If you want to know how Legion researches, formulates, and continually refines supplements, then you want to read this article.
- Legion supplements are made with a large degree of prudence in mind, with many people vetting the process from different perspectives.
- There is a major balance between making supplements as cheap as possible and making sure we do not underdose or opt for less effective ingredients.
- Some liberties are taken here and there but, ultimately, there are rules in place to ensure that we don’t stray too far from the simple, effective ingredients that work.
I’m all about proof.
And that’s why I hate marketing.
(The marketers probably hate me, too).
There is a certain art in balancing understanding/enticement (getting people on your side of the argument) while also being scientifically accurate. I’m still a fledgling at this art but getting better.
It became a lot easier to digest marketing when I was the one making supplements, so I could see where the claims were coming from, but I’m a man who likes his elaboration and reasoning.
So I thought I’d explain why we claim to be science-based premium supplements. To discuss the philosophy behind our stuff, what drives our decisions, and how we make our supplements.
In this article, you’re going to learn our standards for making supplements, our process, and what it takes for us to call something “quality.”
So, if you want a more in-depth look at what sets us apart from others keep reading.
- Legion Supplements Standards
- The Legion Supplements Process
- The Philosophy
- Step 1
- Build the Supplement Around What We Know Works
- Step 2
- Add Ingredients to Make the Supplement More Effective
- Step 3
- Customize the Ingredients and Dosages to Minimize Side Effects
- Step 4
- Make Practical Changes & Troubleshoot
- Step 5
- Refine, Refine, Refine
- The Bottom Line on Legion Supplements
- What's your take on how Legion makes dietary supplements? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Table of Contents
The standards we hold ourselves to when making supplements are a good starting point for this article. They are rules of thumb that direct what we do and what we do NOT.
A lot of these standards harken to practicality and medicinal ethics. Let’s be honest—I decide what you all put in your faces and thus hold some personal accountability. Ethics are absolutely vital and practicality is a nice icing on the cake.
For Legion supplements our standards mostly circulate around safety and price and are as follows:
Use Ingredients that Are as Safe as Possible
The perfect supplement, in the perfect world, will be ultimately safe with absolutely no side effects yet it’ll be highly effective in all people as well.
This perfect supplement does not exist and our human bodies are pretty imperfect. I mean, the entire fields of medicine and pharmacy are basically using precision and absolute confidence to make the compounds that you put in your body, and even their products often have unforeseen side effects.
Studies can only assess certain groups of people and it takes a while to test all types of people. Genetics, age, sex, everything you can imagine could be potential variables that result in unforeseen interactions.
We can’t avoid this but we can try to wrangle and reduce it as much as possible.
Legion supplements should be as safe as we can make them while getting the job done.
There are times where an effective compound we use will have side effects that are manageable (e.g. the tingles associated with beta-alanine), and there are also times where the side effect is unavoidable.
Yohimbine is the best example of this, and the reason I bring it up so much is for education purposes.
Yohimbine WILL cause panic and anxiety symptoms if you take too much, with a larger chance if you are predisposed (e.g. PTSD). This is an inherent side effect due to the same process by which it benefits; the release and amplification of amphetamines. In other words, this is something that will always be a risk if you’re taking the supplement.
It’s why Forge, our pre-workout fat burner with yohimbine in it, has a unique warning label due to the yohimbine content.
Yohimbine is still a very important and effective ingredient that many people can benefit from. It just requires a little finesse to ensure it’s as safe as it could be which we believe has been achieved in Forge (by not overdosing).
Use Ingredients with a Lower Potential for Misuse
We’ve all heard those stories about people intentionally taking way too much of a product and hurting themselves (like ephedrine).
I’m not trying to stand on a pedestal when I say the following, since I’ve also been subject to it, but the longer you take supplements the probability you intentionally overdose on them due to hubris approaches one. I’ve personally done many a stupid things and, yes, this qualifies as abusing the supplements.
If you abuse a stimulant, get jitters, and can’t fall asleep at night then that’s on you. The whole “burn your hand on the stove once and you don’t do it again” effect.
On our end, we still look for various safety buffers to help reduce side effects that come from taking too much of a supplement, like the ever popular L-theanine in Pulse assisting caffeine stimulation.
