Most of our readers know many of the celebrities in the bodybuilding and fitness supplement world. A great example is Kris Gethin, the man who created thriving sports nutrition brand Kaged Muscle.
However, what most readers don’t know is that there are a few good men and women who are really running the show behind the scenes. These are the people you’ve never heard of, but are the brains behind the research, formulations, and supply chains that keep supplements safe, effective, and on the shelves.
The few good men of the supplement industry
Our unsung heroes are typically a bit more introverted than your average YouTube celebrity, and are quite happy to work a relatively thankless job as long as their creations are succeeding out in the market, safely getting used and loved by the fans.
Unfortunately, during the Bodybuilding.com vs. Jim Stoppani lawsuit, one of these highly-respected industry forces came unmasked, as court documents revealed in our article titled Meet the Man who REALLY Formulated Pre-JYM.
Re-Introducing Brian Rand
His name is Brian Rand, and though you might not yet know him, there’s a great chance you’ve used one of his products at some point in your career as a supplement consumer.
When Brian saw the article linked above, he decided it was time to come out of the proverbial “formulator’s closet” and reached out to us to go on the record telling us his side of the story – and where his future lies.
An Interview with Brian Rand
I sat down for a two hour phone interview with Brian. Before we got into the nuts and bolts, Brian explained a bit of the recent landscape and history:
Brian was originally hired by Bodybuilding.com to build the private label lines (as Director of Private Label). While there for 3+ years, he created the Bodybuilding.com Foundation Series and the Platinum Series. He then created the Pre-JYM pre workout as described in the court affidavits linked above.
He left Bodybuilding.com midway through the JYM line’s product release schedule, and went on to do separate consulting work with several sports nutrition companies.
Eventually Brian began working with Kris Gethin, and together they began working with various supplement ingredients that worked best for Kris based upon his actual blood tests. What came from this was Kaged Muscle, where Brian is now a partner and heads up formulations and R&D.
That is where we’ll start this interview off. Since this is a long, informative review, we’ll break it into three parts:
In this interview, everything in italics is what Brian said. My questions will be prefaced with “Mike:” in bold and no italics. Emphasis added will be underlined.
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Brian’s History in the Supplement Industry
Brian Rand has lived a life immersed in supplements. In his own words, he “lives, eats, and breathes this,” and has done so for quite a long time. He begins:
Wow – I’ve been in the industry for close to 20 years. I’ve been fortunate to cover many different areas within the field. We [Brian’s wife and himself] have lived a life immersed in supplements and this whole industry. Literally, we live, breathe, and sleep this, from all areas in terms of the supplement industry. We’ve also spent many years working with leading physicians in anti-aging medicine.
Early work began at Met-RX… but things change
I’ve not only worked in the supplement industry, but in the science behind how supplements work in the body. Specifically, how they react with your neurochemistry through blood tests and studying basic chemical reactions. It was really interesting to take one side of the business — the vitamins, the raw ingredients — and extend it beyond textbook science to how they really work in the body. When you do blood tests, urine tests, and saliva tests, you get to see the effects on the body. This includes both the physical effects, and also looking at the results from a safety perspective for the user.
I was very fortunate to have exposure to this component. Over the course of more than 10 years, we were able to tie the nutrition component to the advanced testing component, which allowed us to dial supplements in and make sure the ingredients are most effective in terms of absorption.
But, when you look at the big companies you’ll see that everyone formulates due to cost targets. By doing that, there’s a lot you leave on the table. Met-RX was acquired from Dr. Scott Connelly, who was very science-based and did things the right way. On the other hand, you see some big companies switch from the science-based approach to formulating based on price points, which kind of takes the fun out of it, in my opinion.
The above testing knowledge is where the original JYM formulations — and now Kaged Muscle — separate itself from the pack, as their ingredients were (and Kaged Muscle’s now are) chosen a bit differently from most companies.
2013: Enter Bodybuilding.com a “blank check” for new products
It was Bodybuilding.com that brought Brian Rand back to sports nutrition, with essentially a “blank check” to formulate Pre-JYM and other private label lines:
When Bodybuilding.com wanted to take this approach, it was music to my ears. The resources that were allocated to this project, to build these product lines, was plentiful. Millions of dollars were spent sourcing the ingredients and producing the formulas. There was so much that went into making the lines successful, all of which was done by Bodybuilding.com.
