While protein has dominated the sports world, and in large part still does, an array of differentiated products now cater to the diverse audience of health and fitness enthusiasts. Armed with limitless information online, consumers are well-equipped to evaluate brands. Research, quality verifications, and a transparent marketing approach can help companies gain an edge.
With growing emphasis on maintaining healthy habits throughout life, the sports nutrition market continues to expand from traditional strength activities to active fitness regimens, such as gym classes like yoga, high-intensity interval (HIIT) training, and CrossFit, said Cliff Barone, global marketing, Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition. “With lines blurring between professional athletes and everyday gym-goers, more consumers are using supplements to enhance or maintain their active lifestyles.”
In recent years, there have been major shifts in consumer attitudes across generations, he added. “According to a global survey conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) and commissioned by Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition (CHN), there has been a 126% increase in growth by U.S. millennial consumers between 2009 and 2017 looking for supplements to address lack of energy and fatigue. In addition to increased energy, post-exercise recovery is becoming more important to this generation of consumers.”
Many experts cited an overall increase in “active nutrition” or “active lifestyle” consumers fueling demand for supporting dietary supplements and functional products. In discussing active nutrition, James Komorowski, chief science officer, Nutrition 21, LLC, Purchase, NY, noted “an increasing number of consumers prioritizing a healthy lifestyle through staying active and proper nutrition.”
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2017 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, 76% of Americans are taking dietary supplements, and this number is up 12% from just two years prior, said Mr. Komorowski. “Additionally, the report shows that dietary supplement users tend to have healthy habits: 89% of supplement users try to eat a balanced diet, 79% visit a doctor regularly, 72% do not smoke, 70% maintain a healthy weight, and 69% exercise regularly. All of this goes to show that the consumer’s mindset toward active nutrition and healthy lifestyles encompasses more than just taking the right multivitamin; it means consumers are increasingly interested in leading a healthy life. Supplements containing high-value, clinically substantiated ingredients are uniquely positioned to help consumers accomplish this.”
According to a recent report by Technavio, the U.S. sports nutrition market is expected to surpass $8 billion by 2019, with a compounded annual growth rate of more than 7%. Of that expected growth, protein products are predicted to make up 90% of the share, “proving that protein products remain the bedrock of the sports nutrition industry,” Mr. Komorowski said. The increasing demand for protein isn’t isolated to the U.S. either. When looking at global trends, the market for protein is expected to reach $43.3 billion by 2020, which will make up a large part of the predicted $45.3 billion global sports nutrition market.
“In recent years, the sports nutrition market, more specifically within the protein space, has shifted some of its focus from hardcore bodybuilders and professional athletes to include more active individuals who align more closely with the consumer profile of a weekend warrior or fitness enthusiast,” Mr. Komorowski continued. “To substantiate this, the market research firm Research and Markets recently conducted a separate study that found the functional protein market segment within sports nutrition is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 6.6% from 2017, to reach a $5.73 billion market by 2022. Additionally, a newer segment, ready-to-drink protein—currently a $2.7 billion market—is expected to grow due to shifts in end-user demand.”
The consumer protein landscape continues to diversify, broadening its reach from elite athletes and bodybuilders to include more active individuals who are looking to protein-rich products to supply them with everyday energy, Mr. Komorowski added. “Protein is important to include in a daily diet mainly because of its many benefits, including increasing muscle mass and strength, boosting energy, reducing hunger, and assisting in weight loss. But those consumers who don’t get enough protein out of their daily diet tend to look to protein products, such as RTDs, bars, or powders to supplement their intake, ensuring that they meet their daily requirements.”
According to Shaheen Majeed, president worldwide, Sabinsa, East Windsor, NJ, the increasing number of health and fitness oriented consumers has helped sports nutrition become the fastest growing category in consumer health. “These well-informed people tend to have knowledge of the effects of exercise on protein utilization, meal timing to maximize the anabolic response, and awareness that lack of exercise and attention to diet are fueling the global obesity crisis.”
A recent Euromonitor International survey showed that while finished products still cater mostly to men, women are growing as a key target group for sports nutrition, Mr. Majeed added. “Manufacturers are beginning to develop and market sports nutrition products for women. Interestingly, women appreciate that what helps them in the gym also helps them in their busy lives, which is an opportunity for brands.”
