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Nutrition for the Digital Age: Designing Dietary Supplements for Today’s Esports Athletes

Albion Minerals®
Esports Athletes Esports Athletes

The traditional definition of sports is changing. Athletes no longer belong exclusively on courts or in the gym—they are now also behind computer screens and consoles. The esports market is currently worth $150 billion globally, a figure that is expected to double by 2025. This dizzying growth was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic when more time at home led almost a quarter of consumers to watch their first esports competition in 2020. For dietary supplement brands, the rise in professional gaming presents a unique opportunity to enhance their sports nutrition portfolio by addressing the needs of this new class of athletes.

Like traditional athletes, top esports competitors must train and take care of their nutritional needs to ensure peak performance and recovery. Many health priorities overlap between the two groups, which enables sports nutrition brands to leverage and expand upon their existing offering of proven solutions, while also broadening their consumer appeal. L-carnitine, for example, is a long-standing sports nutrition ingredient that can offer countless performance benefits for esports consumers. However, for brands who want to future-proof their portfolio, it is vital to go one step further by exploring the unique needs and preferences of esports athletes, while also continuously looking for opportunities to innovate. That means paying attention to key health areas for professional and everyday gamers alike, which research shows includes eye health, energy levels, cognitive health, joint health and post-gaming recovery. By combining proven nutrition solutions with new market insights, and taking an innovative approach to dosage form technology, brands have everything they need to level up and start winning in the esports supplement industry ahead of the competition.

Supporting Esports Competitor Needs With Ingredient Technology

Esports athletes leverage dietary supplements and functional nutrition products as part of a broader strategy to maintain and improve their performance. Like other athletes, they typically take a two-pronged approach to nutritional support, looking to support performance and endurance to gain a competitive edge, while also assisting with post-match or post-training recovery.

During the training period of their journey to competition, esports athletes need familiar sports nutrition “pre-workout”—or “pre-game”—benefits, such as enhanced energy, stamina and joint agility. Similarly, mood regulators can help athletes to prepare for the adrenaline rush typical of any sporting activity, as well as help the athlete “come down” from such highs while competing. However, a unique requirement of esports athletes is the need for eye health support, as these competitors have the added strain of long periods of time looking at a screen. Many athletes are practicing at their computers for around 50 hours a week during training, and this eye strain can be detrimental to their long-term health, as well as reducing their ability to concentrate during tournaments.

When it comes to competing, esports athletes experience a similar phase to the “intra-workout” commonly targeted in sports nutrition. The intra-game period requires high levels of focus, hand-eye coordination, quick processing speeds, and sustained and regulated energy, as well as joint agility and mental agility for players to reach their full potential during gameplay. Finally, just like traditional athletes, esports competitors require post-game support to enhance recovery and promote good sleep.

It is also important to keep in mind that the purchasing behaviors of esports consumers align closely with those of traditional sports nutrition consumers. For brands, it remains essential to ensure their ingredients and dosage forms are backed by robust science and clinical proof of efficacy, as well as offering an outstanding safety profile. Leading brands understand the importance of elevating these core qualities alongside an enjoyable, effortless consumer experience. New launches in the sports nutrition category that feature pleasant functional qualities, such as a lack of stickiness and the ability to conveniently consume on the go, are ideally placed to appeal to ambitious esports athletes. Additionally, as more people are becoming aware of the environmental impact of their consumption habits, the need for sustainable and clean label products has continued to grow within the sports nutrition space and remains a priority for gamers and traditional athletes alike.

The Winning Formulation

When developing supplements, the right delivery format makes all the difference in enabling effective, high-quality end products that resonate with consumers. Right now, functional beverages and protein bars remain the delivery format of choice for the gaming masses. However, when it comes to the future of esports, capsules are emerging as a convenient new way for competitive athletes to gain an edge over their opponents. Food and beverage products can be sticky or leave residue on the player’s fingers, which can be distracting or detrimental during gaming sessions. Such products also take longer to consume, which can take away valuable playing time and reduce concentration during a game or tournament. Capsules, on the other hand, can be consumed quickly and easily without any chance for stickiness or mess.

Delivering the Goods

To create innovative capsule-based supplements, brands can explore a variety of dosage form solutions to find the best match for their desired ingredient fill, or fills, to deliver the most effective end product. For example, an immediate-release capsule may be paired with an ingredient that promotes sleep, as a consumer will want it to act quickly. On the other hand, a dosage form that enables the sustained release of ingredients would be ideal for a supplement aimed at maintaining energy throughout a long gaming session. Nutrition brands should also consider the potential bioavailability of the capsule fill, as key ingredients in eye health and energy support may have improved bioavailability in liquid form. When working with such ingredients, manufacturers need to prioritize the seal integrity of their capsules, supported by a dosage form that is formulated specifically to allow for effective containment and release of liquid ingredients.

The convenience of capsules is a major part of their appeal. Previously, to achieve broad health benefits multiple capsules would need to be consumed, yet busy athletes on a training regimen may prefer to avoid consuming multiple products to get the specific support they need. To overcome this challenge, brands can select innovative capsule-in-capsule technology, which enables the combination of two previously incompatible ingredients, such as a liquid and a powder fill, within a single product. Alongside the benefits of providing multiple ingredients for more varied support, this technology also offers the potential to regulate the release of ingredients and prolong their effects. For example, the same ingredient could be encased within both capsules, continuing to be released from the second capsule when the first is finished. This not only offers functional benefits within the body but provides gamers with an aesthetically pleasing product and immediate differentiation with competing products.

Sports Nutrition Levels Up

The rise of esports offers brands an exciting opportunity to rethink the sports nutrition category completely. As the market continues to grow, so too does the potential for brands already operating in the space. By combining the right ingredient technologies, delivery systems, and dosage formats, brands can tailor their dietary supplement solutions to meet the requirements and preferences of esports consumers, enabling them to reach their performance goals and set entirely new ones. To learn more about how Lonza can support brands in developing innovative products for the esports market, visit www.capsugel.com. NIE

Lindsey Toth is a registered dietitian nutritionist and associate director of marketing for Lonza Capsules & Health Ingredients. At Lonza, she is responsible for overseeing global product management for the nutrition portfolio, including go-to-market strategies, product innovation, and product lifecycle management.

Albion Minerals®