Muscle and strength supplements aren’t just for bodybuilders or athletes.
According to Healthline.com, muscle strength not only boosts athletic activity, but also improves overall health. For example, strong muscles can improve stability, balance, flexibility and healthy body weight while potentially improving mood, energy levels and sleep patterns.
Consumers have noticed and the sports nutrition category has become the “active nutrition” category. This demographic now includes non-athletic people who want to improve their physical performance and health.
Ingredient suppliers are responding to the increasing demand for natural sustainable muscle and strength supplements regardless of activity level or age.
Strength of the Market
According to data from Grand View Research, the sports nutrition market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5 percent between 2024 and 2030. The market was valued at $45.24 billion in 2023.
Leslie Lannebere, international marketing manager health at Nexira (France/Somerville, NJ), said vegetarian and vegan products gained the most market share. She also said the sports nutrition market offers different positions depending on whether the need is before, during or after a workout.
“The sports nutrition category has expanded vigorously to become the active nutrition category, which encompasses all types of non-athletes who are seeking to get into their best physical shape to keep their mobility and vitality for as long as possible,” said Annie Eng, CEO of HP Ingredients (Bradenton, FL).
According to Irismar D. Henrie, managing director of Iris Naturals International (Forest Hills, NY), collagen supplement sales grew by 56 percent in 2021, reaching a valuation of $241 million. Collagen is now the second-highest selling functional ingredient in the natural channel, she said.
“We started working with collagen powder 10 years ago and nowadays we are not only receiving more purchase orders, but also inquiries for this raw material, since collagen has been a popular ingredient in food, drinks, dietary supplements and natural products,” Henrie said.
Andrea Zangara, head of scientific communication and medical affairs at Euromed (Spain/Bridgeville, PA), said the muscle and strength product market has seen substantial growth from a wide array of consumer needs with an emphasis on natural, non-animal-derived proteins and clean label products.
“The rising popularity of botanical extracts, known for their benefits in muscle health, endurance and metabolic balance, is reflective of a diverse consumer base ranging from fitness enthusiasts to the older population,” Zangara said.
Jordan Miller, vice president of marketing at Nutrition21 (Saddle Brook, NJ), said about 35 percent of sports nutrition users take supplements to improve muscle tone and about 28 percent said they would purchase a product if it helped support healthy muscle and tissue.
“The more obvious demographics are active nutrition consumers who value the benefits of building strong muscles as much or sometimes even more so than achieving their cardio fitness goals,” Miller said. “The less obvious demographics are older consumers who face muscle and strength issues as they age.”
Mark G. Walin, senior vice president of business development and marketing at BIO-CAT (Troy, VA), said his company continues to observe increased domestic and international growth for muscle and strength products. He is also seeing muscle health and strength as precursors to vitality, mobility and physical activity.
“In particular, protein products remain the tried-and-true cornerstone nutritional regimen for any muscle growth and strength fitness program,” Walin said. “Alternative ingredients may or may not produce the same results as protein products, and more research is needed to test the safety, efficacy, and approval of these products.”
“A few years ago, sports nutrition was dedicated for bodybuilders and athletes. Today active people are also interested in sports nutrition.” Lannebere said. “Nearly one in three consumers globally consume sports and functional nutrition products, with those in Vietnam, South Africa, Indonesia and the U.S. most likely to do so.”
Angie Rimel, marketing communications manager, North American at Gelita (Sioux City, IA), said protein powders remain the cornerstone of the sports nutrition category. Now, consumers of all ages are seeking sports or active nutrition products.
“Most sports nutrition supplements are already mass market,” Rimel said. “Today, you can find protein powders, protein beverages, protein bars, shots, and in fact—protein-enriched anything at nearly any grocery store or convenience store.”
Brian Zapp, marketing director at Applied Food Sciences (Kerrville, TX), said one interesting trend is the blurred lines between food, beverages and nutritional supplements.
“This year alone, we have seen an array of applications developed with our hemp seed protein, including high-in-protein brownies, muffins, puffed/extruded snacks and cereals, yogurts, pizza dough and even alt-meats,” Zapp said.
Steve Fink, vice president of marketing at PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ), said quality clinical science is a major driving force for bodybuilders and athletes when achieving desired results. He added consumers want results that are “noticeable” or “experiential.”
