Reading Food Labels!

Learning to read food and supplement labels can especially help you in your journey to find that body you've been dreaming of.
In our quest to eat right, we need to be able to read right first. You've seen it in stores, Internet ads and magazines: Builds Muscle Fast! Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days! Extreme Muscle Booster! Yeah, these could be bogus ads that the FDA has not seen yet, but behind these ads is something more important. A thorough knowledge of the ingredients in supplements and even food can save you money and even hard earned muscle. We've seen it all the time - a protein shake with lots of carbs, a weight gainer with tons and tons of sugar and even ZMA with calcium?!?! WHY?!?! It doesn't make sense. But that does not mean you have to be confused about what your buying and putting in your body. Learning to read food and supplement labels can especially help you in your journey to find that body you've been dreaming of.

As stated before, phrases and words do not always connote what you may think they mean. This is clearly evident in the FDA's restrictions and regulations on food labels that was established under the Food Nutrition Labeling Act. Despite being initiated in 1994, many consumers and bodybuilders have not come to a complete understanding of food labeling terminology. Below is a list of terms used by many food distributors to mask the face value and nutritional value of their foods.

  • Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, with no added fat or oil.
  • Low fat: 3 grams or less of fat per serving.
  • Less fat: 25% or less fat than the comparison food.
  • Saturated Fat Free: Less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat and 0.5 grams of trans-fatty acids per serving.
  • Cholesterol-Free: Less than 2 mg cholesterol per serving, and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving.
  • Low Cholesterol: 20 mg or less cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving.
  • Reduced Calorie: At least 25% fewer calories per serving than the comparison food.
  • Low Calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
  • Extra Lean: Less than 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per (100 gram) serving of meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Lean: Less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 g of saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per (100 gram) serving of meat, poultry or seafood.
  • Light (fat): 50% or less fat than in the comparison food (ex: 50% less fat than our regular cheese).
  • Light (calories): 1/3 fewer calories than the comparison food.
  • High-Fiber: 5 grams or more fiber per serving.
  • Sugar-Free: Less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Sodium-Free or Salt-Free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Low Sodium: 140 mg or less per serving.
  • Very Low Sodium: 35 mg or less per serving.
  • Healthy: A food low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and containing at least 10% of the Daily Values for vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber.
  • "High," "Rich in," or "Excellent Source": 20% or more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient per serving.
  • "Less," "Fewer," or "Reduced": At least 25% less of a given nutrient or calories than the comparison food.
  • "Low," "Little," "Few," or "Low Source of": An amount that would allow frequent consumption of the food without exceeding the Daily Value for the nutrient -- but can only make the claim as it applies to all similar foods.
  • "Good Source Of," "More," or "Added": The food provides 10% more of the Daily Value for a given nutrient than the comparison food.
Source: The Food and Drug Administration

The hidden and submissive techniques utilized by food distributors can deter and impair your success as a bodybuilder. I would advice anyone on a cutting program to go over this list and then really look into the food labels. Stick to "understood foods" like tuna, chicken breasts and water. Move away from supposed "health" foods. Many health food companies understand that in order to retain customers, their product must make consumers come back - and what better way to do that then load the food up with high fructose corn syrup and extra hidden sugar.

Plus, if you retentive on what you eat, this table of conversions will aid in your diet. This table is commonly found on all food labels.

  • 1 gram Protein = 4 Cal
  • 1 gram Carbohydrate = 4 Cal
  • 1 gram Fat = 9 Cal
  • 1 gram Alcohol = 7 Cal
To recap:
  • Be careful about the foods and supplements you buy.
  • Bogus ads and phrases can cost you money and muscle.
  • Stick to "understood foods" like tuna, chicken breasts, rice, water and egg whites.
  • Be wary of health food companies that lure you in with empty promises and high sugary tastes.