Digestive enzymes are increasingly being marketed to solve just about every lifestyle-related symptom associated with the modern, Western diet.
And while it pales in comparison to the enormity of the probiotic market, the global digestive enzyme market was valued at over $800 million in 2016 and is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2025.
In simple terms, digestive enzymes are proteins that help with the chemical breakdown of food into smaller, absorbable components allowing us to draw nutrients from our diet.
And while there are many different types of enzymes, the three most common are amylase, lipase and protease that help with the digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins respectively.
Protease is under our review microscope today as it is the primary enzyme at the heart of the MassZymes formula, and their bold claim of cranking your muscle gains to new heights.
MassZymes is a product of a company founded in 2004 by Matt Gallant and Wade Lightheart.
Starting life by marketing training programs to bodybuilders, the company later progressed to selling supplements to that same audience.
The first formulation of MassZymes was launched in 2006.
Rebranded to BiOptimizers in 2014, the company states that its mission is to help humans shift from a sick unhealthy condition into a peak biologically optimized state—a state of existence where all of the body’s functions operate in perfect harmony.
Given the salesy nature of the BiOptimizers marketing machine, unpicking the claims and benefits for the MassZymes product is challenging.
But here are the top three claimed benefits from the MassZymes product page.
Explode Your Muscle Growth
At the core of the MassZymes formulation is protease—an enzyme essential for the breakdown of proteins into their constituent amino acids. The premise here is that more amino acids equates to more muscle growth—and MassZymes has more amino-acid-releasing enzymes than any other formulation on the market.
Aligned with the above, greater amino acid availability and improved nutrient availability means improved muscle recovery. It’s also claimed that the AstraZymeâ¢ can help to buffer oxidative stress in your muscles and help reduce inflammation.
Stronger, Healthier Digestion.
By bolstering the digestive process with a carefully balanced formula of multiple proteases, MassZymes will purportedly help to improve your digestion and reduce gas and bloating by eliminating the body of putrefied, undigested protein.
The MassZymes formulation is split between a Tri-Phase Protease blend and an Enzyme Blend that also contains 105mg of the proprietary AstraZymeâ¢ blend.
Below, we cover some of the challenges of reviewing a product like MassZymes as well as take a deeper look at the key enzymes included in the formulation.
As far as we can tell, the MassZymes product is NOT manufactured in an FDA approved GMP facility.
Making Sense of the Label
Here’s the harsh reality—unless you are a licensed clinician, registered dietitian or food scientist, you likely won’t learn much from a simple glance at the product label.
Unlike other supplement ingredients, the labels on enzyme products do not use common measurement quantities or standardized units. Instead, each of the enzymes has a measure of potency unique to the class of enzyme and the molecules on which it works.
For simple comparisons, we can compare the measured potency of one enzyme in a dose with the potency on a competing product. But with no established need for supplemental or dietary enzymes, we can draw very few conclusions about the dose efficacy or safety.
Ingredient List (250 capsules)
Serving Size: 3
Servings per container: ~83
|Amount Per Serving||% RDA|
|Tri-Phase Protease Blend (300,000 HUT)||551MG||**|
|Protease 6.0||30,000 HUT||**|
|Protease 4.5||255,000 HUT||**|
|Protease 3.0||180 SAPU||**|
|Malt Diastase||975 DP||**|
|Beta Glucanase||9 BG||**|
|AstraZyme (proprietary blend of proteolytic enzymes)||105mg||**|
** Daily Value Not Established
Other Ingredients: Vegetable Cellulose, Rice Bran, Water
We’re going to take a closer look at each of these ingredients and what they are intended to do. If you are not interested in these details, feel free to skip to the next section of our MassZymes review.
Protease is the class of enzyme responsible for catalyzing the breakdown of proteins into amino acids and is the enzyme at the heart of the MassZymes product claims. The MassZymes formulation specifically calls out both the amount of protease—100,000 HUT per capsule—and the fact that the protease formulation is stable across the full spectrum of PH levels.
The protease blend in MassZymes is taken from Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus niger. Both are on the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) list of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.
Peptidase is just another protease variant that works through hydrolysis—the process of breaking down larger protein molecules into peptides and amino acids.
Amylase is an enzyme found in our saliva and pancreatic fluid that is the catalyst for the breaking-down of starches into sugars, helping us to digest and derive energy from carbohydrates.
When you chew your food, amylase gets to work with breaking down starches into a simple sugar called maltose. This is why rice, pasta and other starchy foods can eventually taste sweet once you’ve been chewing them for a while—that’s the maltose.
There are no dosing or efficacy guidelines for amylase outside of medical prescriptions for specific conditions and/or diseases.
