Nutrients for everyday endurance: part III

Trying to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle in the face of the many demands and uncertainties of everyday life can be a fatiguing experience for many of us, says Fortitech's Cathy Arnold

Botanicals and natural products

The endurance and performance-related ingredients discussed above represent compounds that are either essential dietary nutrients needed for metabolism or are naturally produced substances in the body. The consumption of fortified food products or dietary supplements with added amounts of these compounds may augment the normal production (or concentrations) of these molecules in the body, leading to a positive energy and endurance benefit.

There is also another important category of compounds, which are not essential nutrients but are found in plants and can have a positive health or performance benefit. These phytochemicals can be incorporated into fortified products or supplements to help promote greater endurance and stamina. Some of the more common botanicals and phytochemicals that can be used for this purpose are discussed below.


Caffeine is the most commonly consumed dietary stimulant and is found as an ingredient in coffee, tea and cola drinks. In nature, caffeine is actually a natural insecticide and is found in more than 60 different plants. Research suggests that caffeine does have important effects on exercise capacity and alertness. Caffeine is also found in many products specifically designed to produce energy and alertness, such as energy shots, energy drinks and various energy promoting supplements.


Guarana is an increasingly popular ingredient derived from a South American plant found in the Amazon basin region, which has a high concentration of caffeine in its seeds. This property has led to its inclusion in many energy shots or other energy promoting beverage products. Owing to its caffeine content, drinks containing guarana will help reduce fatigue and improve alertness.

Beware, however, that energy drinks often contain additional caffeine as an ingredient and some caution should be used concerning excessive use. Adverse effects of excess caffeine, from any source, can increase the heart rate and cause irritability and tremors.


Ginseng has a long history of use for its health-promoting properties. Ginseng is used in energy drinks, along with other potential energy boosting ingredients such as caffeine, glucose and guarana. However, there is little clear support for ginseng as an ergogenic aid in the scientific literature.


Flavonoids represent a large class of phytochemicals produced by plants, with the typical dietary intake of flavonoids in the United States being 200mg/day. Sources of flavonoids include fruits and vegetables and tea. Flavonoids can have antioxidant effects, as well as other health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects that are likely to be beneficial, especially to the highly active individual or athlete.

Green tea catechins

Green tea is particularly popular as an ingredient in a variety of novel food products. It contains flavonoid compounds called catechins, especially EGCG (epigallocatechin 3-gallate), which have antioxidant properties and may lessen the deleterious effects of exercise. Some evidence suggests that EGCG may also promote fat burning and improve VO2max during exercise.


Echinacea is a herbal supplement made from the root or flowers of the Echinacea plant. This herb may have immune-boosting effects, reduce the risk of upper respiratory illness and shorten the duration of infection; it may also be beneficial to people who suffer from exercise-induced immunosuppression.

Product applications

Energy and endurance performance products currently fall primarily into the beverage category. However, it is likely that the market penetration of these functional ingredients will see the emergence of alternative delivery vehicles. These novel products will likely cater to the on-the-go nature of people’s lifestyles and the need for convenience and portability.

These product drivers will encourage the development of new fortified foods and snacks that incorporate ingredients that boost endurance and energy. Technological advancements, including nanotechnology, are likely to lead to new avenues for the development of extended, sustained release products to provide active levels of these compounds for longer all-day performance. Other approaches, such as gelcap-based supplements, fortified chewing gums and candies or bars may provide handy pocket pick-me-ups when energy starts to lag.

Other nutrients that should be looked into for enhanced endurance include glutathione, whey protein isolates, phosphorous and chloride. Depending on the specific product application (milk-based, grain-based, etc.), forms such as powdered, shots, snacks, confectionery products, cereals or smoothies can all be formulated to contain a combination of the nutrients mentioned above to deliver nutrients at the end of the shelf-life of the finished product.

Formulating endurance nutrition products

Just as we have many products on grocers’ shelves that promote a myriad of benefits for a multitude of health conditions, global, on-the-go lifestyles are creating an increased demand for nutritional products that strategically promote endurance. There are a host of considerations for food developers looking to incorporate specific nutrients into these products, a few of which include the responsible examination of interactions as well as synergies between various ingredients. Certain ingredients, when used together, may enhance their endurance-boosting effects more than would be expected when used individually.

Another important consideration is the delivery channel for these nutrients, as different demographics vary in food and beverage preferences. Nutrients perform and interact differently, depending on how they are integrated and in what application. Various market forms may need to be explored, depending upon the end-use.

Good practice calls for high quality nutritional blends that address these issues, which in turn will gain consumer confidence in the product and repeat purchase. Additionally, sensory changes caused by functional food ingredients or any nutrient should be minimised at the beginning of the premix and finished product development phase, rather than later in the process. Other steps a formulator should take into consideration include the following:

  • try to keep it simple: understand the physical and chemical properties of the functional ingredient and use the correct type and amount in the formulation
  • be aware of the impact that processing conditions will have on ingredient efficacy and bioavailability: heat, hold time, extrusion shear and other unit operations can all reduce the stability of nutrients
  • meeting the label declarations at the end of the shelf-life is a must, so adjust your formulation accordingly
  • many ingredients are sensitive to storage conditions: heat, light and humidity can adversely affect them so they need to be stored properly
  • care should be taken with certain functional ingredients with increased solubility or microencapsulation if you wish to minimise interactions, unwanted flavours or need to protect ingredients from adverse processing effects.