NSF Certified for Sport®: Setting the Standard for Safe, High-Quality Products for Athletes & Consumers Alike

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Written by | July 18th, 2022

Most professional and amateur athletes care about the quality and safety of the products they consume; knowing that the beverages and supplements they take to improve their training, performance or recovery are free of harmful substances brings peace of mind. That is why NSF developed its Certified for Sport® program and why our Powered by SōRSE partner, Adapt Brands, decided to pursue NSF Certified for Sport® for its SuperWater, which it was granted this spring after a thorough process of product testing and review. Adapt SuperWater is the first hemp beverage to garner this certification. Adapt’s owner, Richie Harrington, a former Division 1 college athlete, is dedicated to producing the safest, highest-quality beverage for professional and amateur athletes, and determined to provide a product that is a great alternative to products on the market that are more harmful than helpful.  

What Does NSF Certified for Sport Mean?

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NSF launched its Certified for Sport® certification in 2005. Prior to that, steroids were difficult to identify in products on the market because no organization was testing products for adulterants, steroids, or banned substances. Many professional athletic organizations and leagues knew that this type of testing was needed; thus, NSF worked with Major League Baseball and other organizations to discuss their needs for a product testing and certification program. The goal was that an athlete could pick up an NSF Certified for Sport® product and immediately know that it had been thoroughly tested for harmful ingredients, contaminants and banned substances. 


What is Required for NSF Certification?

Companies like Adapt Brands undergo the following process to earn NSF Certified for Sport® certification for their products:

  1. First, NSF meets with the business owner to walk through the steps to becoming certified, including what documentation will be required.  
  2. NSF then gathers documentation from the company, including product labels, formulations, COA’s for every ingredient, and a Product Information Form that outlines details such as the product’s manufacturer and packager, and what category it falls into. This is important because any facility manufacturing or packaging NSF certified products must also meet rigorous auditing criteria. 
  3. NSF then starts the technical review process for the product. The technical review team assesses the product for several things, including: a desktop calculation of the formulation to ensure it aligns with the facts panel; each ingredient has an established upper safety limit; evaluation of the COAs with assays to confirm that the purity and the type of ingredient is accurate; and checking that the product meets regulatory and standard requirements. 
  4. Once the technical review process is completed and approved and any concerns are addressed, the product undergoes testing. There are three main testing categories required for Certified for Sport®: 1) facts panel label claims, 2) contamination (microbiological and chemical), and 3) a banned substance screen for substances prohibited in sport.  
  5. If the product passes all of the tests, the final step is a review of the total package to make sure the scope of work has been completed in its entirety. Then the product is officially certified and listed as NSF Certified for Sport® on nsf.org, nsfsport.com and the NSF Sport mobile app.  

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From start to finish, this process typically takes about 45 days after the initial conversation. The timeline is heavily dependent on how quickly a company can provide the necessary documentation. To ensure products remain compliant with the certification requirements, audits and testing are repeated frequently. 

NSF’s core company value is public health and safety. Their goal is to ensure that what people are consuming is safe – that a product is not going to be harmful or cause side effects that they weren’t prepared for. NSF also understands that things are continuously changing and evolving with food, beverages, and supplements, and increased consumer interest in hemp and CBD is a great example of that. Because of that, NSF constantly reviews information on ingredients as soon as it becomes available.  

After hemp was made legal in 2018 but was still in FDA limbo, NSF conducted its own research, with support from industry stakeholders, to determine a safety limit. That study yielded a 20mg daily maximum limit, which has since been increased to 60mg following further research. However, hemp and CBD were still banned from the athletic industry and therefore were not eligible for Certified for Sport® certification. In 2021, hemp was removed from the banned substances list, which opened up opportunities for brands like Adapt SuperWater to become NSF Certified for Sport®. Certified products display the Certified for Sport® mark on their label and are listed on nsfsport.com or the NSF Sport app. For thoroughly tested, safer products like Adapt SuperWater, look for the Certified for Sport® mark on the label.