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Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition ingredients reflect athletes’ goals to build muscle, reduce catabolism and enhance recovery.

Non-GMO Project

With the world being just recently removed from the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the memories are still fresh. The August spectacle witnessed athletes competing in their respective sports, facing the best the globe had to offer. Some individuals triumphed, while others were defeated.

Those in the nutrition industry are undoubtedly left with countless questions. What tactics did these men and women use to successfully prepare for competition? Did they ingest certain vitamins and supplements? What nutrition trends are being followed?

The answers not only affect elite athletes, but also garden-variety sport players and exercise enthusiasts.


When one participates in a physical activity, whether it is weight lifting or playing a sport professionally, the body is burning energy. Just like anything else, it requires fuel for recovery. In fact, when it comes to the nutritional marketplace, shoppers realize the importance of this issue.

“Consumers are interested in energy, recovery and performance, so they can continue to train and stay in the game of their choice,” said Marianne McDonagh, regional director at Minnesota-based Bioenergy Life Science, Inc., manufacturers of ribose for dietary supplements. “Recovery from muscle ailments is very common. Consumers should look at Bioenergy Ribose to help with muscle recovery, reducing muscle aches and stiffness and for sustainable energy, so they get more out of their training and compete better.”

However, fitness does not entirely revolve around taking the correct supplements needed for recovery. It is also heavily reliant upon a functional immune system, as noted by Hilde Raa, scientific manager with NutraQ, a Norwegian specialty ingredient vendor whose materials are found in sports nutrition products.

“When amateur or professional athletes engage in intensive exercise, they put their whole body under stress—from their muscles to their immune system,” said Raa. “They damage tissues at the micro level and use their energy stores as fuel. This is why athletes/exercisers feel sore and tired, and may succumb to an infectious illness during the hours following a workout or competition.”

Raa added, “A well-functioning immune system is crucial for athletic performance as well as for an active lifestyle, but exercise in itself has impact on the immune function. Research has shown that there is a correlation between exercise and respiratory tract symptoms (RTS) (König et al., 2000; Nieman, 2003). Apparently, physical inactivity increases susceptibility of RTS, while moderate training seems to have a protective effect (Schwellnus et al., 2010). Furthermore, several studies with athletes that engage in strenuous exercise, such as endurance sports, have shown that this group is particularly prone to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) (König et al., 2000; Moreira et al., 2009). This has been demonstrated in several different sports disciplines, for example running, swimming and cycling (Schwellnus et al., 2010) … As the sports nutrition category overlaps into mainstream, consumers are gaining a more holistic view of recovery, fuelling their interest for safe and effective solutions to keep their immune system running strong.”

State of the Sports Nutrition Market

In a world where people are beginning to see and experience the ill effects of consuming foods high in sugar, a greater incentive to live a healthy lifestyle has formed. Most recently, those choosing to take on this new endeavour are not the societal subgroup that the public may expect.

According to Dr. John Deaton, vice president of science and technology at Georgia-based Deerland Enzymes, a contract manufacturer of enzyme-based dietary supplements, more “hobbyists”—those pursuing fitness more casually—are entering the fitness realm alongside one’s “extremists” that includes professional athletes and bodybuilders.

“With 66 percent of Americans active at least three days a week for 45 minutes, large numbers participating in sports, and just under 20 million hardcore athletes, consumers of all ages and backgrounds are increasingly seeking out products that can help them maintain a healthy diet and an active lifestyle,” said Deaton. “This trend isn’t isolated to the U.S.; consumers across the globe share an interest in improving their physical performance and endurance.”

As a result, manufacturers do not have to find themselves catering to one specific population. Instead, they can further expand their outreach to a much more general population, which certainly cannot hurt sales.

Likewise, Chase Hagerman, brand director with Chemi Nutra, had the same optimism when it came to the market’s current status.

“The sports nutrition market has never looked better for both consumers and brands,” said Hagerman. “It used to be an esoteric category of health, but the category has really spread its wings into mainstream territory over the years. Granted, you won’t see hardcore bodybuilder focused brands in mass market retailers, but you will see many of the larger category leaders placing well-established products on those store shelves.”

Hagerman also noted that retailers have not only been able to reach gyms, but they have catered to CrossFit boxes as well, among other retailers. This demonstrates the flexibility and versatility that this market can offer.

Even on a global scale, the sports nutrition market is predicted to reach $33.6 billion by the year 2020, which can partly be attributed to consumers starting to use sports nutrition products for everyday activities, as opposed to strictly fitness, per Aparna Kalidindi, PharmD, BCPS at Natreon, Inc. in New Jersey. Relevant options include beverages and meal replacements, among others.

Beyond that, as Gilbia Portela, marketing manager with NutraQ, noted, the category is expected to have an 8 percent compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2019.

Fascinating Trends

In a market striving to innovate, new ingredients are coming into the fold.

Shilajit for example, an Indian biomass, is often known in that region as the “Destroyer of Weakness,” due to its energizing dibenzo alpha pyrones, or DBPs (lifespa.com).

“Natreon’s PrimaVie Purified Shilajit is now trending due to its numerous clinical studies showing testosterone-boosting effects and now collagen synthesis,” said Kalidindi. “PrimaVie, a standardized extract of Shilajit, contains DBPs, DBP-chromoproteins (DCP), fulvic acid and 40 different minerals, with very low levels of heavy metals. PrimaVie increases exercise endurance and overall fitness level by increasing ATP levels. Clinical studies have shown that PrimaVie can boost total and free testosterone levels by 20 percent and 19 percent respectively (p < 0.05). PrimaVie also significantly boosts nitric oxide levels.”