According to Mariko Hill, product development executive, Gencor, Irvine, CA, active nutrition consumers have helped create a new market for products, positioning sports nutrition in the mainstream. “Aspects from the mainstream have also been adopted into the sports nutrition market, such as the ‘natural’ and vegan trends, which has stemmed the development of innovative products for a wider audience,” she said. “Because the lines between these two sectors are slowly blurring, both energy and recovery categories target a vast demographic, from everyday consumers for concentration to the professional athlete to help endure a marathon. Recovery products, however, still predominantly target those individuals who undergo some form of strenuous activity, needing products that help reduce downtime after a heavy session and/or competition. With the increase in individuals wanting a more active lifestyle, as well as being more aware of how sedentary lifestyles and a poor diet can impact our health, they are more motivated than before to start adopting a healthier lifestyle.”
While protein supplement users are a strong consumer base, casual sports nutrition users are emerging, according to Sébastien Bornet, vice president of global sales and marketing, Horphag Research. “These include mainstream consumers like fitness enthusiasts and individuals focused on weight loss, particularly in the millennial generation. We’ve found that many of these consumers are motivated by wellness goals and ambitions to prevent health issues later in life. The baby boomer generation is also a driving force behind sports nutrition market growth. Similar to millennials, baby boomers are becoming more interested in incorporating regular exercise into their routines to live longer, healthier lives.”
Generally, there is growing understanding among athletes and active people that exercise, diet, and nutrition have a direct impact on health and performance, said Andrew Downey, marketing manager, Xsto Solutions, Morristown, NJ. “As this awareness increases, consumers will continue to look for supplements that support their healthy and active lifestyles. Active, younger people are looking for more energy- and performance-driven supplements, whereas the older demographics are geared toward joint/muscle pain/inflammation, and chronic health issues. Considering the many side effects of prescription and OTC pain relievers, it’s not surprising consumers are exploring other options, often products derived from food sources. As an example, our Cuvitus is a whole-fruit cucumber extract with scientific evidence supporting reduction in biomarkers related to pain, comfort, and quality of life.”
In the past, sports nutrition products were targeted at young, performance-oriented, healthy males looking to get bigger, faster, stronger, said Larry Kolb, president, TSI USA, Inc., Missoula, MT. “Today, the consumers of sports nutrition products include women, elderly consumers trying to age gracefully, and the weekend warriors—people seeking an active lifestyle, not to the level of an athlete, however, very committed and enthusiastic about their sport. While performance is still driving sales of sports nutrition products, recovery has become a major driving force, due to the change in the overall consumer base.”
Age-related loss of muscle mass, also called sarcopenia, is one of the greatest long-term threats to remaining healthy and functioning independently with advancing age, Mr. Kolb added. “A loss of muscle mass in the range of 35-40% and strength of 20-40% between the ages of 20 and 80 years are common. Sarcopenia starts in the thirties, with the rate of decline increasing during aging. Decrease in physical activity leading to muscle atrophy and a loss of appetite resulting in insufficient nutrient intake are key factors in the development of strength and muscle mass loss.”
Sarcopenia is connected with physical disability, reduced quality of life, and death. Strength training and specific nutrients to reduce muscle protein breakdown are important tools to maintain muscle health, Mr. Kolb noted. “The gracefully aging consumers want to maintain and improve energy, mobility, and independence as they age. They want to feel youthful, stay active, and avoid injury. They do not want to increase muscle mass, but rather retain lean muscle or improve muscle recovery after exercise, injury, or illness. They seek to improve mobility, strength, and stability in order to maintain physical independence.”
Elyse Lovett, marketing manager, Kyowa Hakko, New York, NY, also noted a surge in demand among the emerging, growing, active-lifestyle group of users. “All sorts of demographics are looking for energy and recovery products,” she said. “Speaking in terms of lifestyle users, you have your younger demographic that’s looking to get their best workout in or be on top of their 5K for the weekend. On the other end, you have your active pre-retiree/retiree maybe looking for an extra energy jolt for their golf game or recovery after a tennis match.”
Young people tend to be more focused on products targeting energy or performance, according to Tim Hammond, vice presidents of sales and marketing, Bergstrom Nutrition, Vancouver, WA. “Things like being bigger, stronger, faster, or more flexible are important to them. While many youth and middle-aged people think joint health products are just for old people, they should strongly be considered as a preventative measure for active recovery and a healthy aging supplement protocol. CrossFit athletes are a group that could benefit from MSM supplementation as they are challenging different sets of muscles with exercises that continually change and are not just a series of repetitive motions.”
