Developing Dietary Supplements for the Physically Active Women
by Judi Quilici-Timmcke, M.S.
There is a market opportunity in developing dietary supplements for physically active women who may be avid joggers, swimmers or skiers, or who take numerous aerobic or spinning classes a week. These women may or may not compete professionally in sports but, either way, with the amount of physical work they are performing, they need more calories and nutrients than the average woman.
There are different needs for the young woman who is active and menstruating compared to older women. It has been demonstrated that the two most important nutrients for menstruating women athletes are calcium and iron, whereas older woman athletes still have calcium needs, but iron may not be an issue if she is not menstruating. A product line developed for both of these age groups may include a high powered multiple vitamin/mineral, pre-workout product, beverages to supply fluid and electrolytes and a recovery product.
A woman athlete needs a high-powered multiple vitamin/mineral made especially to meet her physical needs. Consider that many of these women participate in strenuous workouts, but may also reduce daily calories to reduce weight and increase lean muscle mass. Although male athletes have been shown to consume greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals, female athletes have been shown to only ingest 60 percent to 65 percent of the RDA.
By reducing daily caloric intake, female athletes are reducing their intake of vitamins, minerals and protein from food, which may cause deficiencies and reduce bone density. A superior vitamin/mineral is necessary with as many bioavailable forms of minerals as possible. Calcium forms that have been shown to be bioavailable are bisglycinocalcium, calcium citrate malate and calcium citrate. Other important bone-health nutrients for a multi include magnesium, zinc, boron, manganese, and vitamins D and K.
Another reason for developing a substantial vitamin/mineral multi is to assist the many women who train and/or compete at high intensity levels and who experience hormonal imbalances. Although these women are constantly trying to maintain a lean body, they jeopardize their health and performance by overlooking this condition. Athletic amenorrheaabsence of the menstrual period for a long period of timeis one of the conditions observed in women runners, bicyclists, gymnasts, dancers and body builders. The causes may be reduced body fat stores, rapid weight loss, poor eating habit, stress or the sudden onset of exercise. It is seen in more women athletes who are vegetarians. Amenorrhea is preceded by low circulating estrogen levels, which cause a calcium imbalance leading to reduced bone density and osteoporosis. This condition may also increase cardiovascular disease risk. The condition has actually been named female athlete triad, referring to women who have problems with an eating disorder, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. It poses a serious health threat in the United States, and presents an opportunity to develop products to benefit the health of these women. According to the American Dietetic Association, these women should increase calories (including fat consumption), reduce fiber intake and reduce intensive training.
A multiple vitamin/mineral with a bioavailable form of iron may also improve womens physical and mental performance. Iron is involved in delivering oxygen to the tissues, including the brain and muscles, and helps to produce energy at the cell level. Iron deficiency causes athletes to easily fatigue and compromises their physical performance is compromised. During the reproductive years, women have a greater need for iron; reduced iron stores increase muscle fatigue and reduce endurance.
Taste and color of iron products cause various product formulation problems and reduce customer compliance. The bioavailability and negative consequences of some iron chelates on the gastrointestinal tract may also cause customer dissatisfaction; therefore, it is key to find iron forms that provide a high quality product, even if there is slightly higher cost. Among the well-researched, higher-quality iron forms products such as SunActive® Iron (from Taiyo) or Ferrochel® iron chelate (from Albion Advanced Nutrition).
There are many types of athletic bars, powders and drinks positioned for men, but what about products for physically active women? Pre-workout products provide the quick carbohydrates needed for high intense workouts at the gym, club, outdoors or wherever they train.
Sport beverages marketed for women should restore fluid and electrolytes to replenish electrolytes and fluid. Sport snack products for the woman athlete may supply a quality source of protein to help maintain blood sugar, provide energy and help build and repair tissues. This is also an opportunity for the product formulator to add calcium into the female athletes diet.
Recovery products are also necessary for women to extinguish free radicals produced during high intensity workouts. Free radicals cause damage and inflammation to muscle tissue. These recovery products may supply antioxidants and restore carbohydrates to the body and increase glycogen storage in the muscles depleted from physical loads.
High protein powder, chips, bars or other snacks provide energy, build and repair tissue after high intensity workouts, and could provide calcium and isoflavones to support bone density and hormone balance. Soy protein with isoflavones as a foundation for a highpowered energy product would be a great addition to this line of products. Soy provides a good source of protein and calcium, and its isoflavone content may promote better hormone balance for women with low estrogen levels. Recovery products can replace depleted glycogen stores, supply protein and individual amino acids with added nutrients such as ATP, coenzyme Q10 and other antioxidants.
Developing products for physically active women is potentially profitable for companies and can open up a new market for their business by making available products for the critical needs of both the young and older woman athlete.
Judi Quilici-Timmcke is the president of Q-Tech Services Inc., providing consulting and product formulation services for companies in the dietary supplement industry. She was previously vice president of research and development for Weider Nutritions specialty market, and the head of product development for Rexall Showcase International. Quilici-Timmcke holds a masters degree in dietetics and exercise physiology.
Key ingredients to consider in development of products for physically active women include:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Soy protein with isoflavones