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Body boosting ingredients for the serious athlete

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are incredibly popular with hardcore athletes and body builders. BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are essential amino acids that humans only get from food and beverage because the body doesn’t make them on its own. Among the benefits of BCAA products  are stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS), prevention of muscle breakdown and delaying of muscle fatigue.1

There are hundreds of BCAA products on the market, and some of the most popular brands include Cellucor, BPI Sports and Dymatize. BCAA supplements are most often sold as powders with sweet and citrus flavors, but brands such as Optimum Nutrition and Scivation have developed ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, as well.

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body and is the basis of connective tissues that help give structure to tendons, ligaments, skin, bones and teeth. It is also sold as a supplement in products that are rapidly growing in popularity. The ingredientworks with endogenous hyaluronic acid (HA) to improve joint health,2 enhance hair,3 skin4 and nails.5 As a bonus, it may also help repair muscle tissue, although whey and casein are generally regarded as more effective for that purpose.6

The source of the collagen isn’t quite so sexy. It comes from animals such as cattle, fish, turkeys and chickens, which means it is not vegan and can cause issues with a product’s kosher status. Allergenic concerns also need to be taken into consideration for sensitive consumers. Formulating with collagen can be challenging because it can have solubility issues, but brands such as Eviva Collagen Elixir, Beauty & Go and Pure Gold Collagen have successfully developed RTD collagen supplements. Many collagen protein powders are on the market, as well, including in  brands such as NeoCell, Ancient Nutrition, Vital Proteins and Sports Research.

Micellar casein is an up-and-coming ingredient for active consumers and is generally regarded as the most effective form of casein compared to similar ingredients like calcium caseinate. It is the slowest digested caseinate protein and is a source of high-quality BCAAs and glutamine.

“The mechanism of action is a stark contrast to hydrolyzed whey, which is known for fast-acting, quick absorption into the body,” explained Jason Dompeling, beverage scientist at Imbibe. “Micellar casein is known for very slow absorption. The casein micelles form a sort of ‘clot’ in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that slow down the protein breakdown and amino acid absorption.”

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Powders dominate key sports nutrition categories

Powder-based formulas are all over the lists of best-selling sports nutrition products at top retailers including Amazon, Walmart and Bodybuilding.com. Powder products dominate certain categories more than others. For instance, Amazon’s protein, pre-workout and post-workout/recovery categories are mostly owned by powder products, specifically ready-to-mix (RTM) formulas.

Mixable powders more popular in sports nutrition compared to other sports nutrition formats, including capsules, bars and ready-to-drink (RTD) products.

Capsules have the advantage of more easily hiding off flavors and not having to contend with liquid from consumer mixing before use. However, consumers increasingly seek more food- and drink-like experiences rather than a litany of pills, so RTM powders offer a way for consumers to drink their sports supplements in a range of palatable flavors. Further, RTM powders often involve “scoops,” each of which delivers anywhere from 5 g to more than 30 g of ingredients. It would take many capsules to deliver an equivalent amount of product.

For ingredients such as protein, which is typically dosed at 20 to 30 g per serving, powders are the primary delivery format, followed by RTD and bar products. RTD sports nutrition products can deliver the amounts of protein sports nutrition consumers want and offer pleasurable convenience, but they cost more to ship (no water content) and have a shorter shelf life than RTM products, especially with high-protein products.

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