Not so long ago, the labels on sports nutrition products read like a chemistry textbook. Now a new breed of wellness enthusiast is dumping the neon colours and artificial additives, in favour of products derived from natural ingredients.

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Riding a wave of interest in veganism, US-based Plantable (previously named Euphebe) offers plant-powered meals delivered to customers’ homes that are designed “to fuel active lifestyles.” It may seem counterintuitive, but new research published in the journal Nutrients suggests that performance and recovery can be improved when athletes choose plant-based diets. Jay Brave, a London-based vegan activist who started a vegan diet after his personal trainer recommended it for better muscle recovery, told JWT Intelligence, “It’s been like Benjamin Button since I’ve been vegan; I’ve literally felt like I’ve been getting younger.”

Wales-based Natural Ambition launched the first in a line of vegan and organic sports nutrition products in April 2019, using the natural electrolytes from freeze-dried coconut water to boost energy and enhance sports performance. “I wanted something pure and natural to enhance my athletic performance… whether it’s for muscle gain and repair, hydration, energy or recovery” said founder Paul McLoughlin.

WEB Natural Ambition Organic Coconut Water Powder Orange with gear
Natural Ambition

Whilst diet and nutrition are key, opportunities are also opening up for products that foreground natural ingredients that promise performance benefits. UK-based drinks company Flyte Clean Energy, uses green coffee beans and maca root to give drinkers the desired boost without any artificial ingredients. Also in the UK, C7 Brands markets its CocoFuzion100 beverage as ‘Nature’s Sports Drink,” highlighting the rehydration benefits of coconut water. The drink is England Rugby’s official rehydration partner, proving that this is a trend embraced by both professional athletes and weekend warriors.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of recovery and this too is unlocking opportunities for innovation. Tapping into the common practice of a celebratory post-race or post-workout pint, US-based Sufferfest Beer Company has launched a range of beers with added natural ingredients that can aid in recovery. Their latest creation, Fastest Known Time or FKT, includes salt for muscle repair and blackcurrants, which are packed with vitamin C. Another American beer brand, Harpoon Brewery, created their Rec. League beer with sea salt, buckwheat and chia aimed at a similar crowd.

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Sufferfest Beer Company's FKT

Typically marketed as a stress reliever, the wonder ingredient Cannabidiol, or CBD, is now being touted as a route to recovery too. Floyd’s of Leadville, a Colorado-based CBD company founded by ex pro-cyclist Floyd Landis, has launched a line of products that “take the edge off the pain and give you an advantage over the competition.” The products come in a variety of dosages and ingestible formats so athletes can easily integrate them into their routine. Canadian rugby league club, the Toronto Wolfpack, is also getting into the CBD recovery game, launching a line of athlete-focused, CBD-infused products this month, including topical creams and sports pain tinctures.

Nature has always had strong associations with wellbeing, but we are only just beginning to leverage its benefits for optimum performance and recovery.

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