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Sports supplement makers focus on clean, science-backed ingredients

During the pandemic, some people slacked off exercising while others stepped up their routines. When gyms and fitness centers open again, experts expect activity to spike. Makers of clean supplements are ready to help these consumers recover.

Nancy Coulter-Parker

March 18, 2021

4 Min Read
Sports supplement makers focus on clean, science-backed ingredients
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Americans' renewed value in their health will carry over from 2020. Many have a sense of urgency to evaluate health habits, especially if they weren't looking after themselves before COVID-19. While some people did find themselves more sedentary in 2020, another subset took to the trails or to building their own home gym. As such, indoor cycling platform Peloton saw its stock rise from $26 in March 2020 to $155 per share by January 2021 with a gain of close to 2 million new users during that time.

Likewise, outdoor cycling saw a 20 percent participation increase across categories, from road cycling to mountain biking, while activity app Strava reported almost a doubling in uploaded runs and rides from 2019 to 2020. Those who didn't get active in 2020 for any of a number of reasons are likely thinking about it.

Experts expect activity levels to continue to increase once it's safe to get back to the gym or people feel more comfortable being around others again outside as the weather warms. And with this, interest in sports nutrition products is expected to rise as well.

As COVID-19 pushed us into a new era of how we look at health, supplement categories have evolved to meet new needs. The sports nutrition category is no exception. For instance, as dietary supplements offer greater customization, sports nutrition products are becoming more targeted to unique physiological needs that arise from different kinds of workouts such as weightlifting versus a long run or ride. Product makers are also delineating even more between the different stages of a workout—pre, during and recovery.

Related:Unboxed: 9 vision supplements for heavy screen users

Clean ingredients continue to be a priority in this category. This includes offering cleaner versions of known products, fewer ingredients, plant based, vegan or non-GMO offerings. The continued growth of RX Bars with their fewer than five ingredients and 12 grams of protein are a good example of the focus on clean. Clean can mean back to the basics, with amino acids, protein and coffee still holding court as main ingredients. Clean also is in keeping with a movement toward eating healthier and consumers paying attention to their macros. As well, clean appears in fewer capsule-type offerings, with a continued focus on powders and effervescent tablets.

In addition to clean, more clinically studied ingredients are showing up in sports products and, whether the goal is to simply start moving, to boost performance or to build muscle, sports nutrition in 2021 also focuses on energy. Ultimately, the goal is to have more energy and help the body to be more energy efficient. A boost of caffeine, a focus on hydration or helping cells function more efficiently to produce energy all play into this trend.

Related:New supplements address the body's many responses to stress

Consider including these supplements in your sports set to focus on clean energy and recovery.

What to stock

Country Life Cellular B—Recharge sports supplements

Country Life Cellular B—Recharge

To meet energy demands from workouts, the body relies on mitochondria to convert nutrients into adenosine triphosphate or ATP. Country Life's new Cellular B—Recharge blends whole food and methylated B vitamins with clinically studied functional ingredients, including elevATP, which aim to work at the cellular and vascular level to support mitochondria and ensure optimal performance at the cellular level. SRP: $22.49, 30 capsules

RSP Nutrition Truefit Cold Brew Coffee sports supplements

RSP Nutrition Truefit Cold Brew Coffee

Clean fuel and energy is the aim with RSP Nutrition's Truefit Cold Brew Coffee, which blends grass-fed whey protein mixed with real food ingredients including 12 fruits and vegetables. The combo yields 8 grams of prebiotic fiber, 1 billion CFU probiotics and 2.5 grams of quality fats per serving. Each serving includes 100 mg of natural caffeine from coffee beans to deliver an added boost. Also available in vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon churro. SRP: $35.97, 20 servings

GAT Sport Nitraflex Pre-workout sports supplements

GAT Sport Nitraflex Pre-workout

For athletes who prioritize building muscle, the clinically studied ingredients and compounds found in Nitraflex offer a natural way to get that pumped up feeling from a good workout. Research shows encouraging increased blood flow into muscles can aid long-term muscle growth. In this pre-workout formula, Nitrosigine and L-citrulline help to increase blood flow, while resveratrol, tyrosine, beta-alanine, alpha yohimbine and caffeine, help increase energy, focus and stamina. SRP: $34.99, 30 servings

Nunn Prime Endurance Recover sports supplements

Nuun Podium

Nuun created this three-part series of vegan, non-GMO products to support the unique needs of high performance and endurance athletes. Pre-workout plant-based Prime serves up electrolytes, vegan essential amino acids and adaptogens to aid with hydration. Endurance is complete with electrolytes and carbohydrates for extended energy and hydration. Recover steps in post-workout to jumpstart rehydration and muscle repair with a mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes, L-glutamine and more amino acids. Products sold separately or as a bundle. SRP: $20-$69.98

About the Author(s)

Nancy Coulter-Parker

New Hope Network


As New Hope Natural Media's former Director of Content, Education and Research, Nancy is the founder of NCP Content + Consulting. In this role, she continues to develop and implement content and research strategies related to all aspects of the natural products industry for media outlets, retail chains, associations and brands. 


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