Nutrasource Blog

The State of Sport Nutrition: a peek into the multi-billion dollar industry

Posted by Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., CCRC, FACN, Vice President of Scientific Affairs on Wed, May 06, 2020

Sports Nutrition as a business category within foods and dietary supplements have had a relatively short history. From a mass market perspective, it was not until 1965 and into the 1970’s that the nephrologist (kidney specialist) Robert Cade, MD started tinkering with a “homemade” beverage, later named Gatorade (Dr. Cade was the Director of the Renal Division at the University of Florida Medical School) for the sole purpose of helping football players stay hydrated during the hot and humid game conditions in Florida.

Gatorade was born and was eventually sold to Stokely-Van Camp, who in turn, years and billions of dollars later, sold it to Quaker Oats and eventually to Pepsi Co. To date, the University of Florida has received over $1 billion dollars in royalties from the sales of Gatorade. Not too shabby.

The Sports Nutrition sector of the market is estimated to generate $2.7 billion dollars in sales with predictions of hitting $5 billion a year by the end of 2025. (1)

This opportunity for a company to generate revenue in a market that has already shown itself as open and accepting of dietary supplements is one reason why many companies throw their hand in the proverbial sports nutrition products arena.

At one time, the sports nutrition consumer or target was the body builder or the professional athlete, and not really anyone else. This is witnessed over recent decades when Wheaties (“The Breakfast of Champions®”) would feature the latest successful media friendly athlete on their box and in a series of advertisements. The market has shifted to where now the sports nutrition consumers are typically thought of as being either a body builder, team or individual athlete, a lifestyle user or a recreational user. These domains within sports nutrition are vast, which also means that one product, cannot be all things to all people.

In recent times, there has been an emerging category of products marketing to a group of people not traditionally thought of as athletes, but with the emergence of electronic video gaming, coverage by ESPN and even colleges and universities awarding video gaming scholarships, companies in the dietary supplement and beverage sector have pivoted to also include this market.


This blog is meant to be a snapshot of some interesting activities in sports nutrition, and also how research can play a role in successful product launches, life-cycles, and more. Let’s now take a look at some frequently asked questions that may be similar to the ones you have regarding sports nutrition:


How are sports nutrition supplements regulated? 

Sports nutrition products are a part of or a class of dietary supplements and are regulated the same exact ways that all dietary supplements are. That is, the ingredients and the contents of the sports nutrition product are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the specific law known as the “Dietary Supplement Health Education Act”, commonly referred to as DSHEA 1994. Further, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the advertising and marketing of dietary supplements (with some overlaps with the FDA).

On top of this, some individual states within the Union, also have specific regulatory laws that have to be adhered to if you wish to sell a product in that state (example, California and the “Prop 65 law”). Of course, all is dependent upon the individuals and companies who sell dietary supplements to follow the laws on a State and Federal level in the United States.

In Canada, sport nutrition products are regulated as natural health products (NHPs) or foods depending on the nature of the product—format, intended use, and formulation all come into play. Product classification, ingredient composition, and marketing claims are all regulated by Health Canada.


Should I study my ingredient or the finished product?

Without doubt, any dietary supplement or beverage company who wants to make a direct or in-direct claim about their product should have direct evidence that their product does what they claim or promise. While prior published science may substantiate structure/function claims, studies on a finished product demonstrate that the product delivers on the promises its made through health claims.

Many dietary supplements are comprised of more than a single ingredient, therefore conducting research on a finished product will ensure you’ve taken ingredient interactions and synergy into account.

In short, doing clinical research on the finished product will allow for stronger marketing claims and better intellectual property protection.


How can I be sure that the products are formulated with ingredient dosages that have been shown to have efficacy?

There is a plethora of dietary supplements that are sold simply because they market their product, or a popular ingredient, really well. Sometimes, companies will take a sprinkling of a popular ingredient and dust their product with it, so that the product too can be sold off of the hype versus science.

This has inspired a movement in the sports nutrition industry for clearer and more transparent label – one that lists dosages of each ingredient in place of the “proprietary blend” that is popular in many products.

Proprietary blends as part of a product label is often used to either create a mystique about the product or to hide that the product is underdosed on some or all of the ingredients. By throwing a fancy name on this proprietary mix, the unaware public thinks something magical is doing the heavy lifting.

One easy way to determine if the product you are interested in has the right dosages for each ingredient is to do research on Type in the ingredient name and explore peer-reviewed studies for what dosages were used and of course what the various studies findings were. Here, it is easy to see if the product meets the research for dose and claims.


Are there “sport nutrition” products for mental performance?

The mental aspects of participating in sport is often underappreciated. We take for granted things like coordination, reaction, response and other aspects of active sport. There is a joke that the only difference between playing high-level chess and boxing or mixed martial arts, is that one wrong move in boxing or MMA results in physically felt consequences.

Outside of caffeine, the original sport nootropic, there has been a growing interest in ingredients and products that may enhance the cognitive aspects of sport. With the explosion of video gaming and the money pouring globally into e-games and e-gaming competitions, just like physical sports, in the video playing world, anything that may enhance play and outcome is explored. Dietary supplement companies have started to notice this and yes have moved into exploring if and how their ingredients may impact the cognitive aspects of sport. I expect this trend to continue.


The purpose of this blog was to briefly share some observed experiences and data surrounding sports nutrition in the dietary supplement world. Nutrasource is a full-service contract research organization that can help launch your sport nutrition products with strong science and regulatory confidence. Contact us today at if we can be of global service to you and your company.




Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., CCRC, FACN, is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Nutrasource. With over 25 years of experience in sports nutrition and clinical research, Dr. Kalman brings vast knowledge and unmatched expertise helping clients commercialize their innovations. He has been involved in over 100 clinical trials within the pharmaceutical, nutrition, and medical device industries and has published numerous papers in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, helping to advance the understanding of applied nutrition. Connect with Doug on LinkedIn.


Topics: Clinical Trials, Claims, Regulatory, Sport Nutrition