“Other factors include convenience delivered via a broader array of delivery systems, from powders and capsules to gummies, beverages and more,” Fink said. “Another trend is the development of multi-component formulations that are targeted to specific use situations.”
According to Zangara, consumers have a strong preference for natural, holistic supplements. Women are also keener on muscle and strength products than ever before. Botanical extracts such as Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha and ginseng, are favored for “multifaceted health benefits,” he said.
“Particularly noteworthy is the growing interest among seniors in supplements that support muscle strength and contribute to healthy aging,” Zangara said. “This trend is significantly influenced by the recognized benefits of the Mediterranean diet, known for its anti-aging properties and link to improved longevity and reduced age-related frailty.”
Walin said performance matters and consumers are seeking products that have well-designed clinical studies with published results of noticeable benefits.
“Now more than ever, consumers are scrutinizing a product’s source and quality, as well as the supplier’s reputation,” Walin said. “This higher attention to detail is due to the number of products previously placed in the marketplace that lacked results and were not tested for efficacy, quality and safety.”
Miller said it is a priority to make protein delivery more efficient. Consumers want to replace large canisters of protein with forms that are easier to use and more palatable. He said consumers will quickly move on from protein sources if they don’t perform well or fail to deliver desired results.
“One of the most notable trends is the rising interest in plant protein, driven by consumer demand for vegetarian/vegan and clean eating options as alternatives to traditional protein sources, along with ingredients that are more sustainable,” Miller said.
According to Catherine Kwik-Uribe, vice president, quality, scientific and regulatory affairs at Nutrition21, ingredient innovation focuses on maximizing strength, athletic performance and utilization of protein intake.
Nutrition 21 manufactures two notable products for muscle and strength support.
One is Nitrosigine, which is designed to increase nitric oxide levels and promote blood flow to working muscles, providing oxygen and nutrients. The other is Velositol, a mix of amylopectin and chromium that accelerates muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and insulinogenic function to promote muscle growth, lean body mass, quicker muscle recovery and amino acid uptake.
“The category has different need states depending on whether the consumer is looking for support before, during, or after their workout,” Kwik-Uribe said. “Ingredients like Nitrosigine, as a pre-workout blood blow boost, and Velositol, as a post-workout muscle enhancer, can work in tandem to help consumers feel and perform at their best.”
Gelita offers numerous sports nutrition products including its new PeptEndure designed for improving endurance sports performance and its BodyBalance designed for body toning and increase muscle strength.
“Supplementing with BodyBalance, alongside a resistance exercise program, has been shown to improve muscle strength, body mass and fat-free mass,” Rimel said.
HP Ingredients manufacturers LJ100, a proprietary Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) extract with more than 25 published studies demonstrating clear mechanisms of action (MOAs) for muscle, strength and energy.
“Several studies have shown that supplementing with LJ100 can improve free testosterone production, increase muscle mass and energy levels, and promote a favorable anabolic balance by reducing cortisol production, leading to greater gains in the gym,” Eng said.
PLT Health Solutions offers more than a dozen ingredients for sports and active nutrition. However, there are two notable products in the muscle and strength category, RipFactor and Dynagenix.
“From an application standpoint, both ingredients can be formulated into a remarkably broad range of consumer products for the active/sports nutrition consumer,” Fink said. “Clinical data support their use in post-workout/recovery products as well as on a daily basis for people who anticipate strenuous physical activity.”
Euromed manufacturers Spisar, Pomanox and ABAlife, which are derived from sustainable Mediterranean cultivars to cater to the growing demand for sustainable products.
According to Zangara, Spisar is a spinach extract to enhance muscle strength, mass and quality. ABAlife is an abscisic acid-enriched fig extract to improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control for effective energy use in muscles. Pomonox is a pomegranate extract that provides a plethora of health benefits including higher energy and endurance, and a reduction in cortisol levels.
Nexira offers ViNitrox, a proprietary synergistic combination of apple and grape polyphenols. The ingredient is designed to satisfy the demands of athletes in search of natural dietary supplements and healthy performance enhancers.
“Thanks to its plant-based origin, ViNitrox is perfectly suitable to active people, looking for natural ingredients for their activities,” Lannebere said. “ViNitrox offers a number of sports nutrition properties including enhanced and lasting performance thanks to its powerful antioxidant and increase of blood flow.”
