How To Read The Ingredients Panel On Supplements

How To Read The Ingredients Panel On Supplements

The last 40 years or more have seen a massive growth in development of the supplement industry. Heath and fitness stores that were once an anomaly stocking regular vitamin C tablets and sunflower seeds have now grown in to masses of variation of protein powders, legal ‘steroids’, fat strippers, amino’s, herbal extracts and MCT oils.

However, one only has to take a look at some of the ingredients on the labels and be completely dumbfounded as to what each one is, particularly as they have varying names.

Therefore it can be an extremely daunting task understanding which product is best and what is a dud.

It certainly doesn’t help when the claims of some manufacturers skew the ‘evidence’ of the effects and benefits. Trials of rats and mince may not necessarily translate to offering any benefit in humans nor be safe.

Supplement Facts Panel

First things first is to identify the supplement facts panel, if this is missing, so is the compliance of FDA rules. Every dietary supplement should have the supplements facts panel, if it hasn’t don’t buy it.

The facts panel allows you to see a breakdown of the ingredients and how much in included per serving. Some products conceal the exact amount of each ingredient included by calling it a proprietary blend.

READ: Avoid the scam that is a proprietary blend

If the ingredients are not concealed by a proprietary blend the supplement facts panel offers an insight in to the make up of each supplement and allows you to compare product by product.

This then may help you determine which is the right product for you.

However, it isn’t always as simple as that…


What can be quite difficult to fathom is how much a serving actually is, you may believe 1 pill or tablet or even scoop is 1 serving when actually 1 serving could be made up of 2, 3 or more units. The pill or scoop being 1 unit.

Therefore it is imperative that you are comparing apples with apples when looking for supplements.


Another thing to consider is that unless there is a quantitative amount of carbs, proteins or fats for example, that exceeds 500mg it can be declared as zero.

This means that it there’s 499mg of carbs it doesn’t have to be listed and you may not be aware of its presence. I’m not quite sure how you feel about that..?

Recommended Daily Intake

Usually the vitamins and minerals listed in the product are provided with information of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of each by the FDA.

The daily value percentage is then calculated on the amount of each vitamin and mineral listed and present in the supplement.

I.e if your recommended daily intake of Vitamin D was 10mg and a particular supplement included 5mg that would be 50% of your RDI of Vitamin D.

That said, some ingredients will not have an established RDI value, these ingredients tend to be plant extracts or even fish oils such as Omega-3.


Even though the FDA require all supplement ingredients to be included on the label, some of the nutrients can be described as the source ingredient.

An example is the listing of Ascorbic Acid for Vitamin C. Where possible, in our reviews we will try to include the nutrient plus the source ingredient or other common names to provide a clearer picture.


Other supplement facts must include whether it was produced in a manufacturing plant that handles items of food that may be harmful to those suffering from allergens such as nuts.

A good supplement will tell you if it hasn’t been contaminated or at risk from contamination.

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Ben BA(Hons), PGCert

Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. He has always been interested in sport and he started playing rugby at the age of 6 represented his town, county and school. Ben also enjoys cycling, has started skiing and is in the Army Reserve representing his Regiment as part of the 150 Regimental Shooting Team. He holds a bachelor's and postgraduate degree in sport exercise & nutrition.

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