Bromelain is extracted from pineapple and contains a protein-digesting enzyme that is reported to be able to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream—although further research is needed to understand how bromelain survives the digestive system.
There is some evidence to suggest bromelain acts as an anti-inflammatory and decongestant, and when taken on an empty stomach early evidence shows promise in benefiting the immune system and protecting the body from cancer.
Alpha-galactosidase is an enzyme commonly used in formulations to help reduce gas and bloating. It works by helping to break down the complex carbohydrates in foods and is the primary enzyme in Beano—an OTC medicine that’s been available since the early 1990s.
Similar to amylase, glucoamylase is another enzyme produced in the body that works to break down starches into simple sugars.
In animal studies, glucoamylase has been indicated in helping to balance blood sugars around meal times.
Lactase is the body’s enzyme responsible for aiding in the digestion of lactose, breaking it down into simpler sugar forms of glucose and galactose.
It is produced naturally in humans by cells lining the small intestine. However, some 65% of the world’s population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy making lactase is a common enzyme supplement.
Secreted primarily in the pancreas, lipase is the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of fats in our food. It works in concert with the bile released from the gallbladder, which is responsible for breaking down (emulsifying) large fat molecules into droplets, thus increasing the surface area on which the lipase can get to work.
As with all enzymes, the vast majority of healthy individuals do not need additional lipase through supplementation.
Invertase is another enzyme produced in the body that acts in the digestion of carbohydrates, breaking down sucrose into simple sugars fructose and glucose.
Much like amylase, malt diastase catalyses the breakdown of starch into maltose, thus helping us to digest carbohydrates.
It is also the first enzyme to be discovered and was initially extracted from malt by two French chemists in 1833.
Phytase is an enzyme that helps to break down phytate acid—an indigestible, organic form of phosphorus that is found in grains and oil seeds. It is not produced by humans, and limited data is available regarding the effectiveness of phytase supplementation in the human diet.
However, Phytase is used as an animal feed supplement—often in poultry and swine—to enhance the nutritional value of the grain-based feeds by releasing inorganic phosphate from phytic acid.
Pectinase aids in the break-down of plant material.
It is often used in cooking to break down the pectin in plant foods to modify texture and make juicing easier. It is also commonly used in wine making to get rid of cloudiness.
Pectinase is potentially useful in the human diet as pectin is in a lot of fruits and vegetables as well as thickeners and gelling agents in many prepared foods such as jellies and jams.
Hemicellulase is an enzyme that breaks down hemicellulose—a type of cellulose commonly found in fiber-rich breakfast cereals.
While not produced directly by the human body, hemicellulase is produced by the bacteria that live in the human gut.
Another carbohydrate enzyme that works specifically on beta-glucans, a type of fiber found in certain types of yeast, algae, fungi, and some plants like oats and barley.
AstraZyme (proprietary blend of proteolytic enzymes)
AstraZymeâ¢ is a proprietary combination of enzymes, minerals, and herbs that helps to break down proteins as well as significantly enhance both amino acid/peptide absorption.
Dosage and How to Take MassZymes
MassZymes comes in capsule form.
The directions for use suggest taking 1-3 capsules with each meal, and another 1-2 capsules between meals.
Given individual meal timing and spacing is very different, we would like to have seen a limit on the maximum number of capsules you should take in a 24 hour period. But none was given.
Also, the bottle packaging does not suggest how you should take them—which is unusual as good supplements tend to be very specific. Presumably you’d take these with 6-8 ounces of water.
Claims vs. Reality
The MassZymes website is packed with claims that warrant a little… unpacking.
Industry’s Strongest Protein-Digesting Enzyme Formula
MassZymes makes continuous references to the critical importance of protease in their formulation, and how they have spared no expense in the crafting of the world’s most powerful formulation.
From the website:
We’re ecstatic to announce that we have developed the strongest protease enzyme formula ever: Masszymes.
That is NOT hype.
Our formula contains 100,000 HUTs of protease per capsule. There’s not a single enzyme formula on the market that can compare. We literally looked at every enzyme label we could find and they all came up short.
Well it took us one—yes one—Google search for “protease supplement” to find Transformation Enzymes Protease.
The proprietary Tzymeâ¢ protease blend packs 355,000 HUT of protease into EACH capsule. It also claims to be stable through the full range of PH levels. That is more than three times the protease power of MassZymes.
They even have a Transformation Enzymes Protease 375K product that drops bromelain and papain for those with allergies, but goes on to pack 375,000 HUT of protease into each capsule.
You do the math!
Explode Your Muscle Growth
MassZymes 3.0 claims to be able to explode your muscle growth by dramatically improving the digestion and absorption of protein and key amino acids.
This claim has some merit, and there is some evidence to suggest that protease supplementation can increase serum levels of key amino acids.