Goodbye Jack3d, Goodbye Craze… let’s make some products that actually work
At the time we were launching the JYM line, DMAA and Craze were taken off the market. Everything was based on stimulants. It was not about wanting to perform your best. It was just “how do you get stimmed out of your mind?“When those products were pulled, we looked at the market and said “let’s come out with some products that really work.” We wanted people to notice a difference when they were training. We didn’t want to focus on the stimulants, but on muscle recovery, the athlete’s mental focus and muscle pump, with something that allowed them lift heavier, feel stronger, recover faster and stay hydrated. The line was built around these ideas.
This was the whole concept behind the JYM line — delivering a quality product with full disclosure labels, all at a great price.
Things obviously went fantastically well at that point. Remember, prior to Brian being there, Bodybuilding.com had very little in terms of private label supplements. With him on board as Director of Private Label, you began to see products like the PROTOGEN protein powder and the SCREAM pre workout, and then in 2013, of course, the JYM line.
2013: Leaving Bodybuilding.com
A few years into the process, the direction started to change. They were more focused on the current brands they were selling, and new brand initiatives were starting to slow and kind of even halt in production. After three years of full force work in one direction, it looked like private label was now going in a different direction.
At that point, we agreed that we had accomplished a lot of great things together, but as my passion is in research and development, and launching innovative products, it was time for me to continue to pursue what I enjoy. I would still consult for them when needed on the private label, but I was going to pursue other interests in product development and new cutting-edge ingredients that will be coming out in the next year.
At this point, there was a bit of a hiatus where Brian did some contracting work with Jim Stoppani and PhD Fitness, but that came to an end and is explained later. More importantly during this time is when Brian and Kris Gethin started getting together.
Brian Rand and Kris Gethin clean things up
Kris and I have been friends for many years — I knew him from Bodybuilding.com and we have always talked about product development and supplement quality. Over the past couple of years, Kris was reading articles on protein spiking and keeping up on various quality claims occurring among the supplement companies.Kris was doing a lot of traveling — he was going to various countries and spending a fair amount of time in India. With my background in product testing, anti-aging medicine, and my understanding of the brain in terms of chemistry and detoxification, Kris and I initially started talking about his health. With all the traveling he was doing to different countries, he wanted to ensure that he was taking a good approach to his health in terms of nutrition.
So, we started with some advanced testing on his neurochemistry. I connected Kris to one of the doctors I’ve worked closely with over the years. They spent a good amount of time together, doing a lot of really cool neuro, blood, and performance testing. Kris understood that as you grow older, you should look at gut health and ensure everything is functioning optimally.
Knowing that Kris was spending time in India, where the quality of water is a concern, we knew we needed to focus on ensuring he was able to have access to clean healthy sources — both for drinking and for bathing. Now he travels with special filters that he puts over the shower head to clean the water. There was a big process of cleaning up his food and water intake — cleaning him from the inside out.
Kaged Muscle: Kris Gethin’s quest to change the supplement industry
So Kris asked Brian to come back to sports nutrition:
After that, Kris said, “I really want to change the supplement industry.“ We started doing a lot of advanced testing on him. He was training for a triathlon and some different things for endurance, and he said,
“Let’s really build something different. Something A-class, high quality — with a lot of testing. Let’s build something special for the industry.”
Making use of my contacts in ingredient manufacturing, and the focus on doing things the right way, the goal was to come out with a line that’s amazingly high quality but is something consumers can still afford.
Kris was willing to travel from all different continents to meet with me and different suppliers, whether it was looking for organic caffeine sources or our L-citrulline sources. He wanted to understand the science in what makes the difference — not just the type of ingredient, but how it’s manufactured.
We spent a solid year really working towards creating a world-class product line which is high quality and something that Kris felt 100% comfortable standing behind. This is what Kaged Muscle started from.
Taking the hard route
At that time, there were five companies who wanted to write him big checks to be a brand athlete, but Kris wanted to do it himself. He wanted to do it the right way and be proud of it. He wanted to know that every bottle that goes out has the highest quality ingredients, has been tested and contains what it says it is on the label.
I can’t even explain the amount of money that’s been spent on testing. This is refreshing and it’s good to know that everything is what it says. I don’t know how other sports nutrition brands can skip these steps and still sleep at night.
This is something that Kris really prides himself on, and why I’m part of Kaged Muscle. Kris is a man of ethics, and that’s hard to find in this industry. Kris is very big on principles. He’s been in this game for a long time. He’s been approached by big-name supplement companies who wanted him to be a spokesperson, offering him $500k, but passed on these offers to do things his own way.
“We created a Ferrari for the price of a Mustang.”
