The energy market’s feverish pace is unmatched, as consumers continue to look for more ways to live life in the fast lane. America’s obsession has become a global epidemic with no end in sight. This is great news for those in the business of creating and delivering energy-based products.
The term energy can mean a lot of things. For most, it circles around the most popular legalized drug on the planet, caffeine. However, depending on whom is asked, it could be defined as being able to finish a task, the jolt needed to get a task done, the power to stay awake, or even as bold as suggesting it is the fountain of youth. In its truest sense, it simply means “the capacity to do work,” and of course, that is what we need the kick for.
The Power to Energize
In physiological terms, energy is defined as the ability to convert foodstuffs into fuel to power cells to perform bodily functions, with muscular function, cardiovascular efficiency and brain activity being the most important and the ones consumers seek supplements to address. Most legal stimulants such as caffeine are limited by function, and provide more of a euphoric or perceived effect of energy—a proper dose to avoid overuse and habituation remains unclear. Limited ergogenic data show muscle strength gains and cardiovascular benefits with mild stimulant use, but actual dose amount, timing and the effect of adaptation of use aren’t entirely clear. Most studies examining the ergogenic effects of caffeine show positive immediate results with doses under 300 mg, but longer duration training effect studies cannot entirely isolate caffeine as the differentiator, as the training itself may have been the root cause of the performance improvements (PLOS ONE 8(4): e59561. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059561). Stimulant use has its place and is recommended by this author as part of a good performance training program.
While stimulants help mood and immediate energy needs, both those seeking performance gains for sport and those looking for general daily energy should be looking for cellular energy options and non-stimulant products to help increase energy levels, improve muscle contractile force, and increase focus and mental activity. In fact, after consumers get their morning “cup of joe,” rather than clinging on to the hope that their next dose will be around the corner, getting cellular fuel throughout the day—not just in the form of healthy food snacks, but through supplementation—would be a better choice. Fortunately, supplement formulators and nutrition companies can turn to numerous ingredients that help with each of these key focal points. And while stimulant-driven products continue to appear, a new wave of non-stimulant, non-habituating ways to feel and perform better are now hitting the market, and 2018 should see many new options for those seeking the afternoon pick-me-up.
It is common knowledge that eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep improves almost every aspect of life. However, people have gotten to the point that for the sleep part to happen, they need eight-day weeks and four-day weekends; for the exercising part, they need to turn back the clock to high school; and for the eating healthy part, they need to reverse-engineer genetics and remove the sugar and salt sensory genes from the body. None of which is possible. In other words, people need solutions that will work in concert with the busy lifestyles of today’s world.
Factors Affecting Energy
Increasing energy starts with ensuring consumers have an abundance of oxygen-rich blood, full of nutrients, as well as the ability to transport and circulate it to the brain and the rest of the body, especially to working muscles during exercise. That’s called improving blood flow, and while most don’t care much for the vein-popping pumps sought by the avid bodybuilder, the concept is the same—better blood flow equals better overall health and performance. As a benefit, if a consumer is into over-swelling, the look is cool.
Next, being able to exercise longer, harder and/or more efficiently would suggest both tolerance and power are improving. This means that providing fuel for muscle activity, as well as reducing fatigue during exercise, should be an integral part of every supplement routine—and ultimately means a consumer will have more energy throughout the day.
A third essential element of improved overall energy is to enhance the ability to recover faster, not just from exercise, but from disease, injury or general stress. Chalking up every hard-to-get-moving morning, sore back or tired knee to aging only goes so far. Instead, adding some key nutrients that help build muscle, repair damaged tissues and reduce inflammation is smart supplementation.
Lastly, improving focus, promoting relaxation and reducing life stress may be the biggest lifestyle factors of energy. This area of sports nutrition likely has the most potential for future investigation and development as far as enhancing lifestyle through supplementation. Fortunately, plenty of ingredients can be formulated within a product to help improve each of these key factors.
The 2018 Energy Outlook
Look for the energy drink category to continue to dominate all markets, along with the ongoing increase in heavily stimulant-based pre-workouts. But pay close attention to innovative products entering the non-stimulant energy category—an emerging area that includes ingredients touting better blood flow, oxidative health, improved focus, enhanced recovery and better fuel utilization—as these offerings are certain to make a solid impact in 2018.
David Sandler heads the U.S. operations and business development for Podlife and Next Cartel Beverages, and is the president and CEO of StrengthPro Inc. (strengthpro.com). He has over 25 years of experience in sports supplements, fitness and health, acting as an educator, researcher, coach and practitioner. Sandler leads the research and development (R&D) and product compliance divisions for several companies, as well as serves as an advisor to their marketing and business development functions. He is a highly sought-after presenter with more than 450 international, national and regional lectures, and has published more than 400 articles in nutrition, supplementation and fitness.