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  • Markb

The Nutrition Facts Label

Watching your calories, making them work for you!

Nutrition is the backbone of everything we do for a long, healthy, happy life. While not the foundation of that life, Sports Nutrition is an essential component and can be the foundation of athletic success.

'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition,' those protein bars, gels, drinks, and powders are often part of our nutrition and training plan. They can be a critical component to a well-designed nutrition plan that allows active adults and athletes to perform at their best. So the OTC product we choose must be the best source of energy, nutrients, and fluids to keep our body well hydrated and functioning at an optimal level.

The Nutrition Facts Label will be your guide when selecting that perfect the 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' product and choices regarding everything you eat.

Let's look closely at the Nutrition Facts label, the format and

contents, and understand the label's different sections and what they say. The better you know the Nutrition Facts, the easier it will be to scan that label to find what you are looking for, understand what is suitable for your planned sports activity, and support your personal dietary needs. Choose foods that contain more of the nutrients you want to get more of and less of the nutrients you may want to limit.

In 2021, the FDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration established new format guidelines for that label. The FDA has determined that the only ingredients 'required' to go on a label are those that have an impact on common health issues: weight control, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and many others. That new format is easier to read, highlighting important summary information.

The Nutrition Facts, the label summarizes those ingredients in four categories:

1. Serving size / Calories

2. Fat, Carbohydrates, and Protein. The three essential macronutrients, the only things the body can "eat"/metabolize

3. Sodium, or Sodium Chloride, commonly referred to as "Salt."

4. Other necessary electrolytes and Vitamins.

These ingredients include those you may want to get less of, Saturated Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars) and those ingredients you want to get more of (Dietary fiber, Vitamin D, Calcium, Iron, and Potassium).

This blog post will focus on Serving Size and Calories. Upcoming blog posts will cover the essential macronutrients, sodium and other electrolytes, and Vitamins.

It is essential to know that the serving size and the related calories is not a recommendation for how much, or how many calories you should eat. Per the FDA, 'by law, serving sizes must be based on the amount of food people typically consume rather than how much they should consume.' And the calories, as well as all the nutrients on the label, are based on one typical serving. Do you usually consume one 'typical' serving, or do you eat less or more? (To put this into perspective: most soda products' serving size has changed from 8 fluid ounces (1 cup) to 12 fluid ounces (1 ½ cups). Is that an eye-opener or what!!)

The serving size's vital part is to clarify that what you have in your hand is a single serving or multiple servings. 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition' bars and gels are generally a single serving. If the Nutrition Facts for the product in your hand indicates two servings, consuming the entire package will double the calories and all nutrients. The Nutrition Facts are for one serving.

You can better interpret the calories and what is right for you if you know why you are looking for, i.e., that Protein Bar. Are you are looking for a meal replacement bar, one for nutrition or performance, for overall weight loss or, just a healthy snack. We must determine how many calories are best for our nutritional supplement objectives and needs and consume accordingly. Plus, all calories are not created equal. For example, "empty" sugar calories will not be effective at building muscle mass. The good calories can be - good.

For example, a good rule of thumb is that we will burn 100 calories per mile running and training for an event, somewhere around 600 calories per day. As a runner, calories have different importance than us couch potatoes. We burn between 60 and 80 calories per-hour to stay alive. Even if that protein bar is just for a snack, knowing our calorie burn is essential.

Knowing how many calories you are consuming gets you only part of the way to choosing your perfect Protein Bar or other OTC Sports Nutrition product. So before we inject those calories into our bodies, let's understand all the Nutrition Facts. You will then know what macronutrients make up those calories and if they are good or bad for your nutritional and sports objectives.

With a close reading of the nutrition label and an understanding of all the facts, the jury will no longer be out. You will know what is in that OTC Sports Nutrition supplement, and you will make the best decision for you.

Please join me next week as we continue this journey into 'Over The Counter Sports Nutrition.' My next post will discuss the first ingredient on the Nutrition Facts Label. The ever-elusive fat that we all love to hate.

I look forward to talking to you then.

Mark B


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