Exercise legend Jack La Lanne once asserted, “I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a little discipline. Exercise is my discipline.”

La Lanne was the original fitness guru for the “everyman and everywoman” and pioneered daily exercise at home in front of the TV while he led the calisthenics (a quaint synonym for exercise).

My, has fitness grown. Since La Lanne, popular fitness movements included Jazzercise, Tae-Bo, Pilates and more; fitness personalities such as Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda (who took time out from acting), Kathy Smith and Jillian Michaels all inspired millions to get moving and have fun doing it. On the other side of that were the hardcore bodybuilders, mostly men seeking to look like “pumping iron” pioneer Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Americans (your consumers) as you know, love to follow trends and there are newer exercise/fitness trends to pay attention to now.
“Fitness goals seem to have morphed, especially for women in the last 30 years. From bombshell to heroin chic, and now strong/fit being the new skinny.”
“Fitness goals seem to have morphed, especially for women in the last 30 years. From bombshell to heroin chic, and now strong/fit being the new skinny,” observes Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, sr. director of research & development/ national educator, Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation, Sugar Land, TX. “So while body image ideals have changed, the desire to sweat like a pig to look like a fox has not.”

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently identified the top 20 fitness trends for 2018; the top 10 includes high intensity interval training, yoga, strength training, and body weight training. The top trend? Wearable technology.

Gerry Cysewski, PhD, chief scientific officer, Nutrex Hawaii, Kailua-Kona, HI, also notes that high-intensity interval training (“HIIT”) is a current favorite in gyms and fitness classes. This workout is characterized by timed intervals of short bursts of accelerated output (30 to 90 seconds) that requires expenditure of maximum energy followed by a short recovery period of more moderate-intensity exercise. HIIT workouts are typically 30 minutes or less and burn a lot of calories through the intense cardio sessions. They appeal to people who don’t want to or lack the time to spend hours at the gym.

Interestingly, the typical overflowing-plate lifestyle makes gym-going harder to fit in, yet people are doing their best as shown by consistent growth of the sports nutrition market. Growth in this supplement sector reflects that people are using sports nutrition to accelerate fitness goals. A report issued by Zion Market Research entitled, “Sports Nutrition Market (Sports Food, Sports Drink & Sports Supplements): Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2016 – 2022” concludes the demand for sports supplements is expected to rise due to increased consumption among women who are more conscious about personal appearance.”

“People are looking for workouts that they can fit into their busy schedules, feel like they got a good sweat in and have some fun in the process,” remarks Bryan Morin, NOW sports category manager, NOW, Bloomingdale, IL. This is why CrossFit has grown in popularity, he underscores, adding there are several more fitness trends retailers will be seeing their customers participate in, such as:
  • Boot Camps -- classes rooted in military style training
  • Circuits -- a round of exercises where you move from one exercise right to the next with minimal rest
  • Compound Exercises -- incorporating multiple muscle groups
  • Tabata -- high-intensity interval training of 20 seconds “all-out effort” followed by 10 seconds of rest
Precious little time for going to a fitness center no longer has to be any excuse to be sedentary. Witness the swift popularity of at-home classes such as Peloton cycling. Additionally, says Chris Crawford, vice president of education for LifeSeasons, Lewisville, TX, “Programs that are more personalized will have higher rates of more regular compliance.  Predetermined workouts and activities such as orange theory, cycling, Pilates, yoga, and rock climbing continue to trend with younger, active consumers – it’s not just about lifting weights at the gym anymore.”

There are also some differences between generations of how they exercise and their goals of fitness, as to be expected.

For millennials, “strong is in!” declares Cysewski. “Previous generations were fed that skinny was the ideal body type, but in the millennial age, strong, healthy bodies are the key goal. While athlete physique is valued in the age of social media, millennials are also focused on the mental health benefits of exercise from yoga. Yoga used to be for alternative groups of people but has now become more mainstream.”

In Sugarek MacDonald’s view, this generation tends to live “an overscheduled life,” and places high value on options that offer convenience and speed. Millennials are more likely than other groups to track their own health progress using technologies such as apps to monitor steps, heart rate and caloric intake as a complement to their fitness routines. “Shorter, full-body workouts that are also fun is a huge hit with this generation,” she added.

