Sports nutrition broadens its appeal

Sports nutrition broadens its appeal

Led by ingredients with specific functions, the sports nutrition world is diversifying into niches and product formats. SHANNA SMIDT takes us through the options  

In the last five years, the sports nutrition sector has averaged 7 percent value growth, outperforming all other categories of consumer health globally.[1] U.S. sports nutrition beverages grew at 15 percent in 2012, with 2013 growth projected at 14 percent.

Demand from everyday consumers is now driving the sports nutrition category toward convenient formats, a greater emphasis on general fitness and health positioning, and greater accessibility in grocery stores.[2] As such, sports beverages and ready to mix (RTM) solutions for pre-workout, during workout, and recovery continue to gain popularity. In addition, vegetarians and vegans are using sports nutrition products for protein supplementation.[3] Nutrition and ingredient manufacturers have been quick to leverage this trend and there have been a number of innovative developments in this field.  

Consumers take part in sport and exercise for four main reasons: performance, appearance, leisure and athletics. From ’Weekend Warriors’ and ‘Gym Rats’ to ‘Elite Athletes’ and ‘Serious Bodybuilders,’ there are significant opportunities for manufacturers to tap into this trend through functional ingredients for these different segments.

Carbohydrates vs protein

Much debate exists within the sports nutrition sector on whether carbohydrate-based or protein-based beverages offer the most benefit for athletes. Endurance training can deplete muscle glycogen and so long-distance runners tend to consume carbohydrate-based drinks. However, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a study in 2004 stating that protein-fortified beverages may also deliver benefits for glycogen loading.[4] This shows that protein, and in particular dairy protein, also plays a role in supporting athletes to endure longer bouts of exercise. Combining carbohydrates and protein probably offers the best option for both endurance and resistance training.

Whey, peptides and BCAAs

The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight per day (g/kg/day).[5],[6] Physically active individuals require significantly more protein than those who are sedentary, with up to 2.0 g/kg/day recommended. While such protein can be obtained through a varied normal diet, supplemental protein (for example in beverages) is a convenient way of ensuring adequate and regular intake of high-quality protein.

In addition to the well-known benefits of protein intake, such as muscle synthesis, whey proteins in particular provide additional health benefits that could help further optimize athletes’ performance. A 2009 study showed that whey proteins are also a good source of bioactive peptides.[7] These novel whey-derived peptides can help to improve vascular function in healthy individuals. The findings were the result of a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial that aimed to determine whether a whey-derived peptide - nitric oxide peptide (NOP47) - affected vascular physiology in healthy human volunteers. This study brings further weight behind the theory that whey-derived peptides are beneficial to athletes, since it demonstrates that NOP47 increases blood flow, and can therefore help enhance performance.

Research has also highlighted the role of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), and in particular leucine, in supporting muscle growth and development.[8],[9] BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine) constitute about one-third of the protein in skeletal muscle.[10] Research suggests that leucine appears to play the most significant role in stimulating protein synthesis. Adding amino acids to beverages in the past has been difficult as it can be challenging to produce a smooth tasting and homogeneous beverage. However, new technology platforms and ingredient ranges include a high leucine content and whey peptides that can help solubilise L-leucine with no sedimentation in beverage applications. Such recent advances in both formulation and delivery technologies increases the bioavailability of beneficial amino acids. This provides a convenient form of leucine and BCAAs, while also appealing to consumers that are looking for a palatable mouthfeel.

Pre-workout – preparing for success

Athletes also need to consider how to prepare their body for a workout. Consuming protein before training is important because it increases the amount of amino acids available to muscles during exercise. To promote muscle maintenance and strength, athletes should select sources of fast-absorbing branched-chain amino acids. For additional benefits, NOP47, a whey-derived peptide system, can increase blood flow by 28 percent, which may increase the body’s uptake of nutrients and oxygen transport, providing obvious benefits during exercise. Furthermore, another peptide system, CFMNitro, has been shown to increase nitric oxide levels in human endothelial cells, which may provide important support in training and pre-workout phases.

Post-workout – time to recover

Following exercise, it’s important for athletes to increase their uptake of key nutrients, not only to boost immunity (See sidebar: “You Can’t Exercise If You’re Sick”), but also to help prevent oxidative muscle stress. An increased level of protein intake is particularly important in the recovery phase, in order to repair muscle tissue and build muscle mass. By incorporating whey protein isolates and milk protein isolates into RTM powders or RTD beverages, recovery products can deliver an optimum combination of slow- and fast-release protein. Milk proteins can offer consumers taste and flavor benefits in an RTD beverage; slow-digesting casein proteins allow the protein to be released slowly in the body, which is beneficial to athletes recovering after exercise.

Blends of dairy whey and casein proteins and vegetable proteins, such as soy or rice, are increasingly being used for performance beverages. With casein and soy proteins having a slower digestion rate than whey and amino acids, the benefits on post workout muscle protein synthesis and recovery can be prolonged further than by drinking a single protein source.[11] Consumers also benefit from the varied amino acids composition from the different protein sources.[12]

Recipe for success

The challenge for manufacturers in sports nutrition is to create products that deliver functional benefits with appealing taste in a convenient, portable delivery format. Despite developments in protein bars and other protein-fortified snacks, consumer demand continues to increase for RTM and RTD beverages with specific functionality. In the sports nutrition market currently, there are a wide variety of functional ingredients that can be easily formulated into performance beverages, and tailored to suit the needs of athletes at different stages and levels of exercise. With growing interest and recent innovations in the sports nutrition market, along with an increasing number of non-elite athletes, this arena is set for sustained success.

Shanna Smidt is Business Development Manager - Sports Nutrition at Glanbia Nutritionals, an innovator in science-led ingredients and customized solutions for fortified foods and beverages, performance nutrition, weight management, health & wellness, and animal nutrition. To source ingredients, email Eric Borchardt at [email protected].

 


[1]Euromonitor blog, 8 March 2013. Retailers look to capitalize on protein supplements and sports nutrition. http://blog.euromonitor.com/2013/03/retailers-look-to-capitalize-on-protein-supplements-and-sports-nutrition.html

[2]Euromonitor blog, 8 March 2013. Retailers look to capitalize on protein supplements and sports nutrition. http://blog.euromonitor.com/2013/03/retailers-look-to-capitalize-on-protein-supplements-and-sports-nutrition.html

[3]Eurmonitor, April 2012. Sports nutrition in the US. http://www.euromonitor.com/sports-nutrition-in-the-us/report

[4]Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2004

[5]Campbell. B. et al., 2007. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J. Intl. Soc. Sports Nutr. 4:8.

[6]Phillips, S.M., Van Loon, L. J. C.,2011. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci; 29(S1): S29-S38.

[7]Ballard. K.D. et al., 2009. Nutrition Journal, Acute ingestion of a novel whey-derived peptide improves vascular endothelial responses in healthy individuals: a randomized, placebo controlled trial

[8]The Journal of Nutrition, Branched-Chain Amino Acids in Exercise, 2006

[9]Phillips, S.M., Van Loon, L. J. C.,2011. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci; 29(S1): S29-S38.

[10]Campbell. B. et al., 2007. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J. Intl. Soc. Sports Nutr. 4:8.

[11]Butteiger, D. N., et al., 2012. A soy, whey and caseinate blend extends postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in rats. Clin. Nutr.

[12]Butteiger, D. N., et al., 2012. A soy, whey and caseinate blend extends postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in rats. Clin. Nutr.

 

 

 

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