Use Ingredients that Work (Even if They Have Some Side Effects)
You may be wondering that, if yohimbine has an inherent side effect and could cause harm, why do we still use it? Well, it’s mostly because . . .
- It’s a potent and reliable way to increase adrenaline signaling and effects in the body, which improves fat loss and both exercise/cognition when cutting calories.
- There is currently no other dietary supplement that’s legal to use that does the same job, to the same effectiveness, as yohimbine.
It just works and given the choice between giving the consumer something that works and clear instructions on how to minimize side effects, versus not giving them the thing that works, we’ll opt for efficacy. Just as efficacy is not an excuse to hurt somebody, the fear of side-effects is not an excuse to make a product useless.
We do whatever we can to make products safer to consume but, at the end of the day, people only buy stuff THAT WORKS.
Use Ingredients that Result in the Lowest Financial Cost to the User
This is going to be a bit of a weird section to write because, well, Legion supplements aren’t overly cheap. Some of them are, like Fortify, a dollar a day, but we’re a premium supplement company after all. (And a dollar a day for all that stuff is damn good).
Due to us being a premium company we don’t blindly strive for low-priced products but, rather, strive for a combination of low price and high effectiveness. In other words, a good bang for your buck.
This leads to a balance where we make a supplement as good as possible, then make small adjustments to cut costs, then make it better, then cut costs, and continue this cycle until we achieve a balance that we can be proud of.
There are some limits to the types of cuts we can make to the products however because, at the end of the day . . .
The strive to lower cost is NOT an excuse for inefficacy.
For example, we’ll gladly use grape seed extract instead of pycnogenol in Fortify for financial reasons, cause grape seed extract still works well.
We’ll gladly use a curcumin/piperine combination instead of the more expensive phytosomes, cause curcumin/piperine combination still works well.
We’ll use creatine monohydrate instead of the more expensive creatine magnesium chelate in Recharge, cause it works just as well (if not better).
We will, however, NOT use L-arginine instead of L-citrulline for financial reasons and we won’t switch our source of bulk powders to a cheaper foreign one. Both of these changes run the risk of reducing efficacy and reliability.
And if we ever give a low-ish dose of a compound in a supplement then it will be due to either safety reasons or because we tried to add in more yet couldn’t, not that we cut corners.
In the continuous effort to reduce cost to the consumer we need to draw the line somewhere and, when it comes to the formulations, we draw the line at intentionally reducing doses from effective to sub-effective or switching to less reliable or effective variants.
We strive for value, and value means the product still has to work.
Add Ingredients That Might Work When We Can
With all the grandstanding about safety and price out of the way, let’s talk about something fun. The goodies!
Then you’ll find less known but still proven things added in there. Things that you wouldn’t normally buy on your own but, upon learning about them, you’re glad to get the chance to try them out. These are what I refer to as goodies.
There are a TON of potential goodies out there and I’m incredibly excited for the future of supplements when human studies catch up to some of these great up-and-coming molecules and herbs. So many things I want to experiment with and would love to be known for popularizing.
But, at the end of the day, safety and price standards still apply to these goodies.
(Someday, PQQ, I will add you to our products. You expensive vixen you…)
So, with our rules and standards out of the way . . . how do we actually design the supplements?
The overall process starts with the idealization of the product, drawing big ol’ happy circles and graphs on whiteboards, and ends with us furrowing our brows in frustration when reality sets in and we have to curtail ourselves.
Legion does not sell stand-alone single supplements but rather combinations of supplements, or formulations, and each formulation follows from our unique philosophy.
We don’t just throw a bunch of stuff together and call it a day. All the stuff that we throw together has to work together towards a unified goal. If it’s a good goal it’s a good supplement and, if not, then it’s just going to be mediocre.
Sometimes the goal we aim for is obvious and basic. Lunar is a sleep aid and that’s it; nothing much more creative than that.
At other times it’s a more specialized and unique goal. Pulse was created to be a smoother pre-workout, not necessarily one chock full of stimulants, while Phoenix’s design hinged on it’s caffeine-free formulation.
Phoenix was literally designed to be “the first fat burner you take with your morning coffee rather than instead of it.” If it ever fails to do this then it fails to be Phoenix in our minds. Pulse was designed to be “smooth/clean” energy so adding amphetamine analogues or yohimbine to it and accepting jitteriness as a side-effect was unacceptable.