Consumer interest in sports nutrition is now widespread, noted Penny Portner, director of marketing, Bioenergy Life Science, Inc. (BLS), Minneapolis, MN. Athletes of all skill levels and age want products that can provide much-needed energy and help them recover faster. “They are motivated by the desire to be healthy and fit and live longer, more productive lives.”
Annie Eng, CEO, HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL, said the sports nutrition market has grown significantly in part thanks to fun and challenging workouts such as mud runs like Tough Mudder and HIIT training attracting more consumers. “People are enjoying working out and getting into shape. Feeling good and looking good are two of the best and continual motivators. Millennials who are now starting families are figuring out how to keep in shape, and are using technology to help them do that: fitness trackers such as Fitbit wearable technology, as well as ‘smart’ workouts such as Peloton, which allows individuals to be part of a class with others and a trainer while at home.”
Demand for clean label supplements continues to grow, as consumers become more accustomed to checking labels on their products before they make a purchase, said Lonza’s Mr. Barone. “According to NMI data, 34% of supplement users look for products that are free from artificial colors and flavors, while 31% of consumers rate non-GMO as crucial. These educated consumers also look for quality reassurance through third-party accreditations, such as Non-GMO Project Verified and organic labeling.”
In addition, it’s increasingly important that sports nutrition products are safe, high-quality, and supported by substantial scientific evidence. “The NMI data highlights that 61% of consumers rate unquestionable safety as a key driver for supplement purchasing behavior, while 58% of users state they need to have proof that the product works before committing to buying,” said Mr. Barone.
Paul Clayton, PhD, chief scientific advisor, Gencor, also said clean labels and transparency are important to consumers, and that research seems to be driving product sales. “Consumers have become more skeptical, and are looking for evidence behind products. One product which has taken off in the U.K. and in Europe is Lyma Life. It is not directly aimed at performance but is increasingly perceived in this light. In their marketing, they talk about all of their ingredients being fully characterized and standardized to their active constituents, and backed by 50 research groups and 197 clinical trials. This is perhaps an extreme example, but the enthusiastic reception for this very expensive product has set a precedent that other sports supplement providers are looking at and trying to mimic.”
People consume sports nutrition supplements hoping for a range of health benefits, from weight management to muscle building to endurance, said Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. “But some offerings in this classification contain illegal, potentially harmful, ingredients. It is essential that sports nutrition manufacturers take care to comply with regulatory requirements, and follow sourcing and testing practices to avoid problematic ingredients such as those banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or those flagged by the U.S. FDA.”
Consumers expect companies to take steps to ensure their products are free from banned substances including anabolic drugs, and be transparent regarding quality procedures, he added. “People want products supported by scientific research, with benefit claims clinically validated. The Internet provides people with access to every kind of information the moment they think to seek it out, so providing transparency about products is a crucial component of success in this category.”
Sports nutrition consumers typically look for three types of benefits, according to Greg Ris, vice president of sales, Indena USA (Seattle, WA and Milan, Italy): 1) the experience of feeling more alert and focused, 2) the experience of reduced soreness, and 3) the feeling of “fresher” muscles and a desire to go back and exercise/train again.
“Clean labels are often ‘soiled,’ as each person’s definition of ‘clean’ varies. Transparency has a tolerability threshold because many practices—from the provenance to the processing—are proprietary and their revelation would be damaging to a brand. Banned substances testing continues to ascend in prominence.”
Human research demonstrating consumer-relevant outcomes (e.g., increased performance or muscle mass) can be a real selling point, Mr. Ris added.
Younger millennial users are searching for products that contain ingredients they understand, noted Kyowa’s Ms. Lovett. “Ingredients that are well researched and backed by multiple clinical trials are definitely key. More and more consumers are demanding to know where their ingredients are coming from and how they are manufactured.”
Consumers want safety and efficacy, said HP Ingredients’ Ms. Eng. “Clean labels allow for safety and transparency. Organic, non-GMO, and vegan are characteristics that bring value. Research of course is necessary, as consumers will take the time to learn.” Savvy buyers can do their own online research to make purchasing decisions, and they aren’t afraid to question the brand marketer, she added.
“In Bergstrom Nutrition’s view, sports nutrition is a broad category that should meet all the demands of an active lifestyle,” said Mr. Hammond. “Our efforts consider the entire exercise recovery process, therefore we conduct research on healthy populations with measurable outcomes. We then examine how that information can benefit a wide range of end users, from those desiring to remain active as they grow older to competitive athletes wanting to improve and maintain their fitness levels. We believe there are also real benefits to consumers whose jobs demand strenuous activity. Daily supplementation with OptiMSM could reduce their muscle soreness and help relieve joint stress, in turn making their life and labor just a bit easier.”
