Minerals may not be the first ingredients that come to mind when creating sports nutrition formulations, but, according to minerals supplier Balchem/Albion (Clearfield, UT), that may be changing. The company said that it is taking advantage of increasing consumer demand for two key minerals—magnesium and zinc—to build its presence in the fast-growing sports nutrition market. At this year’s SupplySide West trade show, Balchem/Albion spoke with Nutritional Outlook about why minerals and sports nutrition may be a match made in heaven.
According to Todd Johnson, senior director of marketing, Balchem/Albion, magnesium is currently the “white-hot mineral,” with its market purportedly growing between 10%-15% year-on-year. “A lot of customers are using magnesium as their core—their base mineral—and branching out from there,” he said. “We never used to see that…Now, they’re building their product line around magnesium.”
Including magnesium in sports formulas might be a good idea, because, as Stephen Ashmead, senior fellow, Balchem, told Nutritional Outlook at the show, “[magnesium is] the only divalent metal lost in sweat.” He said that traditional sports drinks like Gatorade often overlook highlighting magnesium in favor of replenishing minerals like sodium and potassium. But, he added, magnesium is “critical for sports nutrition.” Magnesium is said to have muscle-relaxation benefits as well as cognitive and neurological benefits—all appealing to those in the sports nutrition category.
Sports nutrition is increasingly linked to cognitive health, with a dearth of products touting brain-wellness benefits for athletes both novice and professional. Following its 2016 acquisition of Albion Human Nutrition, Balchem offers two magnesium-based sports nutrition ingredients—MGG (magnesium glycinate glutamine) and MLG (magnesium lysinate glycinate). MGG offers sports recovery benefits, while MLG is said to help increase muscle synthesis and boost energy for endurance. Both ingredients harness the potential cognitive-health benefits magnesium has to offer, the company says.
Zinc, meanwhile, is “the hidden gem” in sports nutrition, said Johnson. “It’s still a much smaller segment, but it’s starting to pick up.” Ashmead noted that zinc may also have some cognitive-health benefits, and is “involved in stress reactions.” In addition, he said, recent research has shown zinc’s potential to help attenuate exercise-related inflammation. Some consumers, he said, take a zinc-magnesium product at night to promote recovery post-workout.
Both Ashmead and Johnson said that the minerals industry can benefit from the growing personalized-nutrition trend, and attributed some of the increased interest in minerals for sports nutrition applications to increased consumer education about what elements are needed to optimize performance. Johnson added that while the sports nutrition category was “developed by bodybuilders,” today’s sports nutrition target consumer may just have something as mainstream as weight loss in mind. “They call it sports nutrition, but really it’s blended already,” he said. “Most people who are buying any kind of sports nutrition supplement…want to lose a little weight and have a little more energy. I think minerals play a big part in that.”