Sébastien Bornet, VP global sales and marketing at Horphag Research (exclusive worldwide supplier of Pycnogenol and Robuvit) observes millennials seem to have higher interest in HIIT and classes like SoulCycle, where people train together.

Generation X and baby boomers, says Crawford, are more likely than millennials “to be into fitness for longevity rather than physical appearances. Millennials tend to try new activities (cycling, hot yoga, orange theory, etc.) with a friend or group of people to complete their fitness goals.”

Generation Xers, observes Cysewski, are big consumers of gyms and fitness clubs and tend to gravitate towards traditional gym equipment such as treadmills, weight/resistance machines, free weights, and ellipticals, rather than group fitness classes. Sugarek MacDonald sees it a bit differently – Gen Xers, she says,” favor fitness plans that consist of actually experiencing and doing things, not just exercising for the sake of exercise. They embrace group fitness trends such as rock climbing, martial arts, yoga and ballroom dancing.”

Baby Boomers, the oldest of which are now in their 70s, remain desirous of being physically fit and are loathe to become loose and lax. They are also creating new trends like their millennial counterparts, such as fitness vacations, which Sugarek MacDonald describes as a way they are “revolutionizing retirement and intermingling health with fun. From skiing in Big Sky, MT to surfboarding in Costa Rica, many vacation packages offer boomers an incredible array of activities that eliminate lounging and focus on moving.”

Cysewski agrees boomers are more active than their previous generation. Fitness activities such as low-intensity team sports and controlled motions such as strength training, walking, elliptical, yoga and tai chi are still popular among boomers to help maintain aging muscles and balance.

Although not a fitness trend, clean products have become more important in the fitness supplement category because athletes are under more pressure to ensure they don’t test positive for the more than 220 banned substances now on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list, Morin points out.

If your store has a regular clientele of athletes, advises Morin, look for a line that is certified by Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice, a globally recognized assurance program for anti-doping in sports nutrition products, suppliers, and manufacturers provided by LGC, an organization with 54 years of experience in anti-doping control. “For example, the program provides assurance that NOW’s 100-plus sports products with the Informed-Sport logo have been tested for the over 220 substances prohibited in sport.”

The Axis of Exercise Enhancement

Overall fitness is achieved through increasing endurance, gaining strength and shortening recovery times between workouts to prevent injury. Not all individuals who work out for gains in fitness are focused on boosting strength and endurance equally. Many tend to prioritize one over the other depending on their natural build and constitution as well as lifestyle demands.

Products also tend to skew their mechanisms of action and efficacy towards one more than another, and a few that research shows are effective for attaining increases in both areas.


Horphag Research’s proprietary ingredient, Robuvit French oak wood extract, is shown to support energy and sports endurance, according to Bornet. A 2015 study published inMinerva Cardioangiologia,evaluated the effects of Robuvit on performance and endurance in triathletes over a two-week triathlon training period and found that athletes who took Robuvit daily experienced less pain and general discomfort than they would normally after a triathlon. “Athletes in the study reported heightened endurance and that they needed less recovery time between races, which in turn allowed for improved overall time, pace and more sustained levels of energy throughout a triathlon event,” he described. “After just two weeks, the group taking Robuvit experienced an 11 percent decrease in their overall time, while the control group decreased their time by just 4 percent” (1).

According to Cysewski, Nutrex Hawaii’s BioAstin Hawaiian Astaxanthin improves performance and power output during cycling. A study with competitive cyclists taking 4mg minimum of astaxanthin for one month showed an increase power output of 15% on average. Astaxanthin ultimately helped contribute to making the cyclists faster and stronger,” he said (2).

For participants in endurance sports such as long-distance running, marathons, cycling, cross-country skiing, hockey and basketball, carbohydrate intake is crucial to keep that energy furnace working. Sugarek MacDonald explains that consuming carbs increases performance by maintaining blood sugar levels, high carbohydrate oxidation, sparing of endogenous glycogen and glycogen synthesis. The carb amount needed to improve endurance event performance has been shown to be as little as 16 grams per hour while amounts more than 75 grams an hour doesn’t seem to be cumulatively beneficial. Recommendations from authorities such as the American College of Sports Medicine for carb consumption during the marathon event, for example, are to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs an hour at 15-20-minute intervals, primarily in the form of glucose for events lasting longer than an hour, she reports. “Carbohydrate formulas can be used to fuel the athlete during training sessions that last longer than an hour and can help refuel the glycogen stores of the liver and muscles two days prior to a marathon or triathlon event.”