Today, consumers expect products to be made with clean, all-natural ingredients that are backed by science, Bioenergy’s Ms. Portner agreed. “New products like Revive are sought-after because it is clinically proven to be a non-caffeine energy generator, perfect for fueling your body with the energy that it needs. Consumers also looking for products that have been tested by trusted third-party sources. They look for that ‘seal of approval,’ so transparency is very important.”
Consumers are always looking for a competitive edge in new products, according to Xsto’s Mr. Downey. “There is an inherent preference for smaller dose applications. For instance, an ingredient with a 300-mg dose stands to do better than an ingredient with a 2- or 3-gram dose. It is important that a product is convenient and easily fits into the lifestyle of a healthy person. A tuned-in consumer will do their research before buying a product, so clean labels and scientific-support also play a big role in decision making. Anecdotal evidence does not help establish an efficacious ingredient. It is also important that a product helps them achieve a certain goal and they see results, which will build loyalty.”
The bottom line is that consumers expect safe and effective products, said TSI’s Mr. Kolb. “Ingredients need to have clinical validation, published in reputable scientific journals, allowing the interested consumer to dig into the research and validate the claims made by the manufacturer. Next to research, consumers pay premiums for clean label products, natural ingredients, no artificial sweeteners or colorants, plant-based, and third-party certifications.”
Experts agreed that quality is an essential consideration for supplement manufacturers. According to NMI data, 59% of U.S. consumers tend to base their purchasing decision on product quality, rather than price (43%), and this figure has grown 11% since 2009, Lonza’s Mr. Barone noted.
“Companies are becoming more transparent and providing information about ingredients in terms of efficacy, safety, and sourcing to help differentiate their product and establish consumer confidence,” he said. “As consumers are highly conscious about the supplements they consume, it is becoming more important that ingredients are backed by research and have clinical proof to support safety and effectiveness.”
With strong scientific evidence, companies can help build trust among consumers, he added. “Sports nutrition is one area where consumers are keen to explore the science behind the products, as an increased awareness of the varied benefits of ingredients means that people are looking to specific supplements to deliver benefits such as energy generation, reduction in muscle soreness, and post-exercise recovery.”
Quality is comprised of two components: chemistry and biology, noted Indena’s Mr. Ris. “Being able to make the same, exact bioactive in each batch and showing through independent studies in humans that said bioactive is safe and effective, defines quality as a consumer would expect.”
Mr. Majeed said companies need to do their due diligence. “Manufacturers of sports nutrition supplements, indeed for all categories, should buy ingredients from pre-approved vendors that they have carefully vetted. Formulators should seek out well-researched ingredients supported by safety and efficacy data.”
Uniformity from lot to lot (standardization), sustainability, and authentic raw materials are essential, he continued. “Then when the ingredients arrive at the manufacturing plant, they should be tested for identity, potency, and purity, with fit-for-purpose testing specific to the ingredients and know to uncover any likely faults or adulterants. Manufacturing should strictly follow GMP requirements, and then test the finished product at the end. Marketing claims should be carefully developed, with substantiation on file and readily available for regulatory inspectors.”
Ultimately, “transparency is crucial,” said Kyowa’s Ms. Lovett. “For good, quality ingredient manufacturers and finished products that are using these ingredients, transparency will come naturally.”
Gencor’s Ms. Hill said it helps if companies can identify and characterize their supply chain as a “network of excellence,” where the various entities involved “can document that they work to the international standards of GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices), GLPs (Good Laboratory Practices), and GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices), and meet related standards including all relevant ISOs.”
Having third-party certification, such as NSF Certified for Sport, also helps build trust with consumers, particularly for professional athletes, Ms. Hill added. “This will help ensure that the product has undergone certain procedures, proving quality, safety, and efficacy of its ingredients and that it contains no banned substances in the sporting context.”
Formulating with branded ingredients supported by science can help companies ensure they deliver quality products, according to Mr. Downey. “It is important to have scientific data to demonstrate your effect on biomarkers related to performance, pain, discomfort, and other sports nutrition related categories. Cuvitus has been shown to have a positive benefit for TNF-alpha and other ILs related to temporary pain and inflammation (Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences, 2018).”
Ms. Portner agreed that demonstrating clinical validation and third-party certification can help raise the bar, as they ensure a product is tested for both quality and safety.
