According to Grand View Research (GVR), the global sports nutrition market size was valued at USD 15.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% from 2020 to 20271. GVR points to several factors that could have contributed to this growth, including an increased consumer participation rate in fitness sports and activities, consumer awareness of the importance of dietary nutrients, and a shift in demographic from core athletes to more “lifestyle” users which broadened the growth opportunity of sports nutrition on a global level. The pandemic has exacerbated these contributing factors by shifting greater attention to health and well-being overall, which has promising expectations for the sports nutrition market moving forward. According to ResearchDive, the global sports nutrition and supplements market which accounted for revenue of about 13.9 billion in 2018, is predicted to reach up to 35.35 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 12.9%2. Post COVID-19, however, the expectation is that sports nutrition will need to start exploring options with added blends to extend positioning from solely performance to other adjacent needs, such as joint health, weight management, immunity health, etc. These will likely address a broader category of consumers within the sports nutrition category, such as those focused on performance nutrition, as well as those more interested in active nutrition or overall health and wellness.
Curcumin is one of the sports nutrition ingredients that has become popular because of the health benefits attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin is recognized for its ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation caused by exercise, which in turn can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. One of the challenges with curcumin is its poor absorption due to its lipophilicity. Gencor™ curcumin ingredient called HydroCurc® is derived from the dried rhizomes of Curcuma longa, carrying all the beneficial properties of curcumin. What’s unique about HydroCurc® is its utilization of LipiSperse®, a patented dispersion technology developed by Pharmako Biotechnologies, which allows the curcumin to easily disperse in water, overcoming the challenges related to bioavailability and efficacy.
However, a lesser-known element of curcumin is the numerous clinical studies demonstrating its ability to aid delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). A recent study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements demonstrated the effect of 500mg HydroCurc® on exercise recovery (Mallard et al, 2020). Muscle fatigue was induced amongst 28 trained individuals who participated and various blood markers were measured. Results showed that those who consumed curcumin had significantly reduced DOMS, lactate scores, and thigh circumference compared to placebo, demonstrating curcumin’s ability to enhance recovery post-exercise. This suggests that consumption of curcumin, specifically HydroCurc® in this case, may be able to assist in quicker recovery and enhance muscle adaptations, which may lead to faster return to subsequent workouts.
Another ingredient that has impacted the sports nutrition sector is Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA). PEA is the next generation of anti-inflammatory analgesics. It is an endogenous fatty acid amide produced by the body in response to stressors, pain, inflammation as a biological response and repair mechanism. Gencor’s branded PEA, Levagen+®, combines high analgesic and anti-inflammatory efficacy for recovery and discomfort relief. It also utilizes an innovative delivery technology to increase bioavailability of its PEA for specific types of applications.
A recent study found that those who consumed PEA (Levagen®+) before exercise had significantly lower lactate scores and reduced myoglobin levels (a marker for muscle damage) compared to placebo3. Interestingly, Levagen®+ also increased protein kinase B phosphorylation following exercise, indicating its ability to stimulate the down-stream region of the mTOR pathway for muscle protein synthesis – a key factor in reducing muscle damage. These results demonstrate that supplementation with Levagen®+ may aid in muscle recovery from repeat bouts of exercise performed within a short duration by reducing myoglobin and lactate concentration.
PEA has also emerged and become more comprehensively studied, as an effective alternative to CBD. PEA has the same effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as CBD. The ECS has a role in many fundamental physiological processes such as mood, pain and recovery. Thus, by acting on various receptors in the ECS, also known as the ‘entourage effect’, PEA has been emerging in various sports formulations as a clinically researched, effective, legal alternative to CBD.
Based on the foundation of its anti-inflammatory effects, PEA is well-recognized with over 350 Papers documenting its wide range of therapeutic effects such as anti-allergic, analgesic, neuroprotective, anti-influenza and modulation of immune response in both animal and human studies4. Therefore is offers manufacturers the ability to offer an ingredient in a formula that addresses adjacent needs – vital sports nutrition coupled with immune health.
The metabolic protein AMPK has also been studied in relation to energy consumption during physical exercise. AMPK acts as the “master metabolic regulator” which becomes activated in situations where energy is being consumed. AMPK restores cellular ATP levels in the body by modifying diverse metabolic and cellular pathways. Gencor’s AMPK, ActivAMP®, is extracted from Gynostemma pentaphyllum, an adaptogenic herb containing a family of compounds that unregulate sestrins. These sestrins activate AMPK and switches on the same fat-burning and energy producing processes that exercise does. By diverting metabolism towards energy, ActivAMP® can influence sports performance by controlling glucose uptake, fat oxidation and appetite.
Finally, a new study published in the Transitional Sports Medicine Journal showed that Gencor’s unique extract of fenugreek known as Testofen®, increased strength, aerobic endurance, and lean body mass in healthy, exercising men. Testofen is frequently associated with supporting levels of free testosterone, healthy sexual desire and vitality, and reduction of normal symptoms associated with andropause in men. To add to its dossier, this newly published study examined Testofen’s effectiveness in lean body mass, fat mass, upper and lower body muscular strength and endurance in response to an 8-week, resistance training program with and without daily supplementation of the extract. Testofen is an effective ergogenic aid for those wanting to rapidly improve their exercise performance and body composition above and beyond exercise training only. The benefit of an ingredient such as Testofen® is its ability to contribute beyond sport nutrition to men’s health overall.
Curcumin, PEA, Fenugreek and AMPK activators are among the new “spotlight” ingredients for sports nutrition. The pandemic has opened the door to new entrants to the market beyond those solely driven by improvement in performance of physical activity. A focus on overall health and wellness by the broader target market will elevate concerns for solutions that address metabolism, weight management, joint health, etc. Manufacturers must be prepared to extend solutions beyond the typical sports enthusiast to those that simply seek an improved quality of life.
 Mallard A, Briskey D, Richards A, Mills D, Rao A. The Effect of Orally Dosed Levagen+™ (palmitoylethanolamide) on Exercise Recovery in Healthy Males-A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):596. Published 2020 Feb 25. doi:10.3390/nu12030596
 Keppel Hesselink, J., de Boer, T. and Witkamp, R., 2013. Palmitoylethanolamide: A Natural Body-Own Anti-Inflammatory Agent, Effective and Safe against Influenza and Common Cold. International Journal of Inflammation, 2013, pp.1-8.