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Sports Nutrition: A Look at What Modern Consumers Want

The health benefits and convenience of sports nutrition products are pulling in mainstream consumers. From functional snacks to personalized nutrition for women, learn what these new consumers are looking for and how manufacturers can respond to meet the nutritional and performance needs of this expanding consumer base.

Sports Nutrition Expands Beyond Athletes 

The global sports nutrition market is forecast to reach $24.4 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 9.7 percent between 2017 and 2025, according to Grand View Research.1 The category is undergoing a significant expansion of its consumer base beyond the original core users. These new users include busy, health-conscious consumers, often referred to as active lifestyle consumers.

Active lifestyle consumers appreciate the portable formats (such as bars and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages) along with the health benefits that sports nutrition products provide. They’re particularly interested in better-for-you snacking options and are increasingly turning to functional foods, an area where sports nutrition products excel. Manufacturers must consider the specific benefits sought by active lifestyle consumers since their goals often differ from those of core users.

Here’s a look at what today’s consumers are looking for in sports nutrition products:

1. High Protein

For 55 percent of U.S. households, high protein is an important attribute to consider when making food purchases, according to Nielsen.2 This growing interest in protein is impacting the sports nutrition category as more mainstream consumers are drawn to its high protein offerings. Plant-based proteins (especially plant-based protein blends) are trending among these consumers. These may include soy, pea, and rice proteins, as well as seed-based proteins, such as chia and flax proteins.

Core users continue to look to complete proteins (like whey and soy) for muscle building and recovery but are open to protein diversity as well. Blends of animal and plant proteins are becoming more popular. Active lifestyle consumers seeking protein range from Millennials who exercise regularly and want muscle support to Boomers seeking to slow age-related muscle loss.

2. Energy Products

Energy products are high on the list for athletes and non-athletes alike. A sports nutrition product for energy might be formulated with a moderate amount of caffeine, in addition to B vitamins. For endurance athletes, the addition of easily digestible carbohydrates is also important.

3. Functional Snacks

For active lifestyle consumers seeking functional foods, sports nutrition products are a sure bet. They can find fortified bars, beverages, cookies, snack cakes, and more, with a range of flavors and health benefits. These portable functional foods make the perfect snack for health-conscious, on-the-go consumers. Top in-demand ingredients include vitamins, fiber, protein, probiotics, MCTs, omega-3s, and turmeric.

4. Weight Management Formulas

Many consumers are also turning to sports nutrition products to support weight loss or weight management efforts. Products targeting these consumers may contain added fiber or protein for satiety and have low total calories. In addition, they may include small amounts of healthy fats, which can also contribute to satiety. Keto dieters are particularly interested in coconut oil and MCTs in products with low non-fiber carbohydrates.


5. Healthy Hydration

Sports nutrition beverages can range from refreshing, citrus-flavored RTD beverages with electrolytes (such as potassium and sodium) to creamy, chocolate beverage mixes high in protein to support the repair of damaged muscle during exercise recovery. While low-sugar/low-calorie formulas appeal to some consumers, others seek out carbohydrates to help them replenish glycogen stores.

6. Personalized for Women

As athletes become increasingly knowledgeable about the impact of nutrition on performance, demand is emerging for sports nutrition products formulated for women. This new area of interest is being driven by female core users but will certainly hold appeal for female active lifestyle users, as well. Personalized functional foods made for women should account for women’s different dosage and nutritional needs—such as their higher iron and calcium requirements.

Meeting Consumer Needs

As more consumers look to sports nutrition products to address a variety of needs, manufacturers have an exciting opportunity ahead of them. Understanding each target consumer segment is the key to success in this expanded sports nutrition market.

Contact Glanbia Nutritionals to learn how to customize your sports nutrition products and functional foods to meet the needs of today’s consumers!

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Many different nutrients support sports performance due to their roles in muscle building, endurance, or exercise recovery. High-quality protein is the most important nutrient for building, repairing, and maintaining muscle since it contains all the essential amino acids. One amino acid in particular, the branched-chain amino acid leucine, is known for activating the protein synthesis process.

Endurance athletes also need to consume adequate water and replenish their electrolytes, including potassium and magnesium, to prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. Like electrolytes, iron—which plays key roles in oxygen transport and energy metabolism—is also lost through perspiration. Iron requirements are often much higher for endurance athletes and those engaging in high-intensity exercise, making iron another important nutrient for optimal performance.

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. Athletes, active lifestyle consumers, and seniors are just a few examples of people looking for extra protein for muscle support, satiety, weight management, and more.


1. PR Newswire. (2019). Sports Nutrition Market Size Worth $24.43 Billion by 2025 | CAGR: 9.7%: Grand View Research, Inc. Retrieved from
2. Nielsen. (2018). Protein: Consumers Want It, But Don’t Understand It. Retrieved from

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