The one thing with Kris is that he’s not a sellout. He won’t take money if it could hurt his reputation. He practices what he preaches and he lives the life, both in nutrition and training. His commitment to this industry and his passion for educating people blows my mind.
So many companies let customers down by delivering subpar products. For example, fenugreek needs to be extracted properly for it to be effective and present in the listed dosage. It hurts the industry and it hurts the customer when companies are delivering empty promises. That’s why Kaged Muscle’s key focus is on the ingredients. We’re not going to cut corners for profit.
This brought us back to ingredients and testing.
We wanted to know how something affects the body, in terms of positive effects as well as safety. This is where the Kaged Muscle line is going — diving into testing the nutritional aspects as well as the advanced testing component.
Take our BCAAs for example, which are microencapsulated and fermented using vegetable sources to help with absorption. If you take Kaged Muscle BCAAs versus the competitors, and mix them in water, you’ll see that they dissolve. Many other brands products just float on the top. That has much to do with absorption and purity.
But you might still be wondering, is it safe for me? Is my liver going to fall out 5 years down the road? You’ll never see Kaged Muscle as the first company to pick up the latest ingredient because we like to thoroughly test things before enlisting them. It’s important to show that not only it works, but it’s safe long term.
If you look at the line-up of products, whether they’re the formula products or the single-ingredient products, they’re literally the best in each area. Whether it’s the L-Carnitine that’s made of pure CarniPure from Lonza, or the process of using vegetable capsules, we’ve put the effort in to create the best products. It’s important to Kris that if we can’t have the best product in each category, or if it’s something that Kris personally won’t take, it won’t be found in the Kaged Muscle line.
To me ethics, value, and doing the right thing is important. When you see so much wrong in this industry, it’s refreshing to be around someone who does the right thing, even though it can cost 4 or 5 times more.
The challenges of being the best: protecting your brand
On each product, we have an authentication system that’s specifically in place for anti-counterfeiting. Each bottle of Kaged Muscle has a unique code on it, and if you go to Kaged Muscle’s website, no matter what country you’re in, you can input the number and it’ll let you know if the product is authentic or not.
In a number of other countries, product counterfeiting is a problem. With this system in place, the customer can be confident that they’ve received a clean product.
In this industry, you either innovate or you follow. When you look at the companies that are constantly bashing or tearing each other down, we feel there are better ways to be competitive and still be respectful.
Certain people are doing their own thing — they’re innovators. They respect the old timers in the industry. Even though we’re not always engaged or may not talk to one another for months at a time, we still take each other’s calls and talk things out, even if we’re at other companies. We’re open-minded and want to innovate. We’re not bashing each other and tearing each other down. Although we’re at separate companies and doing our own things, everyone has equal respect for each other, it’s something we don’t feel as much lately in the industry.
The Kaged Muscle Trendline: Moving towards natural
Mike: I see less fake colors, fake sweeteners, flavors… did Kris come to you ask you for an all-natural product first, and how did you go about it?
The natural area is really big. It’s a big focus in the supplement industry and in general health. If someone’s buying a product, whether it’s a weight gainer, creatine to get stronger, or a weight-loss product, they’re looking for a result to happen. But on top of that, they want to know it’s safe and they want there to know it was developed from solid science. At the end of the day, the key thing is offering a product that is safe and delivers results.You don’t see a lot of products consisting of natural ingredients on the market. Either they taste bad or they don’t work as well as some of the synthetic lines. For instance, in the past natural caffeine was only 30-40% potency, but with ours, the PurCaf is 90%.
Formulating with natural ingredients is incredibly expensive. When you add in using patented ingredients, and third-party testing and BSCG the costs add up quickly. There are so many companies that are just looking to produce products at the lowest cost and will cut corners for the biggest profits. However, customers don’t want to take a pre-workout that’s supposed to be healthy but is loaded with artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. What you think is a healthy product, is really full of unhealthy ingredients.
Another issue is that a lot of products are loaded with heavy metals and not Prop 65 compliant. The products made at Kaged Muscle are Prop 65 compliant, meaning they don’t include any ingredients deemed toxic or potentially harmful to the user’s health. Using clean forms of ingredients is a lot more expensive, but leads to a safer product. That’s something that Kris won’t sacrifice. Whether it’s artificial colors and flavors or ingredients that contain higher amounts metals, those are the things you won’t find in Kaged Muscle products. We want to see the industry take this route, so we’re leading by example.
