The newest trends in sports nutrition02 July 2012
With the London Olympics fast approaching, Leatherhead has recently hosted several conferences looking at sports nutrition. At one, I was alarmed to hear that athletes could be at risk of disqualification because of their use of popular dietary supplements. At another, I was amazed at the massive growth in the global sports drinks market. So here’s a quick tour of the newest science and market trends in sports nutrition.
Sports nutrition products fall into three main categories – drinks, foods and
According to Leatherhead’s recent global market report on sports performance and energy products, the global market is worth over $42billion. The top three players are US (42%), Europe (15%) and Japan (12%). Between 2006 and 2010, global sales of sports drinks increased by 38% reaching 20 billion litres. Sports foods – typically snack and energy bars – are also popular, but sales of sports supplements outside of the US remain limited due to suspicions about functional ingredients. Most consumers prefer straightforward vitamin and mineral supplements.
The three main benefits of sports nutrition products are energy, hydration and muscle recovery.
Sports drinks mainly address the first two needs. The major players are PepsiCo, Coca Cola and GSK, and typical brands include Powerade, Gatorade and Lucozade. Calorie-free electrolyte tablets, containing minerals like sodium and potassium, are also available to dissolve in water. During prolonged exercise sessions an intake of 60g of carbohydrate per hour is recommended (about 240 kcal). During hard exercise, muscles experience minor protein damage which causes post-
exercise soreness. By consuming protein after exercise, this damage can be rectified. Protein-containing sports drinks can help but, in my opinion, a glass of milk can fulfil the same objective.
Another trend impacting the market is the blurring of boundaries between sports and energy drinks. Energy drink brands such as Red Bull (which contains caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone, B vitamins, sucrose, glucose and water) have been re-positioning their products claiming they help to improve physical and mental alertness.
Sports supplements were once the preserve of body-builders intent on increasing muscular bulk, but they are increasingly appealing to a much broader market. They have three main functions: increasing muscle size, strength and tone; providing energy; and aiding weight loss.
To increase muscle size and tone, consumption of protein and essential amino acids are recommended. Research has indicated that milk whey and casein are better than vegetable proteins. Recommended daily intakes vary from 1.2g to 1.6g per kg body weight, depending on exercise regimes.
For energy provision, a carbohydrate source is needed. However some supplements contain creatine and caffeine to enhance energy provision prior to, or during, exercise. Creatine is thought to help by increasing phosphocreatine stores and by buffering lactic acid, a by-product of anaerobic exercise that leads to muscle pain and fatigue. Caffeine and guarana reduce feelings of fatigue and effort via direct stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which increases adrenaline release.
For weight loss (in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise), supplements such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), carnitine, chromium and fucoxanthin are claimed to increase fat burning. However more research is required in this area as evidence from human studies is inconclusive.
Athletes however need to be careful. At a recent Institute of Food Science and Technology conference, Dr Roger Clemens, president of US Institute of Food Technologists and a former elite athlete, warned that athletes consuming US-legal supplements could be at risk of disqualification under latest International Olympic Committee rules. Even ergogenic aids, like caffeine, can push legal boundaries.
Although Olympic athletes are scarce, amateurs are increasingly engaging in sport, nutrition and exercise in a more professional way. This is why the market for sports nutrition products is burgeoning and why Leatherhead scientists are busy helping food companies to develop opportunities in the sports nutrition market.
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