Making a Difference
Companies are under more pressure to differentiate themselves in an oversaturated sports nutrition market, according to Horphag’s Mr. Bornet. “Consumers are becoming more active in educating themselves on what is in the products they purchase. There’s more demand for clean labeling and natural ingredients with proven benefits. Companies should tailor their offerings to meet these growing consumer needs and incorporate natural, clean ingredients into fitness formulations.”
To stand out in today’s market, Indena’s Mr. Ris suggested, “Tenaciously commit to the pursuit of evidence, build intellectual properties around the target, seek unmet or under-met need areas (e.g., poor bioavailability/bioactivity), and educate. Also, don’t forget that women are different; show that your product works in women, too.”
Consumers are hungry for information, so explaining the research behind ingredients, and helping them make informed choices will allow companies to differentiate their brands in today’s crowded market, said Kyowa’s Ms. Lovett.
There’s a fairly simple formula for product development, according to Sabinsa’s Mr. Majeed. “Sports nutrition consumers are looking for products they believe will help them achieve their desired goals. Solid research will support trial of a product, but a consumer will only buy it again if they perceive results when they use it. Ergo, products a company offers for sale should be formulated with ingredients supported by clinical evidence, and contain the amounts used in the research.”
While proteins are dominant in the sports nutrition world, “they are looking a little long in the tooth,” said Gencor’s Dr. Clayton, “and differentiation is getting increasingly difficult in this section.” New flavors and marketing strategies may have an impact, but for more lasting success, “introducing brand new mechanisms of action (with clinical proof) is exciting for the trailblazers and opinion formers, and they can do a good deal in this social-network age to make a product successful. ActivAMP by Gencor is a case in point; excellent work showing how this compound modulates the AMP-K/mTOR axis got people talking, and consumers who experimented with it saw clear results. As a result, sales have grown year after year.”
With increased competition, companies need to understand their target audience and develop products that meet their evolving needs, said Mr. Barone from Lonza. “No longer is it ‘one size fits all’; instead there are several active consumer targets, such as so-called weekend warriors and sporty millennials, who exercise regularly. Now that the average sports nutrition consumer has changed significantly in recent years, the scope for potential further applications has grown too, including fat burning and recovery, as well as more rounded wellness support, such as immunity.”
There is an opportunity for manufacturers to develop targeted and combination products that address specific health concerns to help their supplements stand out in the retail space, he added. “Lonza’s DUOCAP capsule-in-capsule technology can bring together multiple incompatible ingredients in one capsule—overcoming any potential formulation challenges, such as different release profiles. For example, L-Carnitine can be formulated in the outer capsule and released quickly, with capsaicin extract released later from the inner capsule to support weight management and exercise recovery.”
It is getting easier for consumers to recognize low-quality products, noted Xsto’s Mr. Downey. “Clean-label, open source products (vegan, non-GMO, organic, natural, sustainable, etc.) with clear scientific evidence will fare best in the age of the Internet.”
Ms. Portner agreed that companies making products with branded, patented, all-natural, and scientifically proven ingredients will stand out. “Products that do as they claim and are not created from a complicated formulation will gain attention. Companies must include key marketing information so their audience is informed about why their product is better. This must be done for in-store displays and online marketing.”
Bioenergy Ribose can help differentiate standard athletic performance supplements, she added. “It is an all-natural source of cellular energy that is already made in your body, but your body’s demand is greater than it can supply on its own. It also helps reduce stiffness and soreness and helps your muscles recover faster so you can get back out there and do more.”
Investing in clinical research will ultimately go a long way toward product differentiation, said Mr. Hammond. “For example, Bergstrom Nutrition’s continuous investment in research (over 35 studies on OptiMSM) has enabled us to discover new applications for MSM and support claims language. Also, the fact that OptiMSM is the only MSM distilled for purity and the only MSM made in the USA—along with also being Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), ISO, and FSSC-certified—speaks for itself in terms of our commitment to quality and differentiation within the marketplace. Another distinguishing factor about OptiMSM, beyond its efficacy, is that studies show MSM is synergistic with other actives.”
In the past, formulators of sports nutrition products and consumers had only a handful of effective ingredients to work with (e.g., protein or creatine for strength athletes; or caffeine and carbohydrates for endurance athletes), said TSI’s Mr. Kolb. “The science of sports nutrition has evolved tremendously over the last decade and new effective ingredients such as PeakATP and myHMB have emerged. The energy/recovery market is extremely attractive, with excellent growth opportunities for clinically validated ingredients. The clinical validation allows marketers to use structure-function claims to communicate benefits to the consumers. Marketing companies can differentiate their products by choosing effective, validated, quality ingredients.”
