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The role of smart carbs for sports nutrition

Source:BENEO     Date:2021-05-14
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By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director

BENEO Asia Pacific


Consumers in Asia have begun to recognise the importance of exercising and keeping fit in order to stay healthy — especially in light of the pandemic.


The growing interest to maintain physical fitness is mirrored in the rise of the sports nutrition market, which is expected to grow by 12.2% in the next five years, with beverages being the highest-selling product segment[1]. The report also states major growth drivers for the sports drink market are increasing health concerns about physical wellbeing, as well as a desire to lead a healthy lifestyle.


But consumers today are spoilt for choice. There’s a huge variety of sports nutrition products that are available on shelves and through vending machines today. However, most of these products —designed to increase energy — contain ‘fast carbohydrates’ (such as maltodextrin, glucose syrup and sucrose). These carbohydrates release glucose into the bloodstream quickly, causing a short boost of energy. At the same time, however, this also triggers a significant increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, which may in turn result in a sugar crash.



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(Photo: Dreamstime.com)


While such short energy boosts may be suitable for those in need of instant energy, they are not ideal for day-to day activities or those training to build up their endurance. Smart-released carbohydrates, on the other hand, can support these groups of consumers and deliver energy in a balanced, sustained manner. There is therefore an opportunity for sports drinks to be formulated with such carbohydrates to help consumers enhance fuel management and endurance. This shows that it is important to look at the nutritional quality of the carbohydrates we consume.


Different needs, but with a common goal 

Fitness consumers can generally be categorised into two main groups who have different motivations for exercise and do so at varying intensity levels.


Consumers who train regularly and rigorously fall under the “Athletes” group. Efficient fuel management is vital for this performance driven group, as they constantly push themselves to improve and surpass their limits.


“Regular Actives” are consumers who exercise recreationally and look for sportified products to support their active lifestyles. This is the largest group where most consumers fall in, so it is an important demographic for food manufacturers to note. Their goal is to maintain healthy body weight and improve body tone, as well as stay fit and active. Despite the differences between these groups, an optimum energy supply is important to all of them, and especially relevant when fuelling an active lifestyle.



[1] Mordor Intelligence: Sports Nutrition Market - Growth, Trends, and Forecasts (2020 - 2025)

[2] Maresch CC, Petry SF, Theis S et al. (2017) Low glycemic index prototype isomaltulose - update of clinical trials. Nutrients 9(4): 381. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409720/


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