Maximum Shred is doing, making it a high-risk ordeal for everyone involved.
But while the scam is running, unwitting customers will fall for this nonsense in hopes of achieving the claims [falsely] made by Maximum Shred. It’s not only borderline illegal, it’s also downright ethically immoral, and when it drags our entire industry down, something must be done about it.
Money moves shadowy people in terrible ways when they lack integrity. It’s ridiculous how much work someone will put into making dirty money – especially these affiliates, who more often than not fail to make any money in the first place.
Disclaimer: Full Disclosure on PricePlow
Now, before I go any further, I need to clarify one important thing: much of PricePlow also runs on the affiliate model.
For instance, if you were to use our site to find a deal, and we send you to Amazon.com to buy the product, we get a commission from Amazon if you buy it. So in that regard, we use the same model.
There are some major differences, however:
- We are a price comparison engine, and we do our best to show you the cheapest deal on any given product — even if that means we get less commission from it. SupplementReviews has a similar price comparison model.
We don’t actively promote products that we don’t fully stand behind and believe in. If you’ve read this blog, you know that we do our best to cite our sources and go for as much bang for our buck.
Products like Maximum Shred don’t have even a fraction of the efficacy that our favorite pre workout supplements do – we’ll show this below.
The commissions we receive are nowhere near the size of those that Maximum Shred offers. The reason is simple – we’re not trying to hock $90 products, so there’s far less room for huge commissions.
Amazon pays just 6-8% (or $4 on a $50 order) while some of the affiliate schemes sadly pay far more than that.
So if you want to say that we’re the pot calling the kettle black, by all means do so, but just remember that we do our best to have our readers’ best interests in mind – and anyone involved in a product like Maximum Shred simply does not.
We’ll prove it by analyzing the ingredients next, just so you can understand how inferior this product truly is.
The Maximum Shred Ingredients
Maximum Shred is touted as a muscle building, fat burning supplement that is taken primarily as a pre-workout. Pre workout supplements have blown up over the past ten years, and while some are great, most are total nonsense. One of our favorite things to do on this blog is to analyze each and every ingredient.
Red flag alert – the label is nowhere to be found!
The first serious red flag is that Maximum Shred’s website does not show you an actual ingredient label!!!
They state the ingredients, but they don’t show the dosage or the order. There is no full “supplement facts” label here. This means that you have absolutely no clue what you’re putting into your body.
Regardless, the ingredients are as follows:
- Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG)
- Beta Alanine
The product comes in a capsule form, with 90 capsules per bottle, and their site recommends 2-3 capsules on workout days.
Now, anyone who understands supplements will immediately tell you that this is an absolute joke.
In fact, it’s beyond laughable — it’s just sad. Not necessarily because the ingredients are ineffective, but because there’s no possible way the dosage of these ingredients could be large enough to impact to your muscle-building goals.
Although the label isn’t disclosed on the main site, we were able to find the label using a Google image search, shown below:
This shows a three capsule serving size of 1780mg in the order listed above (Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, Taurine, Beta Alanine, and Caffeine) in a proprietary blend where we only know that caffeine is 150mg.
This means that the other three ingredients contain 1630mg of product, where AAKG is greater than equal to taurine, which is greater than or equal to beta alanine.
Now knowing that, let’s break down each ingredient:
Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG)
AAKG was a popular ingredient about five years ago. It’s a form of arginine that’s meant to improve nitric oxide levels, which would theoretically give you various benefits such as increased power and “nitric oxide pumps”. The only problem is that AAKG doesn’t reliably work, and for it to work, you’d need a hell of a lot more than 1.5g of it.
For instance, one study on trained athletes provided them with 6g of L-arginine, and their nitric oxide biomarkers were unaffected.
Further, giving athletes 12g daily failed to influence nitric oxide activity in another study published in 2011.
But another study used a whopping 8g twice daily (16g) total in overweight men, which finally appeared to promote increased blood flow.
Not only does this ingredient seem only to work in overweight men for nitric oxide purposes, but you need nearly 10x the dose that’s in Maximum Shred — at which point you’d likely have gastrointestinal distress problems.
We’re happy to have some AAKG as a supporting ingredient – there are some benefits – but times have changed and we now know that this is not a primary ingredient. When you see it first on a “pump” supplement, you should run — fast.
Next, we have taurine, which promotes cell volumization through increased hydration in the cell. It’s not a bad amino acid – in fact its useful – but it’s more frequently used in various scams such as the ongoing amino acid spiking scandal (where it’s included as a filler in protein) because it’s so cheap. That’s likely the case we have here.
In terms of the benefits Maximum Shred is claiming, it’s hard to make a connection with actual research. One study performed on middle aged patients with cardiac problems showed that 1500mg increased their exercise capacity.
Another study on diabetic patients showed improved blood flow, but they too were using 1500mg.
Unfortunately, this dose is simply impossible here. Being the third ingredient, it has a theoretical max of 0.815g – likely one-half of the two research studies performed on humans – and that’d be assuming we had 0g of beta alanine below, so it’s far likely dosed much lower.
Finally, beta alanine, an amino acid ingredient that’s a favorite in many pre workout supplements. It helps boost endurance in your muscles by promoting the formation of carnosine (which then helps buffer acid waste in your muscles).