Nexira also offers botanical ingredients such as ginseng, which is used as an adaptogen to replenish and balance vital energy, cognitive health and physical abilities, according to Lannebere.
“Formulators are marketers are looking for differentiate their brands,” Walin said. “One way of easily, but effectively doing this is by adding functional ingredients to their protein supplements. Adding these functional ingredients, give the brand the ability to elevate their product performance, and include label claims while delivering on consumer benefits.”
Optiziome P3 Hydrolyzer is a proprietary blend of enzymes designed for protein digestion and performance from BIO-CAT. Optiziome releases 100 percent more amino acids from why protein and 228 percent more branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) from plant protein compared to other enzyme products, according to Walin.
Zapp observed more functional mushrooms are being used in sports nutrition products, particularly cordyceps and shiitake, which can both help reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery.
“Cordyceps, for example, are being used to help improve tolerance to high-intensity exercise by increasing VO2 max,” Zapp said. “VO2 max is a measure of an individual’s maximal oxygen uptake capacity, which reflects their cardiovascular fitness level. Individuals with higher VO2 max levels tend to have better exercise recovery and experience less muscle soreness after strenuous exercise.”
“In the early days of sports nutrition, most of us were DIYers. We did our research and developed our own supplement regimes combining multiple single-ingredient products,” Fink said. “Boy things have changed. Today’s sports nutrition products pack an ever-increasing range of benefit types into a single formulation—looking to create more comprehensive solutions for our customers.”
Henrie said collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, but it is often difficult to get from diet alone. Rimel added that manufacturers should look at the source, quality and research as not all collagen peptide products are identical.
“A quality collagen powder dissolves easily into your beverage of choice,” Henrie said. “Many people enjoy mixing collagen with their morning coffee, tea or smoothie. The best brands make
their collagen flavorless so there’s little to no impact on the taste of the beverage.”
Walin said consumers are increasingly more interested in the source and research on supplement ingredients.
“Not all ingredients are created equal, and formulators need to understand where their products ingredients are coming from, including country of origin,” Walin said. “Furthermore, formulators should look for ingredients that have clinical backing and have been validated.”
Eng said it is important to find ingredients that will work and ensure “the supplier is more than just a supplier.”
“The company should provide creative and effective formulation expertise that can discern if its ingredient is compatible with others, what kinds of fillers and/or binders (excipients) may be necessary, and how it is best packaged,” Eng said.
Zangara said the inclusion of functional ingredients is becoming essential, making brands not only fitness enhancers, but “comprehensive promoters of overall health and wellness.”
“Ingredient combinations should be based on clinical evidence and research,” Zangara said. “Understanding the scientific basis for combining certain ingredients as well as the chemical and physical properties of each ingredient, can guide effective and innovation product development. For example, tannins have been known to bind to proteins and other macromolecules, which could potentially affect their stability.”
Kwik-Uribe pointed out that it can be difficult to use proteins and functional ingredients because of “off-putting sensory characteristics.”
“Targeting ingredients that deliver on both taste and marketing benefits are essential to create a successful product in sports, protein and strength categories,” Kwik-Uribe said.
Science and Studies
According to Zangara, consumers should ideally be referencing published gold standard clinical studies, which are characterized by rigorous methodologies particularly randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
RCTs are the gold standard because participants are randomly assigned to either a supplement or control group, which ensures the observed effects are solely due to the supplement, Zangara explained.
“The study population is another critical aspect,” Zangara said. “It should be relevant to the supplement’s intended use, with a size large enough to yield statistically significant results. For instance, if a supplement is aimed at improving muscle strength in older adults, the study should involve participants from this demographic.”
Kwik-Uribe said it is imperative for manufacturers to use science-backed and branded ingredients to provide confidence and trust in the finished products.
“Finished brands should strive to make the connection between the use of specific ingredients in their products and the clinical studies that support them more visible to their consumers,” Kwik-Uribe said.
As the active nutrition category becomes increasingly popular, manufacturers should use clinically researched ingredients to provide their consumers with the highest quality products. Old or young, everybody needs strong muscles to be comfortable and live healthy lifestyles. NIE
For More Information:
Applied Food Sciences, www.appliedfoods.com
HP Ingredients, www.hpingredients.com
Iris Naturals, www.irisnaturals.com
Nutrition 21, www.nutrition21.com
PLT Health Solutions, www.plthealth.com