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Sports Nutrition Industry Update

Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition

Sports nutrition supplements are in energetic demand by a wide range of consumers who want physical improvement more quickly than with diet and exercise alone. Here’s how to get in the game and win.

Perhaps more than any other category, sports nutrition is flexing its muscles and enduring a marathon of research and development. And excitement truly abounds here—because it’s all about getting into one’s best shape, feeling stronger, more lithe and more competitive on all fronts.

If your team is thinking about launching or expanding a sports nutrition product or line, there are ample opportunities, as it’s not just for the devotees of the Arnold Classic (also known as the Arnold Sports Festival) anymore.

According to a Euromonitor 2016 report, Global Sports Nutrition Retail Value, the sports nutrition category has undergone dramatic growth—from $6.7 billion in 2010 to $10.8 billion in 2015. This growth stems from the increase in consumer recognition of the value of sports nutrition supplementation for achieving fitness goals, observed Peter Schouw Andersen, head of science and sales development for Denmark-based Arla Foods Ingredients. The category was typically very niche-oriented but has expanded with consumers focusing on weight-management and fitness, so sports nutrition has become increasingly attractive to mainstream or casual users.

“Furthermore,” he stated, “another important group has now emerged, most notably in developed markets and in the urban centers of developing markets. It is comprised of people who are dedicated sports and exercise enthusiasts, but are not athletes. Rather, they are highly motivated people who see fitness as the gateway to a high-performance lifestyle. In the context of sports nutrition products, we call these people ‘fitness lifestyle users.’”

In agreement is Rick Antonoff, CEO of Novel Ingredient Services in New Jersey who said that just during the past five years alone, the lines between the sports nutrition, weight management and energy categories have blurred, melded and are more relevant for different groups. For example, he pointed out, bodybuilders and professional athletes who were core users of sports supplements now realize they need to generate energy to power through vigorous workouts and burn fat to stay lean and toned, not just build muscle. Endurance athletes, the traditional consumers of energy supplements, now want to build lean muscle. And, those seeking to lose weight are now consumers of sports nutrition to get the most out of their exercise regimens.

Antonoff added that sports nutrition supplementation has become mainstream with benefits for people of all ages and walks of life—“active lifestyle enthusiasts” as well as a more general, active and health-conscious consumer group. “These include Gen-Xers and Millennials, as well as seniors, soccer moms and dads on the go,” he commented. “These individuals not only want to stay physically active and maintain lean, toned physiques—they are leading busy, high-energy lives and need nutritional support to help them through the day.”

Shaheen Majeed, president-worldwide, Sabinsa, New Jersey, emphasized that the sports nutrition segment has seen much evolution in the past several years—the category continues to see a flux of newer products that emphasize other attributes beyond weight management and muscle-building protein powders.

Majeed pointed to three factors playing significant roles in the category expansion: “consumers’ awareness about the actual meaning of being healthy both physically and mentally, significance of maintaining optimal strength and stamina, and the role of natural supplements in achieving all these in a natural way.”

Nutritional needs are now being recognized as somewhat different between male and female athletes. Noted Tim Hammond, vice president of sales and marketing for the Washington-based Bergstrom Nutrition, “Recognizing how nutritional needs can differ significantly between genders is an evolution that presents exciting opportunities. Sports nutrition research has historically focused on male athletes, overlooking the nutritional needs of females. We see nutritional support for women as an under-developed market with huge potential and are moving forward with female-focused OptiMSM research. Providing supplements that support proper nutrition and maintain hormonal balance may help minimize the effects of the “female athlete triad.”*

This expansion in sports nutrition, said Alison Raban, certified food scientist, BI, California, was “primarily propelled by the ubiquitous protein trend we have seen across the supplement and food and beverage industries on the whole.” Health-minded consumers, she noted, are demanding not only more protein but variety of protein sources, especially plant-based proteins and grass-fed whey, and in new and better-tasting delivery formats. Even though whey protein powders still dominate, rice and soy proteins are gaining traction in the plant-protein space. “An increasing number of new brands are differentiating themselves by switching to plant-based proteins. Novel sources like nuts and pulses have been gaining traction with vegan consumers as well as a growing group known as ‘flexitarians,’ who limit the amount of animal-based products they consume in their overall diet,” she reported.

