Sports nutrition products are so in demand these days, market research estimates peg that by 2022, the global market for sports nutrition products will already reach more than $45 billion. These products, including sports drinks and athletic and performance supplements, are primarily developed to enhance performance, overall health, and muscle growth in athletes and bodybuilders.
Aside from sports drinks, which is the most consumed nutrient product these days, the demand for sports supplements is also expected to increase in the coming years. In part, this is because it’s not only athletes and bodybuilders who consume these products. People who engage in recreational sports or physical activities also use sports supplements.
Moreover, it’s been observed that over the past years, more and more athletes are consuming sports nutrition products. A recent study reviewed the use of herbs and botanicals in many sports supplements and here are seven of the most commonly used plant ingredients they found.
Ginseng is the leading most used herbal ingredient in sports supplements, as well as one of the most researched. Although there are various species of ginseng, supplements made with Panax ginseng or Chinese ginseng is the one that’s most used in human trials.
Examples of important constituents found in ginseng include vitamins A, B, C, and E, iron, potassium, fibers, saponins, and proteins. The main active constituent in ginseng is called Ginsenosides. It’s the component that’s responsible for making ginseng effective in improving immune function and reducing mental stress.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Ginseng:
- Antioxidant properties
- Improved cardiorespiratory function
- Reduce lactate concentrations in blood
- Beneficial effects on adrenal and sexual function
- Increased alertness
Side effects if used outside the recommended dosage include insomnia, rapid heartbeat, digestive disorders, and blood pressure fluctuation.
#2 Tribulus Terrestris
Tribulus terrestris is so common, it’s got many names such as puncture vine, caltrop, bindi, tackweed, abrojo de tierra caliente, and gokshura. The plant has been in use in many traditional medicines to treat various conditions including hypertension, reduced blood sugar, and for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Tribulus terrestris contains many active constituents such as dioscine, diosgenin, and protodioscin, which are all saponins. It also contains flavonoids, flavonol glycosides, and phytosterols.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Tribulus Terrestris:
- Improves testosterone production
- Enhance production of luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Enhance muscle growth
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antioxidant properties
Side effects if used outside the recommended dosage include fatigue, hypertension, burnout, and sleeping disorders.
#3 Rhodiola Rosea
Also known as pink orpine, golden root, and king’s crown, the root of this plant is commonly used in European and Asian traditional medicine. This pretty yellow-flowering plant is packed with healthy constituents including tyrosol, Rosine Rosarines, polyphenols, and tannins. It also contains many vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and salidroside and rosavin, the last two being the main active constituents.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Rhodiola Rosea:
- Antioxidant properties
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Activates the production of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine – these four are associated with improved memory, concentration, boost physical performance and resistance to fatigue
- Reduce lactate levels
- Reduce muscle damage biomarkers
- Increase physical work capacity
- Reduce recovery time
Note: Although there have been many studies about the health benefits of the plant, scientific reviews of these studies conclude that the results were contradictory and inconclusive. Hence, the plant is included in the FDA’s Poisonous Plant Database because of insufficient evidence on its safe usage.
#4 Cordyceps Sinensis
Cordyceps Sinensis is a mushroom commonly found in Nepalese and Tibetan mountains. The plant has been in use for centuries in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, usually as a tonic for improving appetite, libido, stamina, and endurance. It is also popularly called the Himalayan Viagra.
However, because the Cordyceps Sinensis is quite rare, only its synthetic version is used in sports and athletic performance supplements. This usually contains active ingredients such as stearic acid, amino acids, ergosterol, adenosine, uracil, and palmitic acid.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Cordyceps Sinensis:
- Activates nitric oxide production
- Improve endurance
- Increase resistance to muscle fatigue
- Enhance cardiovascular responses
Note, however, that several studies found that Cordyceps Sinensis by itself has no effect on resistance-trained athletes in terms of endurance, aerobic capacity, testosterone levels, and steroid hormones. Side effects if used outside the recommended dosage include diarrhea and stomach problems.
#5 Ginkgo Biloba
Flavonoids are found in high concentrations in Ginkgo biloba leaves. Aside from flavonoids, ginkgo biloba also contains terpenes or bilobalides and terpene lactones. Ginkgo biloba nuts contain tannin, essential oil, and fatty acids. Commercial formulations of Ginkgo biloba use extracts from the leaves of the plant.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Ginkgo Biloba:
- Improve blood flow to the brain
- Improve endurance performance
- Improve cognitive performance
Side effects if used outside the recommended dosage include diarrhea, nausea, allergic skin reactions, and headaches.
Commonly used as a spice, either as cayenne pepper or in chili powder, cayenne contains capsaicin. Cayenne also contains oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, as well as vitamins A, B, and C, zinc, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other minerals.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Cayenne:
- Pain-relieving action
- Improve resistance training performance
- Increase lipid oxidation
- Decrease muscle soreness
- Increases muscle strength
Arnica montana is also called wolf’s bane, mountain tobacco, or mountain snuff. The flowers of the plant are used in medicinal preparations. A common plant in Europe, arnica contains many active constituents such as fatty acids, flavanone glycosides, thymol, and essential oils. The main active constituent is a toxin called helenalin. Because it is a toxin, only very small quantities are used in medicines.
Here are examples of scientifically proven health benefits of Arnica:
- Lower risks of cardiovascular diseases
- Improve immune function
- Reduce osteoarthritis-related pain
- Improve muscle strength
- Reduce muscle soreness