A Wider Playing Field for the Sports Nutrition Sector

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    Mar 12, 2013
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A Wider Playing Field for the Sports Nutrition Sector Photo by Kevin Aggarwal

The sports nutrition supplement sector has entered the mainstream, opening avenues for supplement business owners to reach a wider consumer market. Professional athletes, as well as exercise enthusiasts across all age groups, are eager to find the right blend of targeted nutrition to help them achieve their performance goals.In addition to supplements that can replenish nutrients, they’re searching for science-driven sports supplements that cannot only helpthem improve performance, but boost energy levels, beef up muscle mass, enhance workouts, provide quick recoveryand increase antioxidant levels to promote overall health!

According to a 2010 article published in Nutrition Business Journal, sports nutrition was the fastest-growing supplement sector, aggregating a sales figure of $3.2 billion. This figure is expected to reach almost 5 billion by 2017.1

Who needs sports nutrition?
Men and women who engage in sports or exerciseintensely need more nutrients than the average Joe who leads a sedentary life. This target market is characterized by body builders, marathon runners, weekend warriors, joggers, swimmers, skiers and anyone who takes their workouts seriously.

Popular ingredients used in sports nutrition supplement manufacturing
The nutritional needs of an athlete not only depend on age, but the type of sports or activity performed, and the number of hours spent in training. Supplement business owners looking to reach this consumer market should consider partnering with a reputable supplement manufacturerto produce a variety of nutritional blends that can be delivered in a number of formats. Below are just some of the more popular options:

Supplements that replenish nutrients. Supply a broad spectrum formulation containing a higher recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of minerals and vitamins. You can also offer meal replacements to supply calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat and vitamins. Mintel, a market research firm based in Chicago, reported59 percent of consumers use energy bars as snacks in between meals; 50 percent for overall health; 35 percent for meal replacement and 35 percent for protein; 27 percent use them to lose weight; 25 percent for muscle recovery; 23 percent to enhance metabolism and 16 percent to control blood sugar.2

Supplements to improve performance. These are ergogenic supplements containing nutrients and botanicals that are safe to consume and supported by science for efficacy. Ingredients supported by science haveincreased in popularity, as more consumers have become more educated about their effectiveness. Estimatesshow that nearly all bodybuilders, 75 percent of college athletes and more than 50 percent of the general population use ergogenic supplements.3

Supplements to promote energy, enhance pre- and post workout recovery. Supplements that contain antioxidants help fight free radicals that are produced in the body during high-intensity workouts. The addition of carbohydrates replenishes glycogen stores, and protein (amino acids) delivered after workouts can enhance muscular growth and repair. Different amino acids play different roles in the body.

  • Lysine may reduce muscle breakdown.4
  • Carnitine may increase fat metabolism and enhance recovery.5
  • Taurine may lower blood pressure.6
  • Glutamine is needed to maintain healthy immune functions.7
  • Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) may enhance endurance and may help to slow down the breakdown of muscle tissue.8

According to a Sloan report, high-protein powders and drinks have moved mainstream providing mass market opportunities for supplement business owners and retailers. According to Nutrition Business Journal, sports nutrition powders are the main drivers in the sports supplement category. Their revenue is expected to increase from $2.8 billion (2010) to $4.2 billion (2017).9If you’re a supplement business owner, you might want to consider adding a custom protein powder to your product line or updating your existing formula. Be sure to partner with a company that is known for its superb flavoring capabilities. Having an effective product is only half the battle – you need to make sure it tastes great, too!

Other popular ingredients for sports nutrition formulations include:

  • Co-enzyme Q 10 or what is commonly known as CoQ10 is used as an energy nutrient and may help improve endurance performance.
  • Creatine monohydrate may help to increase strength, lean muscle mass, power and energy. It is often combined with beta hydroxy beta methyl butyrate (HMB) which may help to inhibit protein breakdown.
  • Tribulusterrestris may help to provide strength and stamina during an event.
  • Caffeine, particularly in the form of guarana, is used to increase fat metabolism, muscle contractility and endurance.

Having an excellent product that can deliver consistent results is the key to building loyal patronage to your brand. In order to provide your customers science-driven formulations, partner with nutraceutical manufacturers that go beyond the standardexpectations of quality manufacturing. Look for extra credentials such as third-party GMP-certification, awards and accolades, and years of reputed experience in the industry. To get the most for your money, you might want to consider going with a nutrition manufacturer that offers in-house services such as logo/label designs, packaging, warehousing and drop shipping.


  1. Sloan’s report - Top 10 Functional Food Trends, Y.A. Elizabeth Sloan sloantrend.com/Articles/IFT/2012-04Top10FoodTrends.pdf
  2. Ibid.
  3. Developing Products for Athletic Performance, Natural Products Insider, Vol. 13 No. 8 July 2008. naturalproductsinsider.com/lib/download/asset-developing-products-for-athletic-performance.ashx?item_id={385E625E-FB05-47D6-9660-B9F20B9E7CA1}&item_name=library_asset-developing-products-for-athletic-performance
  4. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein, Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E122-9. PMID: 9252488. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9252488
  5. Supplementation of L-carnitine in athletes: does it make sense? Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):709-15. PMID: 15212755. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15212755
  6. The potential health benefits of taurine in cardiovascular disease, ExpClinCardiol. 2008 Summer; 13(2): 57–65. PMCID: PMC2586397. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2586397/
  7. Glutamine, exercise and immune function. Links and possible mechanisms, Sports Med. 1998 Sep;26(3):177-91. PMID: 9802174. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9802174
  8. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion, J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011 Mar;51(1):82-8. PMID: 21297567. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21297567
  9. Sloan’s report - Top 10 Functional Food Trends, Y.A. Elizabeth Sloan.sloantrend.com/Articles/IFT/2012-04Top10FoodTrends.pdf

Author's Profile

Nutricap Labs is a full service supplement manufacturer. We primarily manufacture custom protein powder and also offer label and packaging design services and order fulfillment services to our customers.

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