According to Andrew Wheeler, director of marketing for Illinois-based FutureCeuticals, Inc., today we “live online” versus “go online” and it is evident in the imagery and content online as it is focused on not just muscle, but shifting to providing information centered around healthy lifestyles and the whole food movement (i.e. natural ingredients, plant proteins/plant-based ingredients and clean label/transparency). Consumers read the ingredient deck, look for organics and non-synthetic options … which mirrors clean label consumers in the food and supplement sector.

Today, there is no typical sports nutrition consumer, asserted Missy Lowery, MSc, senior manager marketing for Capsugel in New Jersey. In fact, she observed, “sports nutrition” is quickly evolving into an “active nutrition” market, driven by several demographic groups—seniors who want to maintain mobility and independence; young, affluent consumers who have an always-on-the-go lifestyle who demand clean-label supplements (organic, natural sustainable, vegan, non-GMO [genetically modified organism]).

This emerging consumer group wants supplements that will generally help them gain more energy and endurance, lose more weight, build and maintain muscle, relieve muscle soreness and feel, perform and recover better. “But most active nutrition consumers are familiar with protein but not many of the other sports nutrition ingredients that have been developed by the core users,” she said. “With fitness goals programmed into apps, they are following the social media influencers more than the guy on the next machine at the gym much less body builders and extreme athletes.”

Overall, observed Sendhil Pani, president, Bayir, Inc., New Jersey, the current dietary guidelines from the Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, provided a framework for physical activity that has truly been the impetus for change in the sports nutrition category. “Sports nutrition has moved beyond competition to a desire and drive for sustainable good health. Gyms or fitness centers have evolved to more than a place of merely working out. These have instead become wellness centers that emphasize lifestyle habits, dietary needs, physical therapy, etc. The important item to note is that there is more crossover between the sectors of medical care and fitness with a more holistic outlook on overall health.”

Fitness Trends

Who remembers Jazzercise? It was all the rage in the 70s and early 80s. Tae-bo had its run in the 90s. Pilates, Zumba, yoga and now Tough Mudder and Cross-Fit are enjoying moments. Americans love trends and are quickly willing to try them out and follow them.

Keeping up with how people are enjoying their fitness is important when it comes to developing supplements, as many ingredients can help achieve goals more quickly and safely.

Currently, the two most popular exercise/fitness trends are body weight training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which surveyed approximately 2,000 fitness professionals, exercise physiologists and researchers.

The former features no equipment and is flexible to fit any level of ability. “HIIT alternates quick bursts of high-intensity exercise with short rest periods, and appeals more to serious athletes and younger demographic groups like Millennials, who work out harder and more frequently than any generation before them,” Antonoff explained. “HIIT fitness movements – like CrossFit, Bootcamp, spinning and Tabata training – help build muscle and torch calories. They are great for the mental and physical components of health, but place a lot of wear and tear on the body.”

He added that sports nutrition supplements with performance ingredients like Advantra Z and Kinetiq that safely increase energy and intensify exercise tolerance “are ideal for these consumers.”

According to Antonoff, Advantra Z patented bitter orange extract has been shown to intensify exercise tolerance as much as 83 percent. It safely increases metabolism to jumpstart weight-loss efforts and help increase lean muscle. Its main active compound, natural p-synephrine—a stable synephrine isomer—has a long half-life to provide more sustained energy.

Novel Ingredient Services recently launched Kinetiq, Advantra Z plus standardized levels of narigin and hesperidin, two citrus bioflavonoids that occur naturally in the bitter orange fruit. This thermogenic ingredient has been shown to further boost resting metabolic rate and increase resistance exercise performance. Its new patented fenugreek extract, Physicor, breaks down fat and inhibits fat storage, and also amplifies insulin-like growth factor that signals the body to produce lean muscle and strengthen bones.