As consumers continue to take control of their own health and well-being, demands for more innovative sports nutrition products will inevitably grow, said Lonza’s Mr. Barone. “Both ingredient selection and dosage forms will become a key focus for manufacturers, as they look to develop supplements that are as effective as possible, while meeting consumers’ increasing demands, including clean label and proven health benefits.”
As the market marches forward, Dr. Clayton said personalized sports nutrition could become more significant, “as we have seen in personalized nutrition in general. This is already going on at the top levels where NFL players, international cyclists, and other elite performers have their own coaches and nutritionists. If it comes down to the mass market, then it will obviously be somewhat compromised, and become semi-personalized in most cases. With emerging science linking the microbiota to performance parameters such as stamina, this sector could also generate various sports-orientated pre- and probiotic products.”
The market will need to continue to segment and specialize in order to cater to the specific needs of certain groups, said Mr. Downey. “The weight loss, endurance, recovery, pain, and inflammation segments will have different consumers and lifestyles which need a unique approach. The market is likely to break out by age and activity as well.”
The broadening of the consumer base for sports nutrition, and products becoming more mainstream, will place further pressure on supplement companies to offer safe and clinically validated ingredients with benefits that support the diverse needs of the market, said Mr. Kolb. “While improvements in training and performance will continue to be important, there is increasing focus on recovery and what that means for the competitive athlete as well as the everyday, health-conscious consumer.”
Safe, quality ingredients supported by clinical evidence are often the backbone of successful product innovation.
Kyowa Hakko manufactures Cognizin, the branded form of citicoline, which is an important brain health nutrient found naturally in the body. Cognizin has been shown clinically to support focus, attention, and mental energy, said Ms. Lovett. Cognizin is made by a patented fermentation process to yield high purity and quality. It is also GRAS, stable, and soluble, making it ideal for sports nutrition beverages.
L-Carnitine is a popular choice for supplement manufacturers looking for an energy and recovery solution, said Mr. Barone. Naturally produced by the body, the ingredient plays an important role in converting fat to energy that can improve muscle performance. “Lonza’s L-Carnitine ingredient has over 30 years of strong science to support it, making it easily integrated into a wide range of functional foods and nutritional supplements for the sports nutrition market. In-depth research by Lonza CHN has found that its Carnipure L-Carnitine ingredient has significant recovery benefits, helping to reduce tissue damage and muscle soreness following exercise (Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2002). In addition, a number of human studies have shown that Carnipure L-Carnitine can increase blood flow to support performance, reduce muscle soreness, and improve recovery time, as well as reduce markers of metabolic stress (Am J Cardiol, 2008).”
Gencor’s Ms. Hill noted the company’s HydroCurc and Levagen have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to support recovery. “Exercise-induced inflammation is a major cause of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which delays the time for athletes to get back to training. By reducing markers of inflammation (Nf-kB/TNF-a/cytokines) and influencing receptors involved with pain, HydroCurc and Levagen both have great profiles to reduce downtime post-exercise.”
Furthermore, Testofen by Gencor can increase total testosterone levels, helping athletes increase lean muscle mass and decrease body fat, while also increasing functional threshold power when undergoing sub-maximal exercise.
For serious players, synergistic blends of actives are already gaining ground, according to Dr. Clayton. “ActivAMP and Testofen, for example, are a particularly useful combination for muscle toning, building, and training; and when you add an osmoprotectant such as betaine or glycerin, the improvements in output are quite significant. But it depends on the sport, the activity and what exactly the consumer wants to achieve.”
Sabinsa’s Sabeet standardized extract from beetroot is an ideal choice for sports nutrition due to its demonstrated potential to increase endurance, and general health and wellness benefits, said Mr. Majeed. Sabinsa’s DigeZyme multi-enzyme complex has been shown to minimize DOMS from exercise at a dosage of 50 mg administered three times a day for a period of three days.
In a recent clinical trial, supplementation of Sabeet in 20 healthy male volunteers for 14 days resulted in statistically significant improvement in cardiovascular and exercise performance from baseline to final visit. Additionally, increased circulating nitric oxide (NO) levels, decreased levels of lactate dehydrogenase, and significant change in hs-CRP and ESR (measures of inflammatory status), in the active group post-exercise vs. pre-exercise was observed (IJIRMS, 2016).