This is important since it sets up the niche, idea, and the reason for the product even existing.
Because let’s be honest, Legion is a company that makes science-backed supplements in clinically effective doses; nothing about that mission statement says we need multiple ingredients in our products. We can just sell L-citrulline at 8 grams a serving and call it a day if we wanted to.
But not only is that suboptimal for customers (as you’d all end up buying multiple products when one would suffice) but it makes Legion products blend in with other products who simply regurgitate the science.
It’s also pretty boring on my end. 80% or more of formulating supplements is already predetermined by the science on the topic since, as a formulator, I don’t get to choose what works; scientists do that.
So, here’s the 3-step process we go through after deciding what we want the supplement to do.
Despite the philosophy, we can’t get overly fancy with adding compounds to a supplement.
All philosophies need to be beneficial to the consumer and, at the end of the day, we can’t force anything to work in a supplement; some things just work and some don’t.
To reiterate the “80% of formulating a supplement is already predetermined,” if we wanted to go out and prove that something works we need to fund the studies directly; something we’re in the process of doing, mind you.
But if we want to make a muscle building supplement, we kinda have to use creatine. It just works, it works damn well, and nothing can replace what it does as well as it does it. Sure, we could make a “creatine-free muscle builder” but I’d rather not shoot myself in the foot.
We also have to use a certain dose. Five grams works, maybe you can make a supplement in the two to eight gram range as well, since those doses are close to the science on the topic and can be rationalized as effective. 200 milligrams, however, is not in the clinically effective range.
We could also get fancy and try to “modify” what works, like how some companies opt for creatine hydrochloride over monohydrate, but the idea that you can change an effective and reliable product to a similar variant and still think the reliability is the same is at best an unnecessary risk and at worst dishonest.
We (the industry) got lucky with creatine hydrochloride and creatine magnesium chelate, they seem to work similarly to creatine monohydrate (not better, just similar). However, creatine ethyl ester and liquid creatine just flat out don’t work as well.
The strive for potency and reliability paired with the fact it is scientists, and not us, who decide what works is why most supplements from all companies centralize around a few major players.
Creatine, caffeine, beta-alanine, melatonin; those sorts of things. A consumer should be able to look at the label and say “I don’t know what all these other things are but at least it has X,” and X alone should be good enough to be effective.
Want to take Lunar for the rutaecarpine in the hopes it can mitigate your caffeine habit? Great, feel free to try it out. If it doesn’t work, however, at least there’s melatonin in there so the product experiment wasn’t a waste.
Everything else after the fact is icing on the cake, and what helps us offer unique value.
After adding in the single effective compound(s), or things that by themselves can drive a purchasing decision, we then add a bit of flair to the supplement by adding in synergists or other active agents.
As a general statement, these are things that:
- Unlike the big boys, the synergists themselves will not drive a purchasing decision (i.e. they will likely not be the reason you’re buying a supplement).
- They either independently, or in a supportive manner, assist in satisfying the philosophy of the supplement.
However, due to the potential benefit to alleviating fatigue it fits in line with the “clean energy” philosophy of Pulse. A nice addition that is at worst something you won’t perceive and, at best, the reason you’ll choose Pulse.
Another way to look at the synergists would be things that you kinda want in your body but would not otherwise be motivated to go out and buy. If you want creatine it’s important enough for you to go out and buy creatine, but when it comes to something like astragalus in Genesis, you may not be motivated to go out and buy astragalus by itself.
So the fact that Genesis has something that would be worth buying on it’s own (spirulina, in this case) but then also slips in that little goody, is a win-win.
When we put in the major players, we think about the science behind the major players.
When we add in synergists and other goodies, we think of the science behind the synergists and other goodies.
Side effect control is the stage where we change our frame of mind to listen to what the consumers have to say. All of you who will be buying our products. Demographic information and surveys are nice here, as well as your feedback, so we know who all of you are (just kidding).
These supplements aren’t taken in a vacuum after all. Different people take them for different reasons and if you can predict who takes the supplements, then you can not only customize the goodies further but also predict, and try to negate, side-effects.
