Sportification and its impact on nutrition

Food for the active goes beyond protein, and there is certainly room for innovative ingredients – like smart-carbohydrates – to help cater the needs of consumers better. One important factor is looking at how these ingredients can provide optimum energy supply, which is key for sports nutrition, and especially relevant for an active, and healthy lifestyle. Christian Philippsen, managing director at Beneo Asia-Pacific, discusses the rising ‘sportification’ trend, and lends his insights on how active consumers as well as busy professionals alike can align their fitness goals with healthy carbs to go the distance, without the risk of the sugar crash.


Now, more than ever, health has become an utmost priority. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, consumers became more concerned with eating healthier to improve their immunity as they have realised the close link between nutrition and overall health.

Even before the pandemic, we saw a new breed of sports enthusiasts who have fuelled a new sportification trend, which has created new markets and brands in categories from clothing, technologies like smart activity trackers, to food. With this trend on the rise, there has been a similar increase in the number of products carrying a sports claim, and many manufacturers are making moves to help consumers meet their desire to lead healthier, more active lives. Such products are appealing to the full-time athletes, those who exercise for leisure, as well as those who – while less dynamic – define their sporty image through their lifestyle choices.

Moving beyond protein
When thinking about “food for the active”, protein is the first macronutrient that comes to mind. However, within the available range of active nutrition, there should be more room for innovative ingredients – like smart-carbohydrates – to help cater to the needs of the active consumers better.

Optimum energy supply is key for sports nutrition, and especially relevant when fuelling an active lifestyle. A wise carbohydrate choice can make all the difference.

Having a balanced and sustained energy can help active consumers maintain endurance in training, while allowing regular active people to stay fuelled for their busy days. High-glycaemic carbohydrates are not ideal, as they are quickly digested, giving only a short boost of energy but also triggering a significant increase in blood sugar that may result in a sugar crash. Thus, it is important to look at the quality of the carbohydrates we consume.

Low glycaemic carbohydrates that provide sustained energy are the way to go, to keep blood glucose response under control. At the same time, they also ensure a balanced energy supply for fitness routines, or for one to go about the day without feeling tired.

Palatinose is derived from pure beer sugar, and is also found in honey and sugarcane as a natural component. With a mild sweetness, its sensory profile is very similar to sugar, without any aftertaste. Palatinose not only acts as an energy source during activities, it is also fully yet slowly digested, providing energy in a sustained manner. This lower and more balanced blood glucose response results in less insulin release and an improved metabolic, without the significant drops in blood glucose that are often associated with conventional higher glycaemic sugars. In addition, balanced blood sugar levels help to support an improved fat burning rate.

But how exactly can slow-release carbohydrates such as Palatinose help both athletes and sports enthusiasts go the distance without the risk of the sugar crash?

There is such a thing as a health carb
Various studies have established that Palatinose increases the proportion of energy that is derived from fat in overall energy consumption. This applies to both professional athletes, those leading dynamic lifestyles for health, as well as those who are less active. While the energy balance is important, Palatinose does not increase the basal metabolic rate – which is, the total number of calories that the body needs to perform basic, life-sustaining functions.

Instead, Palatinose acts by increasing the fat burning rate, or the proportion of overall energy production that comes from fat oxidation. An increased fat burning rate means that active consumers can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer, and at the same time, burn fat more effectively.

This also indicates that Palatinose can play a decisive role in body composition and weight management. Athletes and sports enthusiasts can derive dual benefit from the functional carbohydrate – energy in the form of glucose is available for a longer period during endurance sports, while a greater proportion of energy can be released from body fat. This prevents total depletion of carbohydrate reserves, and contributes to sports performance.

Slow-release carbohydrates to get through the day
Consumers are becoming more aware of the importance that sustained energy release plays in their overall sense of well-being and energy levels. Take breakfast for example, which is often said to be the most important meal, as it replenishes the body’s supply of glucose and helps one get energised for the day. However, with many people facing increasing time constraints on morning routines, breakfast-on-the-go is becoming a growing trend. There is a slew of products and formulations that can cater to these needs like a low-glycaemic breakfast drink with carbohydrates, or cereal bars as mid-workout snack. The team at the Beneo-Technology Centre has developed recipes in which Palatinose replaces high glycaemic sugars, while maintaining good taste and texture.

There is no better time than now for manufacturers to address the needs of this rising consumer group looking for better and sustained energy. With alternative carbohydrates such as Palatinose, manufacturers can offer products that are more aligned with the fitness and health goals of athletes as well as sports enthusiasts, and can support active people who are coping with their busy lifestyles.