Label reading is a crucial part of nutrition. It goes beyond the standard “Nutritional Information” of calories, protein, fat, carbs and some made up percentage of your daily value.

Just as important is the ability to read the ingredient list thoroughly.

The ingredient list is really important because you can actually see which exact ingredients are in the food/drink/supplement you’re consuming.

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Ingredient list breakdown

Here are a few things you should know about it:
– Ingredients are listed from the highest amount to the lowest.
– The specific amount of each ingredient (in weight) is listed beside, unless it’s a proprietary blend.
– If it IS a proprietary blend, the ingredients are allowed to be bunched together and listed as one “blend”.

What are proprietary blends?

The FDA requires manufacturers to list all of the ingredients in a product on its label, along with the amount of each, unless the ingredients are part of a Proprietary Blend.

A Proprietary Blend is a group of ingredients formulated by the company that form a part of the food/supplement.

Why are they bad?

By creating a proprietary blend, you don’t know exactly how much of each ingredient listed is in your supplement. Dosages truly matter when it comes to supplements.

If you are a fitness enthusiast (which I bet you are if you’re reading this) you’ve likely take/taken some form of supplement. One of the most popular supplement categories out there is also one of the most saturated by “proprietary blends”.

If you guessed the “Pre-workout Category” you’re correct, so let’s examine it a little.

propietary blends_2Take for example these 3 proven pre-workout ingredients: Creatine, Beta-Alanine, Caffeine.

A general recommended dose for each are: 5g Creatine, 2-5g Beta-Alanine, and 200mg Caffeine. That’s upwards of 10.2g for an appropriate and effective dose of each.

Some companies decide to throw these ingredients into a “proprietary blend” along with any other ingredients they want but usually in much lower doses.

You’ll likely see 3-10 or even more ingredients bunched together (or should I say blended) with the total amount being only 5g. We determined above that you need more than 5g total in a blend. Actually, 5g is the dose of creatine alone, let alone all the other ingredients.

Chances are, if you’re taking a supplement with a proprietary blend, you’re getting short changed in some sort of ingredient.

Why do companies do this?

There are a few main reasons but these are the most common:

1. Can be more cost effective, saving on the more expensive ingredients by throwing them in a blend so they don’t have to show how little they actually include in the product.
2. Many companies have patents on their blends which helps them stand out as a brand.

Are they always called proprietary blends on the label?

This is a great question. Most often, they’re called something else. You may see anything from “proprietary blend” to “muscle pump matrix” to “advanced recovery blend”, or anything else that sounds appealing.

What to look for: Look on the label, anything that has a group of ingredients together under one amount in grams is a proprietary blend.

Are all blends bad?

Probably not. There may be some genuine blends out there, I’ve seen many multi-vitamins with proprietary blends that MIGHT be legit simply because many of the vitamins/minerals/phytonutrients are not needed in big quantities unless you have a deficiency.

But in terms of workout nutrition, the majority of proprietary blends are cheap cop outs. It’s possible to find supplements with the right dosage amounts and no proprietary blends. Sometimes they just cost more.

Make sure to read the label before buying!

Connect with Expert Chris Diamantakos

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