Andersen observed that participation in endurance events is growing: between 2009 and 2014, according to www.runrepeat.com, the number of people participating in marathons worldwide rose by 13.25 percent. Another exercise form gaining traction is CrossFit, which he noted is now featured in more than 10,000 affiliated gyms worldwide, half of which are in the U.S. “These activities put great pressure on the muscles, so fast recovery becomes a priority. Participants can benefit from switching from standard whey proteins to whey protein hydrolysates, which are superior-quality proteins that have, essentially, been finely chopped—or ‘pre-digested’—so they can be absorbed more rapidly by the body,” Andersen explained. “In fact, whey protein hydrolysates like our Lacprodan HYDRO.365 can cut recovery times from days to hours.”

Hammond agreed, noting that the typical “weekend warrior” has become more intense with the advent of HIIT, CrossFit and obstacle racing (Tough Mudder and Spartan) which necessitate higher levels of focus, skill and physical performance. These open up new marketing and formulation opportunites “way beyond just fueling,” he maintained. “Published research on endurance and resistance athletes show that MSM may reduce muscle pain, damage and soreness, helping to protect muscles and joints from exercise-induced damage and speeding recovery,” he added.

People who participate in CrossFit, triathlons, cycling/mountain biking, and high-intensity team sports such as basketball or hockey, said Wheeler, “can benefit from FutureCeuticals’ FruiteX-B, elevATP, VitaCherry Sport and Coffeeberry, which can help boost nitric oxide for energy boosting. Body building remains popular, and elevATP, Spectra, Neurofactor and ModCarb are ingredients for sports supplements to support enhanced power, performance and recovery.

Raban attributes the “countless” fitness and exercise trends such as P90X to SoulCycle to Zumba to the increase in consumer awareness of overall health and the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle. The increased participation in high-intensity exercises such as CrossFit “is especially noteworthy because of its meaningful impact on the supplement and food and beverage industries,” she commented. The paleo diet, she said, was first popular with CrossFit enthusiasts and has impacted trends in supplements, foods and beverages. High-protein supplements sports nutrition products following the paleo diet are “gaining traction,” she described, and this is leading to the increase in animal-based protein that is parallel with the growth of plant-based protein products. Popular proteins include grass-fed whey, protein and collagen from egg and chicken, and bone broth.

Exercise, said Majeed, is now being seen in a different perspective, there’s more to it. “For example, yoga is being designed intelligently to help different sport categories like gyrotonic or areal yoga, etc.,” he said, adding that several of Sabinsa’s ingredients are suitable for the sports nutrition category.

Sabeet is Sabinsa’s standardized red beetroot extract high in nitrates, clinically demonstrated to improve athletic performance via endurance boosting. It also helps maintain optimal energy level. DigeZyme is a proprietary multi-enzyme complex, which Majeed said has recently been proven to help reduce pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness induced by exercise. Research has been shown that protease, one of the enzymes in DigeZyme, can reduce bruising, swelling and athletic injuries. And, Sabinsa’s ashwagandha extract helps to increase stamina, endurance, and improve overall health. “Ashwagandha may be a great addition to one’s workout regimen as it can help suppress the oxidative stress induced by longer workout sessions,” Majeed said.

Bayir, Inc.’s ashwaganda, said Pani, is and adaptogen increasingly used for energy and muscle recovery; chondroitin, coleus, garcinia, glucosamine, and fenugreek extracts are also excellent for muscle recovery, while curcumin fits into fitness to help manage exercise-induced inflammation.

Sports Nutrition Ingredient News

As this sector is growing energetically, and the meaning of “exercise” is evolving, covering new ground, so too are suppliers keeping up with research and new ingredients to maintain relevance and fulfill the new demands—and expectations—as described here.

BI’s newest plant-based protein is Lentil Protein, a concentrate that is standardized to 55 percent protein. According to Raban, it has a clean flavor profile that lacks the bitter astringency found in some other plant-based proteins. BI’s Lentil Protein can be used in shakes, both ready to drink and ready to make, and other functional foods like bars and protein-enhanced snacks.

Several existing ingredients have new studies demonstrating efficacy. A new double blind, placebo-controlled study (2017, Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition) showed study participants who used OptiMSM and ran a half marathon experienced clinically significant reductions in both muscle and joint pain, according to Hammond.

