By Dr Nigel Gericke
Present in over 80 percent of workout supplements, caffeine is without a doubt still the number one ingredient used for sports nutrition products and has defended this position over years. It is an ingredient that has a stimulant effect on the Central Nervous System, known to increase endurance and performance—the principal energy objectives whether for elite athletes or the growing demand of gym goers who increasingly want to make the most of their workout.
However, the negative side-effects of caffeine are gaining more and more awareness in the industry. Not counting the daily caffeine consumption from coffees, teas, and soft drinks that people consume, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) refers to caffeine intoxications with as little as 250mg of caffeine, resulting in feelings of restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia and racing pulse. This is already often exceeded with a single dose of a sport supplement. Since this is a major issue, the FDA recently announced it will take steps to better protect consumers from the dangers of highly concentrated and pure caffeine products.
This is the main reason why many final product developers have started to look for caffeine alternatives that provide similar stimulating effects, however without the typical caffeine side effects.
A promising ingredient that was researched and recently launched is a proprietary, patent-pending standardised extract of Mangifera indica with a remarkably similar activity to caffeine—in particular without the negative side effects that are common for caffeine. Clinical studies have demonstrated that this ingredient provides sustained mental and physical energy.
Increasingly educated consumers, coupled with the trend of adopting healthy lifestyles, renaming or promoting energy-providing sources such as guarana, yerba mate, kola nut and green tea, which still contain caffeine, is not sufficient to address the caffeine problem. And it is not only consumers who are becoming aware of the negative health impact of caffeine. Euromonitor International consumer health analyst, Chris Schmidt, suggests companies should do more to capitalise on the increasing consumer interest in caffeine substitutes following a growing unease among both consumers and regulators over the possible negative effects of consuming too much caffeine. Lithuania was the first country to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors in 2015 and major companies have followed suit.
The trend is more and more visible with any of those steps taken. Consumers, regulatory institutions as well as companies are moving away from caffeinated products and are focusing on clean-label, experiential caffeine replacements.