You’re not just getting ripped off, you’re getting ripped off twenty times over!
Sounds great — but there’s one major issue here: clinical studies show that you need at least 3.2g or so to get the benefits Maximum Shred is claiming – oftentimes even more was used in the successful clinical trials.[11,12,13,14]
Since this is the second ingredient, you have a theoretical max of 543.3mg — but probably much less — which will hardly scratch the surface of the benefits Maximum Shred is trying to promote.
At this point, we can deduce that Maximum Shred’s claims are on the verge of being illegal, since they are advertising effects that cannot be backed up by human-based research at the doses they likely have.
Three capsules of Maximum Shred contains 150mg caffeine, which is a good dose for most users. However, this is quite possibly the only ingredient a user will feel from the product (which saddens us, because they might think that it’s “working”), yet caffeine is a phenomenally cheap ingredient to include.
You’re literally better off grabbing a bottle of 200mg caffeine pills for less than 1/10 the price of Maximum Shred, and just taking one pre workout.
So at the end of the day, these ingredients aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just severely underdosed and enormously overpriced.
How overpriced? Keep reading…
The Maximum Shred Ripoff in Action
So just how badly are you getting ripped off with this stuff?
Let’s put together our own homemade Maximum Shred using off the shelf ingredients that you can buy yourself online. This is much like we did with the Instant Knockout fat burner, but this one turns out to be far far worse.
First, since we don’t know the actual formula, we’re going to have to guess in our homemade batch.
Our homemade version
Funny how the empty capsules cost more than all but one of the ingredients!!!
- AAKG: 0.8g
- Taurine: 0.5g
- Beta Alanine: 0.33g
- Caffeine: 0.15g (this is the only known ingredient)
That gets us our 1780mg proprietary blend – obviously this may be a bit off, but it’s not an unreasonable formula when looking at their label.
Next, let’s use NOW Foods‘ supplements, since they’re a trusted low-cost brand that does very little marketing, so we know we’ll get a pretty good deal:
The components, with off-the-shelf retail prices
NOW AAKG. We can get 200g for $17 right now, so that’s $0.085 per gram (yes, 8.5 cents per gram).
0.8 grams would then cost any of us 6.8 cents.
NOW Taurine – We can get 8oz (226.8g) for under a laughable $6.
This means that we’re running $0.026 per gram (2.6 cents per gram), so our half gram dose will cost 1.3 cents.
NOW’s Beta Alanine goes for $19 for 500g – which means it’s $0.038 per gram (3.8 cents per gram).
Our fictitious product has 0.33g, so that would again cost us 1.3 cents per serving.
NOW doesn’t sell pure caffeine, so let’s go with AI Sports Nutrition, who has 200g of caffeine powder for $9.
That’s $0.045 (4.5 cents) per gram, costing us 0.675 cents per serving – not even a penny to pay for that dose of caffeine!!!
- Let’s be fair and throw in three “00” gelatin capsules from NOW.
We can get 250 “00” capsules for $3.00, so that’s $0.012 (1.2 cents) per capsule, or 3.6 cents per serving.
Funny how the empty capsules cost more than all but one of the ingredients!!!
Note that manufacturers get it even cheaper – we’re using off the shelf ingredients here. Also note that we’re not condoning this product – it still completely sucks – we’re just showing how cheaply it can be made in your own home.
The final value?
So at the end of the day, you can put together a mock Maximum Shred for a grand total of 13.675 cents per serving.
With 30 servings per bottle, that makes the entire bottle worth about $4.10 – they’re charging you more for the shipping on the free trial!!
And then they ding your credit card month after month with a product that is literally a 21x markup!
You’re not just getting ripped off, you’re getting ripped off twenty times over!
Put simply, this is an egregious scam, and you should in no way support their business nor should you entrust your credit card to anyone who does this. The product is not even worth the envelope it is shipped in.
It saddens us to see people who are not familiar with supplements fall into traps like this. People like Maximum Shred and their affiliates give the entire industry a very black eye, but there are very few ethical companies that will actually call this out for what it is.
We hope that we’ve opened your eyes to the filth behind these affiliate marketing schemes, and that you now know to be far more aware of any type of free trial — especially one that asks for any payment information up front.
Help – Maximum Shred has scammed me! What do I do?
As you should now know, SupplementReviews.com has no link whatsoever to this company (nor does PricePlow). If they’ve fleeced you or a family member of yours, you could try to contact the phone number published above at 1-800-622-4871 to get removed from their free trial. Request a full refund as well.
But you can also go further: Call your credit card company and complain about this. State that you wish to deny all further charges from the company or any company they’re associated with.
After the Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz scandals that began with the acai berry craze in 2008, credit card companies take this very seriously, and you should have absolutely no problem getting things canceled.
Still no success?
But… if Maximum Shred fails to respond or to comply with your wishes, you can talk to your credit card’s fraud department and ask if filing a formal complaint is in order. Finally, consider filing a formal complaint with the FTC through their Complaint Assistant.
Worst case, cancel your credit card and chalk it up as a lesson learned, and never fall for another free trial or affiliate marketing scam ever again.