Sports Supplements: Support for the whole athlete

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 24 No. 3
Volume 24
Issue 3

Sports supplements are increasingly taking a holistic approach to maintaining peak performance.

Photo © Liuzishan -

Photo © Liuzishan -

Sports dietary supplements are no longer limited to the basic needs of building muscle and energy. Many of the brands that are successful in this space flourish with products designed for an abundance of needs.

Increasingly, sports supplements offer athletes a holistic approach to sports performance, addressing overall health and parts of the body that are often overlooked in the traditional sports marketplace.

As our knowledge around optimal athletic performance increases, it’s becoming clearer than ever that the entire body needs tending to in order to enable peak physical production. Today, sports supplement brands are likely to promote a well-rounded portfolio of products rather than limit to one particular need, and such a strategy attracts customers who are both interested in standalone products and a collection of products intended for daily stacking.


Though they’re seen most frequently in their own dietary supplement category, greens formulas are increasingly appearing in athletic supplement portfolios. They’re blends of many or a select few leafy greens, grasses, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and/or herbs.

Greens supplements are primarily sold to help consumers reach their recommended daily values of vitamins and minerals, but they may also be promoted with certain label claims for supporting various health functions and parts of the body. Since many of these ingredients are antioxidant-rich, they’re also advertised for their potential to support performance recovery.

Depending on a given brand, greens may be sold in combination products with plant or animal proteins, or they may be sold separately for athletes to “stack” with other daily supplements.

Joint Health

The sports supplement category is no stranger to joint health supplements. Many athletes are keenly aware of joint health and the need to preserve joint health or provide pain relief for aching joints. A popular solution to this issue is in cartilage products, which are often sourced from animal ingredients such as fish.

While these products are first and foremost linked in consumer minds to joint health and injury prevention, they are increasingly promoted for addressing the needs of healthy hair, skin, and nails. These additional benefits are creating an intersection of sports health and beauty, which manufacturers may benefit from advertising.

Brain Health

Brain health has always been important for athletes, but never has it been more widely promoted than now.

In recent years, sports supplement companies have taken to developing brain health products formulated with research-backed ingredients like nootropics and botanical ingredients that are believed to support cognition.

For purposes of brand trust, many of the popular brain health ingredients that have penetrated sports supplements are proprietary branded ingredients backed by well-funded, ingredient-specific clinical studies. Outside of those, one notable ingredient that’s commonly found in sports brain supplements is bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), a nootropic herb with a long history of use in Ayurveda for memory, concentration, and other purported cognitive benefits.


Sleep is of critical importance for athletes, both as a time for muscle growth and repair and as a refuge. For athletes who encounter difficulty sleeping, the market is full of ingredients that help the body relax or have been shown to promote the onset of sleep. Herbs such as jujube and lemon balm are touted for their anxiolytic effects, and many consumers are familiar with the reputation that melatonin has for promoting healthy sleep.

Because research is mounting on a number of ingredients for healthy sleep, there continue to be novel ways for manufacturers to formulate sleep products that meet the demands of any unique customer base.


Beyond training, proper diet, and supplementation, technology can provide an extra advantage to athletic performance. It can, for instance, help consumers assess how their foods and supplements impact performance. This is especially evident in a new gadget that monitors blood sugar.

The Abbott Libre Sense Glucose Sport Biosensor from Supersapiens does just that. When adhered to the user’s skin, this modest patch provides real-time glucose readings, allowing the user to track energy expenditure and gain data insights into how to optimize fuel intake for sports performance. In the hands of retail consumers, such technology should help athletes dial in their food intake and supplementation while giving insight into areas of improvement. Technologies like these can empower sports consumers to perfect their regimens as well as audit the nutritional products and brands they consume.

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