I’m sure you've heard the age-old saying: "abs are made in the kitchen". Well, it still rings true today; fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% training if you want to reach your goals. You can't out-train a poor diet and calories will always catch up to you even if you don't want to acknowledge them.
However, companies are getting quite smart and have come up with some unique ways to brand and market products that confuse consumers and generate false assumptions.
Lets take a look at some of the sneaky ways food manufacturers have changed their labels to improve their marketing and also examine a few simple nutrition "swaps" to overhaul your eating and enhance your body composition.
1. Assuming zero calorie products actually have zero calories
The FDA has determined that the terms: "Free", "Zero", "No", "Without", "Trivial Source of", "Negligible Source of", "Dietarily Insignificant Source of" can be applied to products with < 5 calories per labeled serving. I'm sure that you've seen many of these "calorie free" products on store shelves and wondered how you could eat something that actually tasted good with zero calories?
Well the truth is, they still have calories. But many companies round calories and macros in order to comply with certain FDA guidelines in order to make their product seem more appealing for consumption.
Take certain brands of flavored water for example - the label reads "NO CALORIES" but yet there are 7g of carbs per serving. 7g x 4 calories per gram = 28 calories per serving x 2.5 servings per container = 70 calories a bottle. So much for calorie free huh?
If you're counting calories to maintain a deficit and lose fat, but you’re using a variety of “calorie free” products, it’d be in your best interest to double check the label before chugging down multiple bottles per day.
Bottom Line: Your best bet will always be whole foods and water but like all things in life, moderation should be used when consuming these types of products.
2. Neglecting to read nutrition labels
Like I mentioned in the first point, the FDA's guidelines are very lenient and allow for rounding in order to enhance product appeal and meet consumer quota. Trans fat also falls into this category, and the FDA has deemed it "appropriate" for it to be rounded down if each individual serving of a product contains less than 0.5g. Manufacturers take advantage of these labeling laws and promote their products as "Trans Fat Free!”
So, how can you tell if a food actually has trans fat in a single serving? Look for the words "partially" or "fully hydrogenated" on the ingredients label. This denotes that the fatty acid bonds have been scientifically altered with the addition of an extra hydrogen bond, which changes the stability of the glycerol molecule.
So, for example, I picked up a bag of croutons in the grocery store the other day and glanced at the label: each serving (5 croutons) has 0.5g of trans fat. That equates to 10 grams (!) of trans fat for the entire bag and most folks would be hard pressed to only use 5 croutons in their salad. That is definitely a dietary significant amount of trans fat, despite what the FDA deems "appropriate".
Bottom Line: Manufacturers are sneaky and most don't have your fitness goals in mind when they're manufacturing their products so they resort to cheap additives and cost effective methods to increase profit margin. Reading nutrition labels is one of the most important habits you can develop in order to achieve your goals and ensure complete health and wellness.
3. Cooking with the wrong oil
Vegetable oils are without a doubt the most commonly used oil these days; everything from sunflower to corn to cottonseed and everything in between. But, have you ever wondered how corn could be made into a fat source considering it strictly carbohydrate by nature?
Look, I’ll just be straight up with you; vegetable oils are some of the worst fats that you can put into your body. They undergo a complex sterilization, stripping, and bleaching process and then artificially made hydrogenated isomers are inserted to increase shelf life and deep-frying results.1
Also, most vegetable oils contain a very skewed Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, which can cause a vast array of other health problems including systemic inflammation. The typical American diet already has an exceptionally disproportionate ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6, as high as 1:20 in some cases! So, increasing your intake of Omega-6 from vegetable oils is only generating more issues and may exacerbate certain chronic diseases.2
"What's the best choice then?"
Always follow the motto: "Nature doesn't make bad fats, factories do." Stick to unrefined sources and consume a large variety of fats to ensure a balanced mixture from all three types.
Due to the differing chemical composition of fats (saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated), each will oxidize and go rancid at separate temperatures depending upon the number of double bonds present in their structure. Polyunsaturated fats have multiple double bonds, monounsaturated fats have 1 double bond, and saturated fats only contain single bonds.
What happens when you put oil into a pan that's too hot and it begins to smoke? Well the oil is oxidizing as the fatty acid structures decompose and the potential for carcinogen formation increases drastically. You best bet is to pour it out, wash the pan, and start from scratch to avoid any sort of exposure.
If you want to avoid that oxidation process, your best bet is to use saturated fats for cooking as they have some of the highest oxidation temperatures; coconut oil is personal favorite of mine. Olive oil isn’t a bad option as well, considering its high level of antioxidants can help to combat the oxidation of cholesterol during the frying process of certain foods.
Like everything else in fitness, you should use moderation and balance. Want some butter on your sweet potato? Go for it; use the REAL stuff from grass fed cows, which is high in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and vitamin K2.3 Most margarines contain trans fat but market themselves as "Fat Free!" and "No Cholesterol!” yet they fail to mention the fact that they contain some of the most toxic chemicals that our bodies can't process.
Bottom Line: Focus on naturally occurring fats and skip the stuff made in laboratories. The fake stuff isn’t doing anything for your taste buds or your waist line.
1. Your best bet will always be whole foods and water but like all things in life, moderation should be used when consuming these types of products.
2. Manufacturers are sneaky and most don't have your fitness goals in mind when they're manufacturing their products so they resort to cheap additives and cost effective methods to increase profit margin. Reading nutrition labels is one of the most important habits you can develop in order to achieve your goals and ensure complete health and wellness.
3. Focus on naturally occurring fats and skip the stuff made in laboratories. The fake stuff isn’t doing anything for your taste buds or your waist line.
Nutrition can make or break your health and well-being. Always ensure that you're putting the highest quality nutrients in your body to fuel your performance and assist in your recovery.