SPORTS NUTRITION FLEXING MUSCLE
Once the sole province of hardcore athletes, sports nutrition is hitting the mainstream. An increasing number of sports hobbyists and even health-conscious couch potatoes are adding products designed for endurance athletes and body builders into their diet.
According to the Nutrition Business Journal, these consumer groups today comprise 95% of a market exceeding US $20 billion, a market which has grown at an average rate of 10% annually over the past decade, twice the growth rate of the food supplements market. A number of Scandinavian companies have entered the fray with innovative products catering to mainstream wellness enthusiasts and die-hard adrenaline junkies alike.
Whey to Go Yoghurt
Whey protein constitutes the core of many sports nutrition products. High protein content has been found beneficial in boosting athletic performance and in weight control. Danish Arla Foods Ingredients is an innovator in whey ingredients for the food industry. It recently launched Lacprodan HYDRO 365, a highly hydrolyzed whey protein, which hastens recovery from sports training. Because it is digested and absorbed quickly, it optimizes the body’s muscle-building and repair response following exercise. It can be incorporated into a wide array of food products and supplements, including ready-to-drink beverages, powders, gels, energy bars and tablets.
Last year, Arla introduced another line of whey ingredients for stirred and liquid yoghurt, which increases their protein content from a typical 4% to 7-8%. Nutrilac YO-5369 and YO-5088 have been developed to create protein-enhanced yoghurt products. These ingredients enable manufacturers to turn their yogurts into a convenient, low-fat source of protein without having to compromise on either taste or texture. The growing demand for high-protein yoghurt is reflected in the sky-rocketing popularity of Greek style yoghurt in the U.S.
According to scientists at Tel Aviv University, whey may play a more crucial role in weight control than originally thought. Published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, their study found that whey protein concentrates can be instrumental in treating type 2 diabetes and preventing obesity by stimulating insulin production and lowering glucose levels. Whey protein releases peptides and amino acids in the digestive tract, which stimulate the hormones that affect insulin secretion and food intake regulation. The net effect is higher insulin levels and quicker satiation, both of which are beneficial to weight and blood glucose level control.
Tapping Nutrition from the Trees
Birch sap has long been a traditional drink and folk remedy in Finland, Russia, the Baltic States and Canada. Rich in amino acids, proteins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins, it was widely held to be good for just about anything that ails you. However, with its relatively short shelf life, birch sap remained mainly in grandma’s cupboard until some 10 years ago when an enterprising Finnish couple developed technology to collect and bottle industrial quantities safely without the need for additives, preservatives or heat treatment. Together they launched Nordic Koivu, which manufactures and markets a ready-to-drink birch sap beverage. Birch sap is nourishing and mildly sweet and is considered beneficial in stimulating metabolism and energy. Although it was not originally conceived as a niche sports nutrition product, Nordic Koivu has subsequently been recognized by the Russian Federation Ministry of Sport for use as a sports drink, since it regulates the water-electrolytic balance during exercise. Their expert opinion recommends the use of the birch sap beverage to optimize athletic performance and endurance, accelerate recovery after training and prevent metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease in athletes. While having a loyal following in Finland, most of the company’s revenues are derived from exports.