In another double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 20 healthy male volunteers with no known musculoskeletal pathology received either a placebo or DigeZyme multi-enzyme complex capsule (50 mg) three times a day for a period of three days. Results suggested that DigeZyme was able to decrease the associated pain and tenderness induced by standardized eccentric exercise. Additionally, decrements were observed in the McGill Pain Questionnaire showing high significance in the active arm. There was also a declining trend in the level of pro-inflammatory biomarkers (i.e., creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase) (Sports Nutr Ther, 2016).
OptiMSM has been shown to reduce muscle soreness following exercise and positively influence other markers of exercise recovery (J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2012; FASEB J, 2013), said Mr. Hammond. “MSM has been shown to reduce muscle damage from oxidative stress and inflammation following exercise. Interestingly, MSM has antioxidant properties but is not itself a direct antioxidant. Regarding sports nutrition, this is a very important distinction, where direct antioxidants can blunt the adaptive response to exercise and subsequent performance gains. MSM improves the body’s innate antioxidant pathways, like glutathione or SOD, making MSM use supportive of adaptation (J Pharm Pharmacol, 2011; Inflammation, 2013).”
HP Ingredients’ Ms. Eng said supplementation with LJ100 Tongkat Ali (standardized to 40% glycosaponins, and greater than 22% eurypeptides) aids in creating a favorable anabolic state (building up), while suppressing catabolic state (breaking down), thus enhancing performance.
In a study of 30 men, LJ100, through its apparent ability to maintain low-normal levels of cortisol and high-normal levels of testosterone, improved anabolic state during intense endurance workouts (J of Int Soc Sport Med, 2006). LJ100 also appears to positively impact strength and muscle quality in middle-aged women.
The company has recently launched Microencapsulated LJ100 to support food and beverage innovation for sports and fitness performance and recovery. Microencapsulation helps to mask the bitter taste of LJ100 and eliminates the need for expensive flavor compounds or other masking agents, said Ms. Eng. It also allows for slow release of the actives, protects from interaction with moisture, heat, and oxygen, improves stability, bioavailability, and promotes prolonged shelf life.
The company’s nitric oxide booster NoMax is abundant in flavanone-O-glycosides, according to Ms. Eng. “It has two mechanisms of action that help the body produce its own energy in a more sustainable manner. NOMax is now enhanced with L-citrulline (which replaced L-arginine) to increase the production of nitric oxide, while also providing antioxidant protection to reduce the harmful effects of free radicals generated by sustained and repeated physical activity.”
ParActin Andrographis paniculata promotes muscle health and recovery through several mechanisms of action, she added; it improves skeletal muscle strength and exercise performance, reduces muscle damage and lowers serum creatine kinase, reduces fibrosis and pro-fibrotic factor (biochemicals that inhibit muscle regeneration), and reduces inflammation in the skeletal muscle via inhibiting the pro-inflammatory switch NF kappa B (Skeletal Muscle, 2014).
ATP is the cell’s energy currency, noted TSI’s Mr. Kolb. “The human body contains about 250 grams of ATP, and the daily ATP turnover is roughly the body’s weight, which highlights the importance of ATP as the body’s energy source. Numerous ingredients try to increase energy by indirectly increasing ATP stores, however, a patented form of ATP is available as PEAK ATP, allowing consumers to directly supplement ATP.”
PEAK ATP shows measurable and meaningful improvements in athletic performance after just one dose, he said. Acute, one-time, supplementation with PEAK ATP has been shown to increase training volume (weight lifted) and number of reps (J Strength Cond Res, 2017).
Total muscle mass is always in flux; new muscle is being built while parts of the muscle breaks down. Total muscle mass is the sum of muscle protein synthesis and breakdown. “TSI’s HMB has a unique mechanism-of-action; it has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis via the mTOR pathway, and it inhibits protein degradation via the proteasome pathway (Nutr Hosp, 2015). HMB has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis by 70%, while reducing muscle breakdown by 57% (J Physiol, 2013).”
HMB reduces muscle damage and inflammation after exercise, and increases recovery, Mr. Kolb continued. Due to its strong effect on reducing muscle breakdown, HMB is specifically effective during strenuous exercise, reduced periods of recovery, and in novice athletes, all situations with increased muscle breakdown. HMB attenuates muscle and strength loss during sustained energy deficit induced by calorie restriction or endurance exercise.
“We believe that branded ingredients play a major role in the growth of the market,” said Mr. Kolb. “Branded ingredients such as PEAK ATP or myHMB stand for leading quality and help with consumer education.”
