Research into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sports nutrition industry has shown that the shift in consumer purchasing behaviour has bolstered the healthy living megatrend and increased the projected growth of the sports nutrition market from 8% to 12.6% between 2018 and 2026., Consumer awareness of the benefits on the immune system of leading an active lifestyle is giving an additional reason to focus on athletic activities, and is driving the demand for sports nutrition solutions that not only help consumers meet their fitness goals, but also support their general health and wellbeing.
So, how can producers create solutions that allow them to not only navigate but dominate the competitive sports nutrition market?
Exploring the potential of collagen peptides
As one of the most important structural proteins in the body, collagen ensures the cohesion and elasticity of many connective tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments and muscle fascia. In its native form, however, collagen is hard to digest and needs to be hydrolysed into highly bioavailable collagen peptides to be easily be digested and absorbed by the body.
In the sports nutrition space, one of the most promising benefits of collagen peptides is for post-exercise muscle recovery, which plays a key role in helping professional athletes and bodybuilders, as well as the mainstream, sports enthusiastic consumer to keep their fitness schedules on track.
Why is muscle recovery important?
Demanding training regimes can challenge the human musculoskeletal system. The smallest muscle unit, the muscle cell, incorporates specialised proteins that generate movement. These cells form thin muscle fibers, which are wrapped into bigger muscle bundles by a sheath of extracellular matrix (ECM). During intense exercise, both the muscle cells and the ECM suffer microscopic damage that can result in swelling, pain and reduced strength—negatively affecting athletic performance and extending the recovery time. The level of muscle damage determines the time of recovery between training sessions, as well as the intensity of the following training load.
How can collagen peptides support muscle recovery?
To analyse the impact of collagen peptides on these variables, Rousselot, in collaboration with leading scientists at Newcastle University in the UK, carried out a clinical study which was published in 2019. Two specific indicators of exercise-induced muscle damage were investigated—muscle soreness and function. The study was designed as a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, in which 24 active young men were given a daily dosage of either 20g of Peptan® collagen peptides or a placebo for nine days, including a run-in period of seven days to allow the supplement to take effect. This was followed by the intense physical exercise of 150 drop jumps aimed at inducing muscle damage. The results showed that collagen peptides reduced muscle soreness and improved performance in the period after exercise, indicating that collagen helps to accelerate the recovery process after muscle-damaging activity. In addition to this data and considering that collagen is a key component of the ECM sheath that enwraps the muscle fibres, it is expected that supplementation either prevents damage to the sheath or repairs it faster.
By implementing collagen peptides into product formulation, sports nutrition producers can create science-backed solutions that support muscle recovery after demanding exercise and help consumers keep up with any fitness program or workout class, no matter how intense.
For consumers looking after their bodies in a more holistic way, collagen peptides are also well known for their contribution to maintaining healthy joints and for their beauty from within benefits, especially when used in synergy with vitamins. As consumer awareness of the importance of a healthy immune system continues to grow in today’s climate, this will allow brands to future-proof their product offering and stand out in an increasingly competitive commercial landscape.
Joining forces with the right partner who can supply high-quality ingredients and provide support every step of the way can be vital in a market that is evolving faster than ever before. Our portfolio of premium collagen-based solutions for sports nutrition, complemented by our deep understanding of consumer and industry trends, as well as scientific, technical and application know-how, can help manufacturers develop solutions that meet the consumer demands of today and in years to come. An example of the company's expertise in the sports nutrition field is its partnership with the High Performance Centre Papendal in the Netherlands that sees Rousselot supply its collagen peptide solutions to professional athletes from 2019 to 2020. The goal is to help them achieve better endurance, strength and recovery after exercise, as they train for important matches and tournaments.
Sign up for Rousselot's webinar hosted during the Vitafoods Virtual Expo from 7-11 September to find out more about the impacts of the global pandemic on the sports nutrition market, collagen’s role as an uprising active lifestyle ingredient and expert formulation insights.
Frank Engel is global market development manager, Health & Nutrition at Rousselot
 Euromonitor database 2020.
 Research Dive: Impact Analysis of COVID-19 On Sports Nutrition And Supplements Market.
 Clifford et al. (2019), The effects of collagen peptides on muscle damage, inflammation and bone turnover following exercise: a randomized, controlled trial, Amino Acids, no. 51, pg. 691-704.
 Dar, Q. et al., 2017. Daily oral consumption of hydrolyzed type I collagen is chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory in murine posttraumatic osteoarthritis. PLoS ONE 12(4):e0174705
 Asserin, J. et al., 2015. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, doi: 10.1111/jocd.12174