Take this article from trusted source Precision Nutrition. The article reviews a study on the effects of adding proteolytic enzymes to protein powder and monitoring the effect on peak serum levels of amino acids.
The study showed that with no enzymes, peak serum amino acid levels had increased by 30%. However, with 5g of the enzymes, peak levels were increased 127%.
This adds stock to the theory that despite humans having all the enzymes they need to digest and absorb nutrients from foods, some conditions exist whereby additional dietary enzymes may have a positive effect.
Just know that the science is far from clear as to the uniform effects of proteolytic enzymes on human digestion. For example, this paper talks expressly about the need to personalize supplementation to individual consumers in order to optimize nutrition, and the very real challenges in individual measurement.
The paper concludes:
Therefore, it is clear that the future of optimizing nutrition must include monitoring individual protein digestive capacity, especially in diseases that reduce digestive capacity.
Recover Faster and Achieve Stronger, Healthier Digestion
BiOptimizers make an impassioned claim that MassZymes can improve recovery and thus improve muscle growth.
They don’t link the study for consumer convenience, but they are referring to this study from 2007 specifically on the effects of eccentric exercise.
MassZymes tries to make it all sound very absolute, but the paper makes it clear:
These findings provided initial evidence that the protease supplement may be useful for reducing strength loss immediately after eccentric exercise and for aiding in short-term strength recovery.
As to the improvements in digestive health, science is again very inconclusive here.
While there is plenty of evidence to support the use of prescription enzymes in the treatment of disease, the role of supplemental enzymes in general digestive health is far less clear.
For example, this concise review of enzymes for clinicians by the Mayo Clinic makes this statement about OTC enzyme supplementation for common digestive complaints:
Current evidence does not permit endorsement of the use of supplemental enzymes to treat common gastrointestinal tract symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Watch Enzymes Break Down a Piece of Steak Right Before Your Eyes
This is not so much about debunking the claim as it is about demystifying it.
There’s a huge video slapped bang in the center of the MassZymes sales page that shows some steak being cubed and dropped into glasses of water.
One glass receives no MassZymes, one glass receives 5 capsules of MassZymes, and the final glass receives 5 capsules of MassZymes PLUS 5(?) capsules of P3-OM—the BiOptimizer probiotic formulation.
The video then goes on to timelapse how the meat immersed in the most BiOptimizers product gets turned into a pool of amino acids.
Um, not really.
Literally ANY cheap enzyme blend will do exactly the same thing, and we found a number of simple home experiments like this one on YouTube.
Also, ever heard of meat tenderizer? Those little tubs of rubs and powders just contain proteolytic enzymes to help break down the collagen in the meat.
In fact, the bromelain in MassZymes comes directly from pineapple—nature’s own meat tenderizer. Watch this video to see how plain old pineapple magically turns solidified gelatin back to water.
Who is it Best For?
On the product packaging, MassZymes makes clear that their formulation has been specifically designed for high-performance athletes who train hard and consume high levels of protein.
Although, Wade Lightheart gave an expansive reasoning here as to why a non-athlete might like to try his product!
The caution on the bottle also makes clear that:
- MassZymes is not for children
- MassZymes should not be used if you have an ulcer or suffer with gastritis
- Consumers should consult with a physician before using their product
MassZymes Safety and Side Effects
MassZymes contains a LOT of enzymes—something they emphasize repeatedly across their marketing pages. However, the science on the safety of supplemental enzymes is entirely lacking.
Referring again to the Mayo Clinic’s review of enzymes for clinicians, they make absolutely clear that while the risks associated with enzyme supplement use are generally low, there definitely are some concerns:
“The risks associated with enzyme supplement use generally seem to be low. However, because these products are sold as dietary supplements, they may include various contaminants, and the actual amount per dose may vary among different brands. Their interactions with other substances or drugs also are not well understood.”
However, they also recognize that consumers may still want to try OTC supplementation of enzymes and advises doctors to council patients on taking a time-limited personal trial approach and discourage continued use of the product if there is no significant improvement of their symptoms.
Below we have given just a few examples of how some enzymes can have side-effects in individuals, as well as troublesome interactions with commonly prescribed medicines.
And to be clear, the reason we have opted to call these out is expressly because BiOptimizers specifically and repeatedly calls out the mega-dosing of enzymes in the MassZymes product. And given there are no established dosing recommendations for enzymes outside of the clinical treatment of specific diseases, we just can’t say with any confidence how much is too much.
Although generally safe, side effects may still occur with lipase use such as digestive issues like cramping, nausea, diarrhea and stomach upset. Lipase can also worsen some of the symptoms of cystic fibrosis.
Bromelain is another example of an enzyme that may cause some side effects, such as diarrhea and stomach and intestinal discomfort. According to WebMD, bromelain can also cause allergic reactions, especially in people who already suffer from other allergies.