Indena’s Mr. Ris said quercetin—the most abundant flavonoid in most diets—emerged as an energy/performance ingredient in 2006, with dozens of clinical trials exploring its efficacy related to endurance and immune function among a wide variety of athletic populations. “One of the admitted challenges of quercetin is its delivery into the blood across a cross section of individuals; it is challenging to absorb. Very recent clinical research points to the combination of Phytosome technology with quercetin (known as QUERCEFIT) yielding dramatic enhancements (about 10-20 times) in acute bioavailability.”
However, as with many delivery systems, augmented bioavailability does not necessarily translate into increased bioactivity (results) until demonstrated, he added. “In a pilot study with amateur male and female triathletes, two weeks of supplementation with QUERCEFIT yielded significantly greater time improvements in each of the three legs (swim, bike, run), accompanied by reductions in blood markers of oxidative stress and improvements in subjective markers of recovery (Minerva Medica, 2018).”
Nutrition 21’s Mr. Komorowski, noted two of his company’s sports nutrition ingredients both work to positively impact energy levels and enhance muscle recovery, Nitrosigine and Velositol. “Arginine is a well-known amino acid used by the body for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), making it a commonly used ingredient in many sports nutrition products. NO has been shown to be a key factor in generating greater blood flow and vasodilation, which is critical during resistance and endurance training because it allows oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to working muscles. Enhanced blood flow is important both intra-workout and post-workout as it has been shown to help with muscle growth and recovery.”
Several studies have shown that Nitrosigine, bonded arginine silicate, enhances levels of both arginine and NO and is a more bioavailable form of arginine than arginine HCl. The unique Nitrosigine complex bonds arginine and silicon together and is stabilized by inositol. “Overall, Nitrosigine enhances levels of arginine and NO, increases blood vessel relaxation, and improves flexibility of arterial walls, which all flow into significant benefits for the end consumer,” said Mr. Komorowski. “Along with these improvements to blood flow and NO levels, Nitrosigine quickly, safely, and significantly improves mental acuity and processing speed by 33% within 15 minutes of a single dose, and even reduces muscle damage from exercise.”
The company’s Velositol is a patented ingredient shown to double the effects of protein and exercise on muscle protein synthesis (MPS). In a clinical study, subjects took 6 grams of whey protein or 6 grams of whey protein + 2 grams of Velositol and then completed bilateral isotonic leg extensions. The results of this study showed that Velositol doubled MPS compared to whey protein alone.
When added to protein, Velositol’s novel complex enhanced insulin action, helping to safely increase the body’s amino acid uptake. Additionally, Velositol has been shown to increase levels of several myokines, specifically musclin and fractalkine, which are released by muscles during exercise to initiate MPS. “This is a key differentiator for how Velositol brings benefit over protein supplementation alone; it helps the body initiate MPS with the release of myokines, and it helps the body with the uptake of key nutrients needed to efficiently conduct MPS,” said Mr. Komorowski.
Nutrition 21 is also bringing to a market a new endurance-boosting ingredient, Lepidamax, which features maca as the main ingredient. An in vitro study demonstrated the Lepidamax formulation significantly enhanced cellular energy production compared to other maca blends.
Horphag Research’s latest ingredient, Robuvit, is a natural antioxidant derived from French oak wood that is shown to support sports endurance and performance. A 2015 study published in Minerva Cardioangiologia found Robuvit improved triathlon time for athletes by up to 11%. “This research also showed that Robuvit helped to reduce post-workout cramps and soreness, so athletes were able to get back to training faster,” said Mr. Bornet. “Robuvit has been suggested in clinical trials to increase generation of ribosomes, cellular machinery assembling proteins, such as muscle fibers in training athletes. Correspondingly, athletes may adapt more rapidly to training with muscle built. Most recent research finds that metabolites (urolithins), developing after supplementation with Robuvit in humans, improves mitochondrial and muscle function.”
Robuvit has also been studied for its energy boosting properties. A 2015 study of healthy individuals published in Phytotherapy Research showed that general fatigue sufferers who supplemented daily with Robuvit reported feeling more energy and fewer symptoms in as little as four weeks. “Robuvit is rich in roburins and other flavonoids unique to oak wood,” said Mr. Bornet. “Research shows that roburins enhance basic cellular functions to combat the aging process, increase energy, and fend off fatigue.”
Additionally, the company’s flagship ingredient, Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract, has been shown to enhance sports performance by boosting nitric oxide production. This increases blood flow to muscles, which allows athletes to move faster and exercise more by satisfying oxygen demand to muscles.