Add in some L-theanine to mitigate excess stimulation from a relatively high dose of caffeine in Pulse, add some rutaecarpine (from evodia rutaecarpa) to Lunar for people who won’t reduce their caffeine intake at all, that sort of thing.
Ultimately this stage of production is relatively small since we intentionally avoid putting in many things with side effects in the first place but it’s a crucial topic to revisit.
Ultimately, we can make a product based exclusively on science and have it work. But, the products can be made better by figuring out exactly who uses the products, learning their needs, wants, and current habits, and then targeting those issues specifically.
We used GPLC (glycine propionyl-l-carnitine) in our first version of Pulse due to it being a unique variant of carnitine that could also improve blood flow to extremities. It’s a pretty cool compound but unfortunately . . .
- It’s quite expensive to add to a product and would increase the price of Pulse by a few dollars per bottle.
- I’ve never seen a compound clump like it before. If you put it in a powder and even a drop of water gets in there then, all of a sudden, you don’t have a powder anymore, you have a rock.
You can argue about the benefits of GPLC till you’re blue in the face, but it’s usage in a pre-workout powder is essentially banned in our minds due to this clumping issue. It’s obscenely consumer unfriendly and ruins products.
This kind of product troubleshooting is the final stage of product formulation and honestly the most frustrating. A lot of the cool molecules are thrown out simply due to how much they cost or how impractical it would be to procure them.
At the end of the day, the thing on the label needs to be intact and active in the product. What you want to buy actually needs to be what you buy.
Now I know what many of you are thinking, “Yeah, of course you troubleshoot, what self-respecting company doesn’t?” Well, it turns out that many supplement companies aren’t self-respecting or, at least, willing to sell something before confirming how practical it is.
Fish oil supplements use fat soluble antioxidants as stabilizers to reduce rancidity, most commonly Vitamin E. This was not always the case and could be seen as a failure of troubleshooting the product.
Creatine used to be sold in liquid form before people realized that creatine almost fully degrades when stored in water for two or more days (so, not relevant if you’re mixing a drink to go to the gym, but relevant from a manufacturer’s side of things).
In fact, many compounds are not very suitable for ready-to-drink products (RTDs) that need to be stored in water for a long time. It’s why RTDs may seem rather bare-bones, and why many opt for putting the powder inside the cap (push down on the cap to “push” the powder into the water, then shake) which is a clever work around.
Failure to troubleshoot does not always mean your supplement will suck, but you run the risk of failing in a most spectacular fashion.
At this stage of formulation the product is already priced, created, and shipped. It is, however, not done. These products are never done, they must continually be revisited and refined based on user feedback.
The moment we release a product is also the moment where we schedule a time where we revisit it and see whether or not the formulation needs modification or whether we can chug along with the same thing.
Science isn’t static. Science advances each and every day. Sometimes lesser known supplements get the final piece in the puzzle required to confirm their efficacy, other times a compound is going through a stage of research where it’s safety is thrown into question, and you can’t call yourself science-based if you don’t adapt to this stuff.
Not only do we have a small team of people internally who are continuously looking at new scientific data, but I spend the bulk of my time on exactly that. And not only do we keep tabs on all of the compounds we’ve included (and others on the horizon), but we have our scientific advisory board of various experts to talk with on this topic.
And this is why we LOVE it when you give your feedback on supplements. What you liked about it, what you didn’t, that sort of thing. I would have thought the beta-alanine associated paresthesia was a “side effect” if we didn’t get so much feedback about people loving their pre-workout tingles after all.
Each supplement gets a quick revisit once a month and, based on that, is ranked on how likely it is they’ll need a major revamp. Things that are recent, like Ascend, or things that have a track record of being highly rated with almost no complaints, like Pulse, get a pat on the back and put back into the queue.
At the end of the day we strive to provide the best value supplements in the market.
That means high efficacy, high safety, and relatively low cost despite having a premium status. It’s not an easy task as, while there is a LOT of bullshit in the industry there are quite a few standup competitors, but the strive for being the best drives us forward.
And we could never be the best without a unified philosophy tying everything together with some dedication on the top making sure everything runs smoothly.
Good stuff, in good doses, given in as reliable and safe a manner as possible; checking frequently to make certain those parameters have been achieved.
That’s how we do things here.