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The Growing Roster of Ingredients for Sports and Fitness Nutrition

Athletes and active consumers are looking for safe, efficacious ingredients that can help them increase lean muscle mass, fuel workouts, improve performance and promote recovery.

Athletes and active consumers clamoring for new and innovative nutritional products are looking for safe, efficacious ingredients that can help them increase lean muscle mass, fuel better workouts, improve performance and promote recovery. Ingredients with science bring more value to a formulation.

Specialty ingredients like creatine, ribose and carnitine are intimately involved in the biochemical processes of energy production focused on the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Energy is released when the bonds of ATP are broken, and replenishing the body’s reserves of ATP becomes crucial for continued sporting activities. These specialty ingredients are directly involved with the structure and/or function of ATP restoration. Other ingredients such as beta alanine, citrulline and glutamine can help delay fatigue relative to ATP cycling.

Caffeine often pops up in discussions of energy and sport, as it stimulates the central nervous system and inhibits fatigue signaling. Theacrine from tea is similar to caffeine but without the potential negative side effects of addiction, adrenaline and racing hearts. Both of these alkaloids impact cognitive function, which is a growing area of fitness and sports nutrition. The non-protein amino acid theanine, also from tea, has been shown to improve cognitive performance and promote sleep and relaxation, often overlooked factors in good recovery and even muscle building gains.

Specialty ingredients such as citicoline, spearmint and the Ayurvedic ashwagandha have been found to impact several areas of cognition important to active consumers and athletes, including attention, processing speed, memory, accuracy, reaction time and psychomotor function (important for muscle movements).

Speaking of muscles, protein is still a powerhouse ingredient delivering essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) for muscle building. Whey is the fast-digesting king of pre-workout formulations, while the slower-acting casein is often a key inclusion in post-workout products. Supplemental BCAAs can help boost the levels of leucine, which is considered by many as the key to muscle protein synthesis (MPS) that rebuilds muscle into bigger and stronger tissue. Other muscle ingredients include beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) for protecting and boosting muscle, as well as fenugreek and a combination of zinc/magnesium/vitamin B6 for increasing testosterone for muscle growth.

Managing inflammation and oxidative stress from exercise is another expanding category, as ingredients from other parts of the nutrition market are studied for sports nutrition benefits. Tart cherry, omega-3 fatty acids and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) are among the most researched for such contributions to recovery formulations.

For more details, check out the special INSIDER report Top Ingredients for Fitness Formulations.

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