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5 trends driving sports and performance nutrition

Every athlete strives for improved performance, optimal energy, and fast recovery, but achieving it requires a combination of smart training and the right diet. Innova Market Insights predicts the value of the sports nutrition industry will increase by 8% over 2020, eventually amounting to over $17 billion (£13.5 billion) globally by the end of 2021—although predictions are due to be re-evaluated in light of COVID-19's wider impact. With refined science, exciting new solutions and consumer interest, the sports nutrition market is proving to be a lucrative and valuable field for everyday consumers, athletes and brands alike. Let’s explore key trends that are driving the market's growth.

1. Probiotics

Most consumers recognise probiotics for benefits to gut health. There's increased understanding around the connection between gut health, cognitive health and improved immunity, but more recently we're learning that probiotics can also aid muscle development and recovery. Experts have identified that high performance athletes have different microbiota to amateur athletes, linked to different protein consumption and exercise levels. Probiotics developed athletes have proven improved endurance, muscular inflammation prevention, and reduced recovery time. Consequently, probiotics have become one of the fastest-growing sports nutrition trends and additionally, ESPN reports that athletes comprise the largest consumer base when it comes to product purchasing. On the market, popular brands like ProBar and GoodBelly have started selling snack bars that contain probiotics and other macronutrients. Others, like Nature’s Bounty and Purefood, provide fortified shake powders.

2. BCAAs

BCAAs, or branched-chained amino acids, are a group of essential amino acids that are commonly associated with muscle growth and support reduced fatigue. Unlike other amino acids, your body cannot produce BCAAs. So, athletes have taken to adjusting their diet to include them instead. Although high protein food like eggs and beans contain a decent amount of BCAAs, more concentrated dosages can be sourced through supplements. Many brands, such as Herbaland and Scivation Xtend, have evolved to offering functional foods in the form of snacks, gummies and sweets for athletes to enjoy on the go pre- or post-exercise.

3. Plant-powered nutrition

Contrary to popular belief, protein isn’t the only ticket to improving your performance—and it's certainly not limited to meat sources. Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diets have gained enormous traction in recent years as consumers look to take a proactive approach to their and the planet's health, with rising popularity among athletes. As viral documentaries like Game Changers have suggested, the combination of healthy carbohydrates, low fat, and rich vitamin content found in plant-based diets has proven beneficial for athletes—boasting the likes of increased endurance and improved muscle recovery. In response, companies are slowly moving away from traditional powders and sports snacks, and toward more holistic, plant-based approaches. Consequently, this has had knock-on effects on company operations, with many brands opting for more sustainable practices and packaging.

4. Digital Coaching

More and more sectors are moving to digital—and the sports and nutrition world certainly isn’t exempt nor is this shift only reserved for professional athletes. True enough, AI-fitness company Twenty Billion Neurons notes that the digital fitness industry is expected to reach an estimated $27.4 billion (£21.7 billion) by 2022, growing 10 times faster than the traditional gym sector. One example of such technology is digital coaching, which allows athletes to access customised and on-demand fitness guidance and training. The intersection of artificial intelligence and sport solutions has given rise to more accessible and tailored guidance for athletes of all abilities—from performance to diet—and especially for professional athletes seeking personalisation.

5. Activity Trackers

In addition to digital coaching, another trend that does not appear to lose any interest is the use of wearables. Over and above common smart watches, more brands are innovating their product roster with the goal of boosting athletic performance and overall health. Beyond tracking activity metrics such as distance, speed and power output, many wearables also monitor calorie count, heart rate, respiration and hydration levels. Access to accurate and refined metrics allow athletes to quickly measure impact on their performance according to nutrition and diet changes, or guide how to tailor accordinly. 

Download a free copy of the sports nutrition report (March, 2020) to discover how to win in this booming market.

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