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A Closer Look at Sports Nutrition for Millennials

Did you know Millennial consumers expect more than just workout support from their sports nutrition products? Glanbia Nutritionals’ proprietary research dives deep into Millennials’ unique sports nutrition needs, exploring their exercise habits, post-workout preferences, favorite product claims, and more.

What Are Millennials Looking for in Sports Nutrition?

To better understand the sports nutrition needs of Millennial consumers, Glanbia Nutritionals conducted its own proprietary consumer research.1 We asked active Millennial men and women about their behaviors, interests, and preferences surrounding exercise and nutrition. Here’s a look at some of our key findings.

Millennials’ Exercise Habits

For active Millennial men, strength training/CrossFit is the most common type of exercise (at 24%), followed by cycling/swimming at 11% and running at 10%. For active Millennial women, the most popular exercise activities are running (at 31%) and strength training/CrossFit (at 26%), with cycling/swimming next at 14% and barre/yoga/Pilates at 11%. 

The high levels of strength training by Millennial men and women indicate that sports nutrition products centered on protein are likely to be in demand among active Millennials. For those participating in moderate to intense aerobic activities such as running, cycling, or swimming, hydration is likely to be a key product benefit.

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Our study also sought to understand when Millennials exercise. The results show—for both women and men—that the period between lunch and dinner is when they exercise the most, followed by early morning before eating breakfast. These findings make a strong case that sports nutrition for Millennials should provide adequate calories and nutrients to fuel between-meal exercising, perhaps from protein or a blend of protein and carbohydrates. 

 Typically exercise most: Women Men
 In the early morning (before breakfast) 15% 16%
 In the morning (right after breakfast) 7% 5%
 Mid-morning (before lunch, after breakfast) 7% 15%
 During my lunch break 6% 3%
 In the afternoon (after lunch, before dinner 17% 27%
 At the end of the work day (but before dinner) 20% 19%
 In the evening (after dinner) 12% 5%
 I work out multiple times a day 13% 10%
 Other 2% 0%
(Source: Glanbia Nutritionals Active Lifestyle Consumer Study, November 2018. Base: 82 females and 62 males 18-24 who are active 3+ hours per week.)

Sports Nutrition for Millennials: Pre- and Post-Workout

The research results also reveal that 35% of male and 39% of female active Millennials do not use any workout-enhancing products. This may be due to a reliance on their regular meals and snacks to provide the nourishment they need, or it could reflect a lack of awareness of the functional nutrition products available in the market and the range of exercise support benefits they offer. However, when asked about particular sports nutrition options, 57% of male and 49% of female active Millennials report an interest in pre-workout products. 

In general, there seems to be a greater awareness and understanding of post-workout products. Of active Millennials, 44% of men and 32% of women currently use post-workout/exercise recovery products. For men, the most common post-workout product is protein bars (at 51%). However, 31% say they prefer to get their post-workout nutrition in the form of a pill or tablet. 

On the other hand, active Millennial women most often reach for sports protein beverages (at 38%) for post-workout support. According to our research, 47% of these women prefer a smoothie or juice from the gym, while 39% prefer a gummy to fill their post-workout nutrition needs.

Most Important Food Claims for Millennials

We also followed up to see which product claims are the most important to active Millennials.1 When deciding whether or not to purchase a food, claims of “all natural” and “no additives/preservatives” are the most important to Millennial women (at 62% for each), followed by “locally sourced” (at 56%). For Millennial men, “organic” is the most important claim (at 59%), followed by “all natural” (at 56%). In addition, “plant-based” is an important attribute to 47% of active Millennial men and 49% of women.

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Winning Millennials Over

To engage Millennial sports nutrition consumers, it’s important that your products do more than simply provide exercise support. Millennials also expect the attributes they value the most, such as clean label and plant-based, as well as the formats that work for them.

We have deep knowledge and expertise in the development of everything from sports and performance nutrition to supplements to functional beverages with solutions that are sure to pique the interest of your Millennial consumers, for more information on these solutions or our research finds and insights into sports and functional nutrition for Millennials, contact Glanbia Nutritionals today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Protein is an essential nutrient for workout recovery to repair and rebuild muscle after resistance or endurance exercise. The best type of protein for workout recovery is one that contains all of the essential amino acids in the proportion needed by the body. This ensures no amino acid is in short supply, which would hinder the protein synthesis process.

Protein quality is measured by its Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), with a score of 1.00 indicating a complete protein. Whey protein’s PDCAAS of 1.00 makes it a top choice for workout recovery, which is why it’s so often used in sports nutrition products. Casein, egg white, and soy protein are also very high in quality. 

Even among whey protein ingredients, however, there are some differences that can impact exercise recovery. For example, whey protein isolate (WPI) has benefits over whey protein concentrate (WPC) that include more protein, higher branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content, and less fat and lactose.

Protein contains essential amino acids that our bodies need to support a variety of functions—from muscle building to energy production to immune response. While most people get the bulk of their protein from a healthy diet, some groups of people are interested in the benefits of higher protein intakes—and protein powder helps them achieve this.

A protein powder offers a quick and easy way to take in more protein than one can usually get from foods. This is because a protein powder has been processed from the original food into a concentrated source of protein. Athletesactive lifestyle consumers, and seniors are just a few examples of people looking for extra protein for muscle support, satiety, weight management, and more.

Athletes require all the essential macronutrients and micronutrients but often have higher demands for certain nutrients. These include high-quality protein for muscle building and recovery and any nutrients that are readily lost through perspiration, which include iron and electrolytes like potassium

B vitamins can also be very important due to their role in energy production in the body, while sufficient calcium and vitamin D are essential for athletes to maintain strong and healthy bones. Adequate hydration is also a must for athletes to support all of the body’s systems, making water another key nutrient.


1. Glanbia Nutritionals Active Lifestyle Consumer Study, November 2018. Base: 82 females and 62 males 18-24 who are active 3+ hours per week. 

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