Alternative Carbohydrates Open Up New Sports Nutrition Opportunities

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Christian Philippsen, managing director, BENEO Asia Pacific, discusses the importance of blood sugar management during exercise and highlights the potential of alternative carbohydrates for novel target groups in the sports nutrition market.

The health and fitness trend continues to expand its influence, and many more consumers now realise the importance of staying fit and following a balanced diet. This has led to a booming global fitness industry and an increased interest in sports nutrition products globally, with the market for sports nutrition growing by a healthy average of 8.5 percent between 2012 and 2017. However, with casual and fitness consumers on the rise, do today’s mainstream sports products fulfil their specific physiological needs? Both casual and semi-pro athletes need proper nutrition to fuel their sporting activities, and proper blood sugar management is an easy way to improve performance.


Shifting The Focus From Carb Utilisation To Fat Burning

Popular sports nutrition products on the market today typically contain high glycaemic carbohydrates like maltodextrin, glucose syrup and sucrose. These carbohydrates release glucose into the bloodstream at fast rates and thus, are more suited to those participating in intensive athletic training such as sprinting.

However, such products would not fit most consumers who engage in casual fitness, since fat reduction and gaining muscle tone are their typical goals. This is because they would be more vulnerable to large peaks and troughs in blood glucose and insulin levels when they consume these products, and can inadvertently minimise their fat burning potential. This demographic will be more suited to sports nutrition products that contain low glycaemic carbohydrates such as BENEO’s Palatinose (isomaltulose).


A Market For Sports Nutrition Products

Despite the demand for sports nutrition products and the forecast rise in obesity, there are few products targeting obese or overweight consumers. Obesity in Asia has grown significantly since 1990. In China, for example, obesity rates have more than doubled between 1990 and 2013. Governments worldwide are thus working hard to encourage more active lifestyles to stave off the obesity epidemic. Yet, at present, most sports nutrition products on the market do not support weight management in this group, because they contain high glycaemic ingredients that inhibit fat burning rather than support it.

However, GlobalData predicts this will change and we will see more product launches aimed at the overweight, as well as older consumers. With Asia’s population ageing at an exponential rate, the market is ripe for food manufacturers to develop new products that can appeal to the ageing population that is keen to manage weight and improve health and wellbeing effortlessly.


BENEO’s Palatinose

BENEO’s Palatinose has a balanced effect on blood sugar levels and is fully digestible. Palatinose allows for sustained consumption of full carbohydrate energy, eliminating unwanted blood sugar spikes while accelerating the fat burning process. This would better enable consumers to meet their fitness goals.

BENEO’s Palatinose is a smart release carbohydrate, derived from sugar beet, which is unique because of its molecular structure. It consists of a glucose and fructose molecule—similar to sucrose. However, in contrast to sucrose, the linkage of the molecules is much stronger, which means the human body digests it fully, yet more slowly. As a result, the full carbohydrate energy (glucose) is provided in a more steady and sustained way. The blood glucose levels stay balanced without sudden ups and down and this also helps to burn fat more effectively. An increased fat burning rate means that active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer.


Essentially Versatile

The functional benefits of a product alone often aren’t enough for it to become a regular feature in consumers’ shopping baskets. Good tastes and textures are essential to attract repeat customers.

With this in mind, carbohydrate ingredients need to be able to deliver in terms of technical, as well as nutritional and functional benefits. BENEO’s Palatinose has a natural, mild sugar-like taste and sweetness and is ideal for use in gels, bars and drinks. In recent recipe formulation trials at BENEO-Technology Center, Palatinose was used to create a reduced glycaemic response sports drink powder. The end result was a powder that delivers exceptional results in terms of having a sugar-like taste, is dissolvable in cold water, and has excellent flowability and dispersibility.


With obesity rates rising and the Asian population ageing, the demand for products that promote fat burning and weight management show significant growth potential. The BENEO-Technology Centre has developed a wide range of new product concepts including drinks, foods and gels to meet these needs. Sports nutrition is moving beyond the realm of just the elite athlete. Now, thanks to Palatinose, there is a functional carbohydrate available to meet the true needs of casual fitness users.


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