The nutritional requirements of athletes are different than for sedentary beings, and the sports nutrition market recognizes this. Athletes simply consume more calories and oxygen, damage more muscle, and require more mental focus than us couch potatoes.
Yes, many sports nutrition products have names that sound like they were invented by an astrophysicist with a sense of humor (“Blast Off with New Extreem AMP-lified Polymer Fusion MatriX Composite!!”). But the ingredients inside today’s sports nutrition products are increasingly supported by a high level of science and quality.
Supplement GMPs and a renewed focus on natural sources over synthetic has taken over in a slow wave, in a market which for years was based on chemical-sounding ingredients whose origins could have been the basement lab of Bunsen Honeydew.
Let’s categorize some of the main reasons for taking a sports supplement, and some of the botanicals that can be used for them.
1.) Physical and Mental Performance. Every serious athlete seeks an edge in performance, whether it is from enhancing cellular function, increasing blood flow, or improving mental focus. Fenugreek is sometimes used to boost testosterone, and curcumin and pomegranate are on the short list of antioxidants also known to exert vasodilatory action through up-regulation of nitric oxide. While one cup of coffee is studied to be an excellent way to increase mental focus, non-caffeinated adaptogens are increasingly being used, such as ashwagandha, bacopa, and holy basil.
2.) Energy utilization. Athletes who want to stay “ripped” tend to measure their BMI to two decimal places and count every calorie consumed. So, many botanicals traditionally used for blood sugar control tend to be useful for glucose regulation, such as cinnamon and gymnema.
3.) Muscle recovery. Intense exercise rips apart muscle fibers and taxes all of our main organs and systems, leading to inflammation and oxidative stress. Some botanical ingredients fit the bill, including antioxidants from fruits and spices such as pomegranate, curcumin, and ginger.
Look for new applications and emerging clinical data on various botanicals to support specific functions for these areas, which will help athletes gain an edge without the help of Dr. Bunsen.