Mike: (I explain my allergy to Blue #1, and why I’m interested in this trend)
A lot of the reason we go with natural components and testing, is for food allergies. You have some people who can’t ingest artificial colors, who get hives and reactions from them. There are others who have reactions to soy, and soy is used in a lot of products on the market. There are a lot of ingredients that can cause strong allergic reactions — even dairy ingredients. We not only want to create products that are healthy for people, but are also safe for those who have allergies. There’s a big population out there that falls into that boat now, ignoring this would eliminate a large section of customers.
So many consumers are looking for supplements to help improve their health, and then they take a product — like you, with Blue #1 in it — and they realize that this product they are taking to get healthier is making them feel worse.
Mike: Talking about Pre-Kaged. Where do you even start. How do you start formulating that?
We tested a lot of factors for Pre-Kaged. We found a lot of brands used citrulline malate in their products. From there, we tested arginines, citrulline malate, and different forms of agmatine. We tested effectiveness in blood levels and how they all worked. We found that L-citrulline has the best effect in terms of augmenting nitric oxide levels as well as muscle performance in terms of endurance and getting more reps out.
When you look at the pure citrulline Kris uses, 6.5g — is 98.5-99% pure, so it’s roughly 6g of true material. The way that works in the body is completely different from 6g citrulline malate.
We also ended up going with the natural caffeine format, the PurCaf, which is water-extracted so it’s a super clean form of caffeine. When you take the natural form of caffeine, it works differently on your brain and your neurotransmitters in terms of the effects. A lot of people don’t have the crash that you do with the synthetic caffeine, which is a much better feeling. The manufacturer that we work with has a lot of studies on the effectiveness on how it works and how it increases other neurotransmitters in the brain to give you a better well-being feeling compared to the synthetic form of caffeine.
With creatine, the Creatine HCl is the patented form of creatine that is backed by a lot of research. We used BetaPower betaine, a natural form of betaine as opposed to the generic synthetic forms. You’ll have people with PhD’s talking about using betaine in their products and how it comes from beets… yet they’re using the generic form that’s synthetic! Making sure that ingredients are the best and the purest in the product was, and always will be super important with Pre-Kaged.
Flavoring the impossible… with stevia!
Also, if you were to take all the ingredients together, in a 23–24g serving, and add it to water, it’d make most people throw it up on the spot! The raw ingredients together would taste less than pleasant.
In the past ten years, myself and most companies have flavored with artificial flavors, and it’s a breeze compared to the natural ones. Between the artificial flavors and sweeteners, there’s so much you can do to mask the off-taste of a product.
But doing that with natural flavors is very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. Especially when you have complex products with 23–24g of active ingredients. You’ll see a lot of products in the pre-workout category, they’re between 6–7g total serving. If you have 5g of active ingredients, that’s pretty easy to flavor.
Taking 23g of active ingredients and flavoring it naturally was a bit of a challenge and took a lot of time on our behalf. Getting it to a point where you can plug your nose and get it down is one thing. The complexity and time that was spent and the amount of different flavor systems that we went through, I’d say we spent close to a year just on the stevia part alone. We worked on developing a special stevia that’s completely different than anything else on the market. The way it works, the way it tastes, and the way it functions is completely different. We tested every stevia out there, and ours is 100% exclusive to Kaged Muscle and it allows us to do some unique things with the flavoring, which helps set us apart from other brands.
But there’s still a dash of sucralose… for now.
Our goal over the next 6–12 months is to completely move away from artificial sweeteners and completely take sucralose out. We use a very small amount, just to mask a few off-flavors, but the goal in 2017, is to dedicate the time towards going completely free from artificial sweeteners.
Again, the stevia that we use is 100% exclusive to Kaged Muscle. We spent a year working with a manufacturer to achieve the correct ratio. This is just one of the things we do at Kaged Muscle that keeps our brand unique and sets us apart in the industry.
Even using a better beet root
Kaged Muscle is built on team work
Mike: So you mentioned that you’re in a partnership with Kaged Muscle at this point. But you refer to Kris as if he’s the boss though, is that accurate?
Kris is the CEO and the public face of Kaged Muscle but all important decisions are made in a team environment. We are fortunate to have a very strong team behind the scenes that works together extremely well and understands the company’s mission and dedication to changing the industry. In terms of roles, my focus is in the R&D, the formulations and the ingredients. Kris works very closely with me on these, and he has to personally like the products and insists on testing them himself.
Kris provides valuable input on our products and formulations, the categories, and how we’re doing things. We have a very close relationship and work with our world-class team to ensure each product that hits the market is the best in its category and priced affordably for the customer.
