One emerging theme in the world of female sports nutrition is that, in many ways, women simply want to be treated the same as men. This means a partial eschewing of the idea of gendering sports nutrition supplementation in the first place.
“Honestly, women are competing at the same level as men these days with effort, athleticism and performance,” said Shawn Wells, a master sports nutrition formulator and co-founder of World’s Greatest Ingredients LLC. “So, they are wanting exactly what the men are using, not a ‘watered down,’ diluted, less efficacious product.”
Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., director of science and communication at Vitargo Inc., had the same takeaway, saying “Female athletes want performance enhancement: speed, power, strength, endurance. Then, if weight matters for their sport, either in a power-to-weight ratio, weight class or aesthetic appeal, weight loss will matter.”
If women are, in large part, seeking the same kinds of benefits as men, it makes sense they seek the same ingredients as men.
“[Women] are using science-backed ingredients that are ergogenic (improve athletic performance), such as creatine, beta-alanine, theacrine, methylliberine (Dynamine) [and] alpha-GPC,” among others, Wells said.
While women seek the same general benefits as men from their sports nutrition supplements, gender-specific ingredients and dosage must be considered when formulating a product specifically for women.
However, as Kleiner warned, it is crucial to remember that even if accounting for differences in dosage, the benefits must remain. “[In the female sports nutrition market, there is] very little focus on foundational health micronutrients, unlike products targeted toward men with high vitamin/mineral doses. Yes, women often need…different distribution/dosage, but they still need fuel.”
It seems, then, that the key to formulating a successful product for female athletes is to remember they are both athletes and women. Yes, women may require a bit more iron or calcium than their male counterparts, but they seek many of the same benefits male athletes do. And, like men, no two women are exactly alike either.
“Virtually universally, male products target performance [while] female products target weight loss and sex appeal,” Kleiner said. “Female athletes want performance, not sex appeal. That’s a different category, and while they may be interested in that too, it’s not relative to sports nutrition.”
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