It also has potential interactions with commonly prescribed antibiotics and anticoagulant drugs.
Papain is the protease enzyme found in papaya fruit. And again, while generally safe in normal doses, taking excessive doses of this enzyme is called out as POSSIBLY UNSAFE by respected resources like WebMD.
Where to Buy + Costs
If you are absolutely committed to the formulation, the six bottle option direct from BiOptimizers is the cheapest way to buy the capsules.
If you want to try the product with no strings attached (see the warnings below on the Loyalty Savings Club) then Amazon is your safest bet. They also offer a 120 count bottle at half the price so you can try them out before you fully commit.
You can only buy the 250 count bottle on the MassZymes product page.
- One bottle – $69 + $7.75 shipping – $0.31/count
- Three bottles – $177 (free shipping) – $0.24/count
- Six bottles – $297 (free shipping) – $0.20/count
You can buy a 250 count or a 120 count bottle at Amazon. Both products qualify for Prime shipping.
- One 120 bottle – $37.95 (free shipping) – $0.32/count
- One 250 bottle – $76.30 (free shipping) – $0.31/count
5% (one bottle) and 15% (five or more bottles) discounts are available for Subscribe and Save orders at Amazon.
Loyalty Savings Club
A few words of caution about the Loyalty Savings Club.
- When you purchase directly from the MassZymes product page, you are automatically enrolled in the Loyalty Savings Club and a repeat order will be automatically billed and shipped every month.
- This is in spite of the order page clearly stating the pricing is for a One Time Supply
- To opt out of the Loyalty Savings Club, you have to specifically contact BiOptimizers and ask to be removed.
MassZymes offers a 365 day money back guarantee.
However, from the verbiage on the sales page the refund does not apply to the purchase of a single bottle.
If after opening your first bottle you’re not completely satisfied, just send back the remaining unopened bottles and I’ll give you 100% of your money back. (If you open a second bottle, you no longer qualify for any guarantee).
Absolutely no questions asked, no loop holes, and no hassles.
So if you only make a single bottle purchase, with no unopened product to return, there is no means to securing a refund.
There are indeed other loopholes to consider spelled out in their returns policy—such as only the last monthly subscription order qualifying for the guarantee.
The Bottom Line
BiOptimizers takes a very salesly approach to the marketing of MassZymes, and the product page is a long, six-thousand word sales-pitch on all the reasons why you need MassZymes in your life.
And it’s a shame, because there is some limited evidence that supplemental enzymes could play a role in both general health and sport-specific applications.
But the messaging is so gratuitously overdone and long-winded that it left us feeling somewhat turned off.
Does MassZymes Work?
For some people there is undoubtedly potential benefits to using MassZymes. But just how much upside is incredibly hard to say.
There are two primary reasons for this:
- There is limited scientific evidence on the use of OTC supplemental enzymes to be certain they work for the claimed benefits.
- Individual genealogy, gut health and digestive capacities differ greatly.
And we’ve linked to studies that speak to this specific challenge, as well as the guidance from the Mayo Clinic to clinicians on how to advise patients in the use of supplemental enzymes.
In terms of the primary claim around helping you to build more muscle by increasing protein digestion and absorption, it’s certainly plausible that MassZymes can add value. But unless you are getting your peak serum amino acid levels measured, you’ll never really know.
For the other claims around improved recovery and/or digestive health, it might be easier for consumers to assess whether MassZymes is having any positive effects.
Should I Buy MassZymes?
If you have specific digestive complaints like gas and bloating after eating, the chances of MassZymes being the solution to your problems is low. This is not just our opinion, but that of health organizations, clinicians and registered dietitians. And even if OTC supplemental enzymes are a potential solution to digestive troubles, there are formulations that are likely safer (less excessive dosing) and cheaper for you to try.
If you are trying to improve recovery or heal localized injury, then you are looking for metabolic or systemic enzyme formulations, versus digestive formulations. And while MassZymes can be taken on an empty stomach to be used in a systemic capacity, they are not enterically coated. The enteric coating is important to help certain enzymes pass through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream for transport to the point of need.
Finally, for bodybuilders that don’t yet have every other aspect of their training, nutrition and recovery dialed-in, the chances of increased protein breakdown and absorption being THE missing factor is incredibly low.
So here’s the bottom line: If you are a competent, high-performance athlete or bodybuilder that is looking for either a competitive edge or to reduce total protein intake, there may be some opportunity for you in MassZymes. However, at the suggested dosing of up to 15 capsules a day, you could easily get through two, seventy-dollar bottles a month! And if you are set on trying any OTC supplemental enzyme product, we strongly recommend that you exercise caution and speak to your physician first.
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