One of the guiding principles of Kaged Muscle is innovative, science based, thoroughly tested products and deliver results to the consumers at affordable prices. We think this approach makes Kaged Muscle unique in the sports nutrition industry.
Customizability in the Kaged Muscle Line
One thing never discussed with Kaged Muscle is how many of the ingredients used in Pre-Kaged are also standalone ingredients. This brought us to Hydra Charge.
One of the biggest things that Kris wanted to do, on top of taking formulated products which are pre-mixed and have good ratios for everyone, is to have the ability to mix his own products from time to time.Hydra-Charge allows that to happen, where people can mix their own pre workouts, post workouts, and intra workouts, using the combination of KM citrulline, glutamine, the Kaged BCAAs, C-HCL Creatine HCl, and Hydra-Charge. So we offer an entire mix-your-own program where people can mix their own products if they don’t like specific ratios or they don’t like taking caffeine because they work out at night.
Editor’s note: We had to see this for ourselves, so we recorded a BCAA 2:1:1 + Hydra-Charge Review / Demo on YouTube – very cool stuff!
It’s nice for consumers to have the flexibility to consume products they can trust as a formulation as well as if they want to mix their own concoctions to suit their specific needs.
What’s coming next from the Kaged Muscle brand?
There are four new products in the pipeline that will be launching in 2017. There’s a whey protein isolate, a natural testosterone booster, a multivitamin, and a secret product coming right after that.
More to come from Kris!
Kaged Muscle has recently launched a new Kris Gethin’s 8-Week Hardcore Daily Video Trainer (January 2, 2017), and the video series contains a lot of information on the process of detoxification. It’s really cool in terms of the amount of testing and what Kris was willing to go through — to make sure Kaged Muscle’s products work and are safe.
The amount of blood testing and urine testing he’s gone through… he was like the ultimate lab rat for six months. I give him credit, I mean not many people would go through what he did and have that much blood drawn, but he never hesitated or shied away. It’s great having a partner that really cares about the industry that much.
At this point, it’s time to shift gears, and talk about what happened before the incarnation of Kaged Muscle — and really the reason we got hooked up with Brian in the first place.
The recent past
The one consistent thing throughout is that Brian Rand was making all of the private label formulas sold at Bodybuilding.com.
We knew that Brian was the formulator at Bodybuilding.com, but we didn’t know that he was consulting after he’d left.
Brian:I want to clarify in terms of different roles. I was at Bodybuilding.com for a little over 3 years as Director of Private Labels, in charge of their private label division. After I left Bodybuilding.com, I started my own consulting company. When I left, I did not have a non-compete agreement and could work with any brands in the industry.
When I was working with my own consulting company, I worked with many sports nutrition companies — I unfortunately can’t list them due to confidentiality reasons.
Mike: As consumers, I think we allow for a certain amount of glorification. So, does it hurt when the celebrity endorser never says “Hey, I got a team behind me”?
From my standpoint, it doesn’t bother me, because I’m used to being behind the scenes and seeing the front man take all the credit.
Brian then went on to humorously compare himself as the people who created Milli Vanilli’s music — they all knew what they were doing and what they were getting themselves into. Brian builds the products, and the endorser is used to get the story out. Brian’s job is to formulate; he’s not in front of the camera and knows he’ll never get any credit. That’s the deal and this is always the case, whether it’s with Rich Gaspari or Jay Cutler or anyone else.
Optimism in Bodybuilding.com’s future
It seems that Brian still talks frequently with the team at Bodybuilding.com and dropped some hits that he’s confident of Bodybuilding.com’s future, especially with respect to his areas of strength — private label and strategic brands. He sometimes still works closely with them in supporting those initiatives.
Is Brian open to more consulting work?
For the next several years, Brian is literally booked solid with all the innovation at Kaged Muscle. Kaged Muscle is a once in a lifetime opportunity and all the pieces are coming together nicely.
This is one reason why he’s never gone public with things or isn’t active on social media — he simply doesn’t have time, nor does he need to promote himself.
In terms of information, however, Brian would love to keep touch with our team so that he can explain his latest developments.
Closing things down
We all know someone who just can’t get it together for long periods of time, or seems to have constant bad luck. But then we hear about someone on the opposite end of that spectrum, where success constantly follows. Brian Rand is that kind of a person — but it’s not luck — it’s the massive amount of work and research he puts into this craft and his formulations.
As we’ve gotten deeper into this industry, we’d surmise that there are roughly two dozen or so such men who are really moving the industry forward. You might know some of them, but you definitely don’t know them all.
But now you know Brian, and if you like his story, then Kaged Muscle is your next brand to try.
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