Upon arriving at a fitness center, it is apparent that the goal of muscle growth is a normality, as many feel that it provides a boost to both physical appearance and overall performance. Today, the marketplace offers a plethora of options to cater to this venture, including pre- and post-workout proteins, from pea to whey.

“Protein is a necessary nutrient that helps build and maintain muscle mass, and for this reason remains the leader in sports nutrition ingredients. Whey, a high-quality protein naturally found in dairy, is one of the best sources of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs),” said Denton. “Whey protein’s amino acid profile contains the highest percentage of essential amino acids, 25 percent of which are the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine, the most important for muscle tissue repair. Accelerated repair of tissue damage is key, and the use of whey protein can drastically reduce the amount of injuries caused by extended periods of exercise and training.”

However, it is important to note that whey protein contains additional pros, besides those intended for weight training. As expanded upon by Denton, “It’s also a rich source of two other important amino acids, methionine and cysteine, which stimulate the natural production of glutathione, one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants and a major player in maintaining a strong immune system. This is beneficial particularly for an athlete, whose heavy training can have a negative effect on the immune system. From casual fitness enthusiasts to extreme athletes, more people are consuming whey protein supplements than ever before.”

Transparency is a key word when it comes to nutrition on a general note, as it can represent organic or non-GMO (genetically modified organism). Manufacturers are continuing to be more conscious of how important this is to consumers.

“Patented, branded, scientifically proven, functional ingredients are at the forefront of this trend because consumers want to know what they are consuming is natural and safe,” noted McDonagh. “Standard sport nutrition ingredients with no research or quality behind them are fading away. This is why Bioenergy Ribose is so popular and in the majority of sport nutrition products.”

Essentially, manufacturers must continue to ensure that their products are clinically tested and proven to yield positive results. This will allow consumers to receive the necessary validation that they will need when shopping for these types of products at health foods stores.

Living in the Present, Moving Toward the Future

If one observes the direction that the sports nutrition market is currently heading in, consumers will continue to have the desire to be healthy and be fit, especially if it becomes a part of their lifestyle. This requires following the proper portion and serving sizes when it comes to nutrient consumption.

“Currently, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein in healthy adults is 0.8 g/kg body weight per day,” said Mike Smith, vice president of California-based Specialty Enzymes and Biotechnologies. “For a 150-pound person, that works out to just under 2 ounces of protein daily. The International Society of Sports Nutrition claims that may be okay for a sedentary individual, but the protein intake for healthy, exercising individuals is higher. Protein intake of 1.4–2.0 g/kg/day is recommended for physically active people. Using that example, an active 150-pound person can utilize 3.4 to 4.8 ounces of protein per day, which in turn should provide the best overall training result. That is, results that build muscle, reduce catabolism and enhance recovery.”

That is where digestive enzymes come into play. As Smith added, “athletes in general consume far more protein than their bodies can digest. The reason of course is a hedge on loss of muscle due to catabolism. To counter this, many athletes, especially bodybuilders and endurance athletes utilize enzymes, particularly protease enzymes to aid with digestion and utilization of protein.”

Being aware of how proteins are stored and digested is just as important of knowing which ones will properly benefit the body in the first place.

“An immune health ingredient that is attracting a lot of interest in the sports nutrition category is the beta-1,3/1,6-glucan from baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae),” said Raa. This beta-glucan ‘primes’ the innate immune system, improving the body’s ability to protect itself (Raa, 2015). Yeast beta-glucan in its purified form is not available through conventional food.

Yeast-derived beta-1,3/1,6-glucan has been studied by independent research groups worldwide as well as by commercial companies, and is recognized as a safe and effective immune-supporting component. Clinical trials have shown that the infection rate in physically-stressed individuals as well as in individuals particularly prone to URTI is lowered after oral intake of yeast beta-glucan (Samuelsen et al., 2014), suggesting that yeast beta-glucan can improve immune function in these groups of people.”

Another factor that will influence consumers’ choices and eating habits revolves around their life choices. Is the individual a meat eater? Is he or she vegetarian/vegan? Depending on one’s diet, this can open up the door for alternatives to whey, for instance.

“It’s also worth noting that the popularity of plant-based proteins, especially pea, is on the rise. An increasing number of people are moving to vegetarian or vegan diets, and some studies have shown pea protein may be equal to whey in muscle building,” said Deaton. Although pea protein has existed for years, it has been receiving extra exposure and attention as of late. Besides the “hobbyists” and “extremists” that Deaton referred to, this additional form of protein could offer interest to an entirely new demographic of consumers who were hesitant in pursuing fitness due to a lack of supplements that could cater to their needs.

Keeping this in mind, perhaps new concepts will turn into major factors when the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea. NIE

For More Information:
Bioenergy Life Science, Inc., (763) 757-0025
Chemi Nutra, (512) 823-2500
Deerland Enzymes, (800) 697-8179
Natreon, Inc., (732) 296-1080
NutraQ AS, +47 21 95 12 00
Specialty Enzymes and Biotechnologies, (909) 613-1660