Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
October 4, 2023

The Importance for Athletes to Read Labels
By Mo Mendez

The Importance for Athletes to Read Labels

Labels provide a tremendous amount of important information. Most foods are now labeled, even those that are not in a package (the label is usually listed by the price in the store). The food label lists the amount of each ingredient in descending order. If a food is mostly water, it will list water as the first ingredient. Food labels also list the type of protein used. If you are considering buying protein powder for a protein drink, check the label to find out if the protein is what you want. Some manufacturers use the cheaper (and much lesser quality) soy protein instead of a milk, egg, or meat protein.

The highest amount of ingredients in a food item is listed first, the least amount is listed last. The determining factor is volume, the amount of a specific ingredient compared to the overall total. Another important part of the label is the amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat grams. These nutrients are also listed on the label, along with the vitamin and mineral content. The amounts are generally listed for one serving. It is important to note what serving size is being used because the average serving size is for the average person, not a person trying to put on muscle mass. Check out the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Use the correct multiplier to get the correct percentage of each.

The Importance for Athletes to Read Labels

The multiplier is:

  • Protein - multiply by 4 for every gram.

  • Carbohydrates - multiply by 4 for every gram.

  • Fat - multiply by 9 for every gram.

  • The factor is the caloric count per gram. If you have a food item that has 28 grams of protein, 36 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of fat, you would use the multiplier for each.

  • Protein - 28x4 = 112 calories from protein.

  • Carbohydrates - 36x4 = 144 calories from carbohydrates.

  • Fat - 8x9 = 72 calories from fat.

  • Total calories = 328

This food item has 328 total calories. The 112 calories from the protein are divided by the overall total calorie count (328) and this lets you know that this food item is about 34 percent protein. The carbohydrates (144) are divided by the overall caloric count (328) to reveal that this food is about 44 percent carbohydrates. You can then obtain the fat percentage (72 divided by 328) which is about 22 percent, to get an overall picture of the food content. By using this method you can determine if a food is high in fat. You can also get a much clearer picture of the carbohydrate content by checking the label. The label will list total carbohydrates, then break them down by type. Under the carbohydrate listing it will note sugars (simple carbohydrates), carbohydrates from fiber (listed as soluble and insoluble) and "other" carbohydrates. The "other" carbohydrates are the good stuff - the complex carbohydrates that are best for your body. The sugar, fiber, and other carbohydrates will add up to the total listed for carbohydrates. The key point you want to focus on is the amount of "other" (complex) carbohydrates as opposed to the sugars.

The fibers are fine and benefit your health so the more the better. You want to eat food with more "other" (complex) carbohydrates as opposed to the sugars (except right after training when the intake of sugars is necessitated). So when you read labels don't just focus on the caloric count. Break the ingredients down into percentages and types to know what you are putting into your physique. Since diet plays such a large role in the control of the body, this is not an area that you can afford to skip or underestimate. Know exactly what goes into your body, when, and why. Eat for muscle size, not just body size.

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