Sabinsa’s DigeZyme has recently been clinically evaluated for its ability to manage delayed onset muscle soreness induced by standardized eccentric exercise. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 20 healthy male participants, those who took DigeZyme (50 mg) three times a day for three days, experienced significantly decreased pain and tenderness induced by exercise, according to Majeed. Additionally, he noted, the level of pro-inflammatory biomarkers like creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase also declined.

According to Antonoff, a new placebo-controlled, double-blind study looked at the effects of Advantra Z (2017 Nutrition and Dietary Supplements) on energy and appetite control in 40 overweight adults. The participants who consumed a chocolate-flavored chew containing 100 mg Advantra Z 15 to 30 minutes before their two largest meals of the day for 30 days reported significantly higher positive scores for eating/appetite control and energy enhancement as compared to placebo.

Also, he reported, Novel Ingredient Services’ Physicor has received self-affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for use not only in nutritional supplements, but also functional foods and beverages, which are key to the sports nutrition category.

Sports nutrition supplements containing curcumin that address exercise-induced inflammation may benefit from Bayir, Inc.’s nano-curcumin, for which the company recently received approval of a process patent, according to Pani, who noted that research on curcumin nano-particles shows it can provide a broader range of applications, particularly with beverage applications. “The nano-curcumin is water dispersible, which makes it more user-friendly,” he said.


From Capsugel are two formulation technologies—micronization and self-emulsification—designed to improve bioavailability and threshold dosage of solid and semi-solid actives for delivery in capsules. Both of these formulation techniques may also eliminate the need to fill a capsule with extra amounts of ingredients to compensate for inefficient absorption, according to Stan Glab, manager of formulation and product development.

Micronization, Glab explained, works on the principle that the smaller the particles, the more easily a nutrient can be taken in by capillaries; it reduces ingredient particle size to improve absorption. For example, in liquid form, L-arginine can be micronized—as well as solubilized—in a free-flowing liquid with a high concentration of active ingredients. “Encapsulating this liquid formulation in a Licaps hard shell capsule in a nitrogen-flushed environment has been shown to maintain stability compared to other forms of L-arginine,” he said.

Some actives might not be able to be micronized enough to be readily absorbed, so self-emulsification, which Glab said “takes micronization a step further” is warranted. These are best if they are solubilized into a liquid base. Those that can’t dissolve in water must be dissolved in oil instead. “Solubility is achieved only when a specific dissolving agent is compatible with a molecule’s chemical structure. Liquid formulators can select from a range of emulsifiers. With the right match, the nutrient is solubilized and supplement bioavailability improves,” Glab detailed.

For example, with self-emulsification, a single-dose liquid form of L-carnitine can become fully solubilized into a pure L-carnitine, with all L-form and no D-form; the D-form is known to deplete L-carnitine concentrations in skeletal and cardiac muscles. In this case, Glab explained, “solubility can be achieved by eliminating tartrate salts in the original form via a self-emulsifier—a specific dissolving agent that is compatible with the L-carnitine molecule’s chemical structure. A base form of L-carnitine can also be solubilized; within minutes, a higher potency can be seen with this higher form. To maintain stability, the pure liquid is then encapsulated in a Licaps hard shell capsule flushed with nitrogen to eliminate oxygen and then hermetically sealed.”

Whether it’s plant proteins mixed with other sports nutrition ingredients, in capsules, bars, powders or beverages, the sports nutrition sector will continue to innovate and sometimes reinvent itself, and in some cases, no doubt, will lead fitness trends. Today, there are so many ways to get into better physical shape, and more consumers are making their own programs, and cutting-edge, science-backed sports supplements, foods and beverages are a key part of their winning regimen. NIE

*According to www.femaleathletetriad.org,“The Female Athlete Triad is a syndrome of three interrelated conditions that exist on a continuum of severity, including energy deficiency with or without disordered eating, menstrual disturbances/amenorrhea and bone loss/osteoporosis.

For More Information:
Arla Foods Ingredients, +45 8938 100
Bayir, Inc., (609) 524-9505
Bergstrom Nutrition, (360) 693-1883
BI, (310) 669-2100
Capsugel, www.capsugel.com
FutureCeuticals, (888) 452-6853
Novel Ingredient Services, (973) 808-9000
Sabinsa, (732) 777-1111

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