ladder products | what is nsf certified

What Does NSF Certification Mean and Why Is it Important?

By Andrew Heffernan

If you're serious about fitness, you're going to start thinking about dietary supplements sooner or later. Do you need them? If so, which of the approximately $140 billion worth of potions, pills, and powders on the market this year are worth your time and money?

This choice is surprisingly weighty because the supplement industry isn't regulated as closely you might think (or hope). Following the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994, the FDA lifted most regulations on dietary supplements. That allowed manufacturers to get their products to market with minimal fuss. So customers who read about the possible benefits of taking, say, ashwagandha for fatigue or St. John's Wort for anxiety could easily grab some at the local vitamin shop and try it out for themselves.

But it also meant that the floodgates were open for the charlatans, fly-by-night companies, and outright fraud. Overall, the DSHEA was a windfall for the supplement companies — and a thumb in the eye of consumers.

One countermeasure is NSF (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation — now NSF International): an independent, third-party body that verifies the purity and safety of each batch of the dietary supplements it certifies.

We invest in the safety and purity of our supplements — and so should you. Shop all NSF-certified LADDER supplements.


What Is NSF Certification?

pills in check mark shape | what is nsf certified

While products certified by the NSF aren't the only high-quality supplements on the market, you can ensure that any product bearing their seal is safe, legal, and contains exactly what the label says it does.

NSF certification is the gold standard for assuring the purity and safety of your dietary supplements: They put each product — and the facilities that make them — through a rigorous testing process that ensures:

  • That the product contains the ingredients on the label, in the amounts listed. What's stated on the label isn't always what's in the supplement. A 2013 study of vitamin D supplements found that five randomly selected pills from five different companies contained anywhere from half to nearly three times as much vitamin D as was listed on the label, for example. NSF certification ensures that each dose of the supplements you take is accurate.
  • That the product is free of any of the 280 substances banned by major athletic organizations. Some athletic organizations fine or ban athletes for consuming anything from anabolic steroids to asthma medications to too much caffeine. NSF certification ensures that its products are free of these and other banned substances, and is recognized by the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Association), and recommended by most major professional sports leagues. Pro athletes' careers depend on taking supplements that contain nothing unsafe or illegal — as does your health and safety.
  • There are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products. A 2020 NIH report found that many uncertified supplements contained heavy metals, harmful bacteria, and other contaminants. One study of Ayurvedic supplements found 20% of them to contain unsafe levels of heavy metals. NSF certification ensures that all its products are safe and free from such contaminants.
  • The product is manufactured at a facility that is GMP registered and audited twice annually for quality and safety by NSF International. Ongoing, long-term checks ensure that NSF products remain safe as long as they carry the NSF-certified label.

The bottom line: NSF products are the supplement industry's standard for safety, purity, and accurate dosing. But that doesn't mean that a supplement lacking NSF certification is unsafe. As long as the supplement industry remains largely unregulated, it's worth your time to dig a little into any product you take — particularly in the long-term — and favor brands and products that have a history of safety and effectiveness.

And so you don't have to do too much digging, we'll let you know that all LADDER supplements — including LADDER Whey and LADDER Plant Protein, LADDER Pre-Workout, LADDER Hydration, and LADDER Superfood Greens — are NSF certified.


Can I Take Supplements Instead of Food?

man drinking protein shake | what is nsf certified

Any fitness pro worth their clipboard will tell you that you're best off using supplements the way their name suggests: as adjuncts to — rather than replacements for — whole foods. Whatever your health and fitness goals, a diversity of unprocessed, plant- and animal-sourced foods should make up the bulk of your diet.

Too many fitness enthusiasts make that mistake: If all you eat are cookies and all you drink is soda, no pill or powder can do you much good. Start with a foundation of restful sleep, consistent training, and a diet of whole, natural foods, and then add supplements to further benefit your health, fitness, training, and overall wellbeing.


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