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Among 15-55-year-old Danes, one in six consume sports nutrition products

Monday 29 Oct 18

Contact

Heddie Mejborn
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 42

Contact

Jeppe Matthiessen
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 44

What are sports nutrition products?

Sports nutrition products are defined as products designed to help users achieve performance or nutritional goals related to training, sports and exercise. However, they can also be consumed in other contexts. The products include e.g. beverages, bars, powders and gels that contribute extra energy, protein, carbohydrate, liquid, salts, or other ergogenic substances.

Approximately 16% of Danish 15-55-year-olds consume sports nutrition products and one in three users have experienced adverse effects following consumption, according to a survey from the Technical University of Denmark.

Traditionally, sports nutrition products have been targeted at elite athletes in order to help improve physical stamina, increase muscle mass, and to reduce recovery time.

However, powders, bars, drinks, gels and tablets have today increased in popularity among a wider audience in Denmark. As such, the sale of sports nutrition products has increased by 12% from 169 million Danish Kroner (DKK) in 2011 to 190 million DKK in 2016, and Euromonitor expects sales to continue to increase.

The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, has carried out the first quantitative survey that reveals the consumption patterns of these products in Denmark. The survey shows that approximately 16% of 15-55 year old Danes use one or more types of sports nutrition products.

Protein products are most commonly consumed: 60% of users of sports nutrition products have consumed a protein bar, powder or drink within the last month. 42% say they have consumed more than one sports nutrition products in one day. 22% of users of sports nutrition products use them daily.

Many have experienced adverse effects

According to the survey, one in three consumers have at some point experienced adverse effects—such as heart palpitations and chest pains—after consuming sports nutrition products. One in five users have even experienced two different types of adverse effects.

”It was surprising to us that so many users have experienced adverse effects and it is worrying given the increasing popularity of sports nutrition products,” senior adviser Heddie Mejborn from the National Food Institute says.

Not enough nutrients and too many calories
"If a large portion of normal food is replaced with sports nutrition products, you run the risk of not getting enough dietary fiber and nutrients and certainly not in the combination that food provides. At the same time, there is a risk of consuming too many calories."
Senior advisor Heddie Mejborn

There are gender differences in the use of sports nutrition products: Men more often use them to build and maintain muscle mass, to get more energy for exercise and to reduce recovery time, while women more often use them as a meal replacement or to regulate weight.

”Sports nutrition products are highly processed foods that contain few nutrients and many calories. From a nutrition point of view, these products are not a good meal replacement,” Heddie Mejborn explains. 

”If a large portion of normal food is replaced with sports nutrition products, you run the risk of not getting enough dietary fiber and nutrients and certainly not in the combination that food provides. At the same time, there is a risk of consuming too many calories,” she adds.

Instead of a 62 gram protein bar of that contains 20 grams of protein, a person will get as much protein and about the same amount of calories—but a much greater variety of nutrients—from eating three pieces of crispbread with cheese or 280 grams of skyr (fermented milk product high in protein and low in fat) with muesli.

It is possible to get enough protein from the diet 

Both recreational and elite athletes have an increased need for protein. However, data from the Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity shows that it is possible for people to get enough protein solely through their diet—that is, without the use of sports nutrition products—if the diet contains more milk, cheese and meat including poultry and legumes than the average Danish diet. 

Read more

The survey results are described in further details in the report: Intake of sports nutrition products among 15-55-year-old Danes  (report in Danish with an English summary). The survey was completed on behalf of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and can be used e.g. to assess the risks related to intake of these products.

Data for the study were collected by public opinion and data company, YouGov by conducting 1,765 CAWI interviews with Danes aged 15-55 in the period from 13 to 24 November 2017.

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