Bluebonnet Nutrition’s endurance formula Extreme Edge Carbo Load blends complex carbohydrates (waxy maize, steel cut oats, brown rice and maltodextrin) that don’t just temporarily spike blood glucose levels but are steady and provide the cells with ample energy, so athletes can go the distance. It also provides alpha lipoic acid, cinnamon [Cinnulin PF], and chromium to support glucose and insulin activity.

NOW Sports’ Carbo Endurance Powder, according to Morin, features isomaltulose, a disaccharide carbohydrate composed of glucose and fructose that occurs naturally in honey and sugar cane. While isomaltulose is similar to sucrose, he explained, it has a unique molecular linkage that effectuates its breakdown in the GI tract; it is completely digested and absorbed, but its prolonged release into the bloodstream results in a lower glycemic response and insulin release as compared to sucrose.
"The amino acids in whey are typically associated with protein synthesis and oxidation and not in the inhibition of protein breakdown, so it’s great for muscle building but not repair."

Whey protein powders remain best-sellers for working out and competition. According to Sugarek MacDonald, whey (a milk-derived protein) is considered fast-acting, because unlike casein (also from milk), “its impact on postprandial protein metabolism is fast, high and transient. The amino acids in whey are typically associated with protein synthesis and oxidation and not in the inhibition of protein breakdown, so it’s great for muscle building but not repair,” she emphasized.  Whey’s metabolic characteristics are due partially to its easy assimilation into the body, whereupon it stimulates a rapid release of amino acids within the blood, allowing them to be used quickly for muscle enhancement. “The amino acid profile that makes up whey is very similar to that of human muscle – making it the protein of choice for bodybuilders and athletes,” she noted.

Bluebonnet’s 100% Natural Whey Protein Isolate and Extreme Edge 100% Pure Whey Protein Isolate, Sugarek MacDonald describes, are derived from grass-fed cows that are not treated with antibiotics or rBGH and the material undergoes a special low-temperature, microfiltration process that removes excess fat and 98% of the lactose, while leaving the protein undenatured and immunoglobulins intact.

The plant kingdom, however, is yielding quite the bumper crop of proteins, from pea, to hemp, to pumpkin and even rice. These are obviously suited for vegans and vegetarians, but many omnivorous athletes are enjoying their benefits as well, especially if they feel some GI distress after consuming whey proteins. And more good news, some plant proteins are shown to be highly effective.

Axiom Foods Inc., Los Angeles, CA, recently released a study showing its Oryzatein rice protein is as effective in building and maintaining muscle as whey protein. The study participants were 11 healthy male mixed martial artists who were divided to receive whey protein or rice protein (made with Oryzatein) and instructed to supplement with 3 scoops per day (75 grams of protein total), with at least one scoop (25g protein) being ingested after the first training session of the day. High volume and intensity training consisted of MMA training two times a day, five days a week with one session per weekend and in addition, two strength and conditioning sessions per week. Differences in body composition were compared from baseline to six weeks (3).

After six weeks, there were no significant changes in body weight, body fat percentage, fat free mass (FFM), and fat mass (FM) within the whey group or within the rice protein group. In addition, there were no significant differences between the rice and whey group for body weight, FFM, and FM. Interestingly, the rice protein group had a lower body fat percentage compared to the whey group, but not significantly different.

This study validates the findings from the first rice vs. whey study published June 2013, which showed that supplementing with rice protein was equally as effective as supplementing with whey protein for gaining muscle mass, increasing power, strength and aiding with recovery in collegiate athletes, according to the supplier.

Creatine, found naturally in the body’s skeletal muscle, remains a popular supplement for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who are more focused on building muscle mass. Creatine serves as a precursor to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key energy currency used by cells. Morin explains, “Stores of creatine create a pool of readily available ATP for energy, which is necessary for fueling quick bursts of power and strength. Studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation can help to maintain existing muscle tissue, support the growth and development of lean mass, and promote optimal performance during short bouts of intense exercise. NOW Micronized Creatine Monohydrate mixes easily and has no additives or preservatives.” NOW Sports offers Micronized Creatine Monohydrate.

