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Will product refinement drive the next decade for the ‘booming’ sports nutrition category?

By Stephen DANIELLS , 24-Jan-2013
Last updated on 12-Feb-2013 at 22:37 GMT

Will product refinement drive the next decade for the ‘booming’ sports nutrition category?

The sports nutrition category is expected to continue to boom, but the pipe may be empty for new product categories, says the CEO of the International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

Jose Antonio, PhD, told NutraIngredients-USA that he expects the sports nutrition category to refine its current offerings, with no new categories on the horizon.

“There may be new ingredients, but no new categories,” said Dr Antonio, who is also a member of faculty at Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

“I do expect to see more protein blends, however. But for amino acids, there is nothing new down the pipe. We had beta-alanine but that was about five years ago. Is there a new beta-alanine? I don’t see it.”

Maturing discipline

Sports nutrition has undergone an incredible decade of development and growth, he said. “Go back 10-12 years and sports nutrition did not really exist as a field.

“If you wanted to do science on sports nutrition or dietary supplements you would be laughed at. Today, it is a legitimate field, and there are dissertations being written about dietary supplements and sports nutrition. Today, it’s a booming category for both academia and industry.”

While the segment has evolved, so have the consumers. “Consumers are a lot more savvy about science-based ingredients.” As the US population ages, there is a widening of the category, he said, so that is not only bodybuilding, but more about general health.

“Flavor is the number one issue,” he added. Such is the importance of flavor that this is often what leads consumers to stay with a product, rather than a traditional brand loyalty. “Sports nutrition consumers will try all sorts of different products. Take a post-workout protein shake, for example, consumers will try multiple products and often settle for the one that tastes the best.”

Pre- & post-workout

The evolution of sports nutrition is no more clear than in the pre- and post-workout product segment, he said. “These are categories that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” he said, and for these it is all about nutrient timing. “There is a lot of science driving the category, and this data shows that post-workout may be the most important meal of the day.”

The pre-workout sector, which is predominantly about stimulants, has come under regulatory scrutiny over the past year, with FDA’s action against products containing DMAA. The majority of manufacturers of DMAA-containing products have since reformulated to remove the stimulant; the pre-workout category has remained robust. The long term prospects for the category remain unclear, with Dr Antonio saying, “I don’t know how much staying power pre-workout products have.”

For post-workout products, Dr Antonio noted that there is a huge amount of data on the importance of nutrient timing. The emphasis has been on protein, with complete protein sources like whey, casein, and soy leading the way.

Essential amino acids are also important, with some people focusing on the branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Adding creatine monohydrate into the mix has also been shown to boost recovery, he said, while fish oil is also very effective.

Product-specific data

With so much data available on ingredients, what knowledge gaps exist in the sector? “Many people consume the products as is [and don’t do their own blends] so it would be good to see individual companies do studies on their products,” said Dr Antonoi.

Such studies are perhaps not a priority for many companies, he said, but some companies like VPX, Celsius, and Muscle Pharm are sponsoring studies.

“There is already a lot of data on the ingredients, but product specific data would help the category as a whole.”

ISSN has a number of position papers available on its website, www.jissn.com . The most recent was for energy drinks, and can be accessed here: http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/1

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