LifeSeasons offers several supplements that help promote muscle growth and strength, according to Robin Rogosin, vice president of product development. “Our Masculini-T, Nitro-T, Sensitivi-T, and Lung Capaci-T support better blood flow, as well as nutrient and oxygen uptake, to encourage more productive workouts, which, in turn promote more strength and muscle mass. Masculini-T provides testosterone (muscle growing) promoters, including Longjax extract and Fenugreek extract. Sensitivi-T contains L-Arginine, which is a Nitric Oxide promoter,” he explains.

"No matter the workout or competitive endeavor, customers who physically push themselves to a limit will benefit from recovery support supplements."
No matter the workout or competitive endeavor, customers who physically push themselves to a limit will benefit from recovery support supplements.

Annie Eng, CEO of HP Ingredients, Bradenton, FL, explains, “Skeletal muscle injuries constitute the majority of sports-related injuries. Injured skeletal muscle undergoes the healing phases of degeneration, inflammation, regeneration and fibrosis. The body heals damaged tissue fibers by laying down new soft tissue fibers as part of the secondary phase of the inflammatory process. This occurs in bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, joint capsules and cartilage. Healthy new fibers are essential to healing and pain relief as they replace the torn and damaged ones.”

HP Ingredients’ ParActin (a patented extract ofAndrographis paniculata, standardized to andrographolide, 14 deoxyadngrographolide, and neo-andrographolide) has been shown to promote muscle health and recovery as well as to regulate healthy inflammatory response, further promoting accelerated muscle recovery after heavy exercise or play.

Sugarek MacDonald likens recovery nutrition to a “window of opportunity.” Several compelling studies have shown that the body optimizes its ability to replenish energy stores – particularly muscle and liver glycogen within a half-hour after exercise or competition. “Basically, the body becomes a sponge, and therefore this is a golden opportunity to optimize muscle rebuilding and recovery if the right ingredients are available,” she explains. Additionally, this is an optimal time for nutrient replenishment because the body kicks into muscle protein synthesis for muscle tissue repair, and replenishes fluids and electrolytes lost through perspiration. The opportunity for nutrient replenishment to enhance recovery begins to close after one hour and is shut by four hours post-activity.

According to Bornet, a 2015 study found that daily supplementation with Robuvit during training can help reduce post-workout muscle fatigue and cramping. This then allowed the athletes and fitness enthusiasts the ability to shorten periods between training sessions. “Muscle fatigue, pain and cramping are often attributed to oxidative stress, which Robuvit is shown to reduce,” he commented (1).

Astaxanthin may also boost post-exercise recovery, Cysewski notes. In a study with soccer players, astaxanthin was found to reduce muscle damage and protected the functionality of muscle cells during heavy exercise. Astaxanthin also helped maintain a normal inflammatory response in the athlete’s muscles (4).

NOW Sports ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6 formulated, says Morin, to promote recovery from exercise. Zinc plays a central role in the regulation of cellular growth and tissue repair. Magnesium is essential for the maintenance of electrolyte balance, energy production and normal neuromuscular function. “Because physical activity can increase the need for these two minerals, ZMA is the ideal supplement to aid in their replenishment,” he says.

NOW Sports BCAA Big 6 is formulated to support recovery from intense workouts with a side benefit of supporting endurance, according to Morin. BCAA Big 6 features branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs) to support muscle retention and recovery, and betaine (TMG) to help maintain fluid balance during exercise. BCAA Big 6 also has taurine, which can further support endurance. BCAA Big 6 includes L-citrulline and L-glutamine and offers two choices of natural flavors: watermelon and grape.

Renowned nutrition researcher and venerableWholeFoods Magazinecolumnist Richard Passwater, PhD, believes that controlling inflammatory response via supplementation can help improve recovery, especially for individuals who are involved in local sports leagues.

“In addition to a multivitamin, extra vitamin C and magnesium supplements are helpful,” he advises. Immediately after a game or tournament, your customers should consume a protein and/or essential amino acid-based drink. Additionally, 2 to 3 grams of fish oil is recommended daily, as is enough vitamin D.

Your sports nutrition department is likely a main attraction; if not, it should be. As more ways to exercise are introduced, and more fitness, yoga and martial arts centers open, people of all ages will seek out supplements (and foods) to help them attain their fitness goals quicker. And once they’re in your store – they are primed to go the distance for their overall health.WF