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Benefits and contributions of the dairy ingredients used in dietetic products, summer is coming!

23 May 2017

Focus on the use of dairy ingredients in the sports nutrition industry

Summer is coming! Many are those who have already adopted a healthier dietary regime, or taken up sports again. Dairy ingredients are frequently found in dietetic products or in other foods intended for particular nutritional uses. Dairy ingredients may be present in several food groups:

  • Sports nutrition products (this market includes concentrated food bars, nutritional supplements and sports drinks),
  • Dietetic products intended for particular medical uses and
  • Some slimming products or dietetic products.


The sports nutrition market

According to a study carried out by Xerfi, sports nutrition is a lead-market in France with a 46% increase in value between 2010 and 2016 (from €65 million, sales went up to €95 million).

Key factors of this success: the slimming products market is undergoing a sharp decrease in favor of the sports nutrition market, which is driven by the current socio-cultural tendencies and the rise of protein-based products (+68%) during the period from 2009 to 2014.

Indeed, the slimming products or dietetic products market has significantly dropped, -11.5% for the mass distribution sector in 2015. Moreover, sales keep decreasing of 3% per year…The cause: the poor performances of products asserting health claims. Consumers doubt the genuine virtues of such commodities and opt for home-made food. Among the foods for particular nutritional uses, the sports nutrition market is the one undergoing the best evolution. The global market was up to €18,5 billion in 2014 and a growth of 36% is foreseen for 2019! (according to the Euromonitor 2015)

Growth still favors the sports nutrition market the most. This dynamic is sustained by the continuous improvement of the lifestyle of high-level athletes, the significant increase in the practice of fitness and running (boosted by communities on social networks and trendy connected objects) and more generally by the relentless pursuit of performance existing in our society. Every year, the number of sportsmen continues to increase, thus forcing sports nutrition to democratize itself. The target has become more diversified with a great number of occasional sportsmen and more women joining in. For example, the number of participants gathered for the Paris marathon has increased of 20% between 2012 and 2015! We can hardly deny the current craze for running!

Finally, according to a study carried out by the FCEC (Food Chain Evaluation Consortium of 2015), the foods for sportspeople market growth was due in particular to the increase of protein-based products (+68%) as well as to the increase of energy products and products stimulating performance (+54%) on the given period (between 2009 and 2014).

The sports nutrition industry applications

The products intended for sportspeople are regulated by the directive 2009/39/EC. They benefit from particular labels that enable both consumers to be well-informed and a good use of the products. This specific directive is a guarantee of quality as well as safety for the consumer.

The sports nutrition products are:

  • The protein and food concentrated bars: such products improve energy and stamina, bars with a balanced nutritional content and protein bars, which aim to increase muscle mass and strength.
  • The food supplements: optimizing performances, stimulating metabolism, burning fat, developing muscle mass, enabling weight gain. They can be meal substitutes or energy formulas sold as pills or powders. These products target athletes and sports gym regulars. They are full of proteins (soya, whey), creatine and amino acids.
  • The sports drinks: they are made to enable the body to quickly absorb carbohydrates and liquids. They are generally enriched with vitamins and minerals.


The dairy ingredients used in sports nutrition

Proteins are actively sought out in the composition of sports products for the following reasons: muscle mass increase, weight gain, substitution of carbohydrates and lipids by proteins…

Dairy ingredients represent a significant protein source for the sports nutrition sector. The protein content of foods products for sportspeople goes from 0% to 70%. It is worth noting that the quality of proteins coming from animal origin is admitted superior to the one of vegetal proteins because of their higher essential amino acids content.

Thus, various dairy ingredients can be used to produce foods for sportspeople: whey proteins, caseins, caseinates, milk calcium…


Whey proteins: advantages and functional properties for sports nutrition

Whey proteins are known and admitted as a protein source of high nutritional quality and are reputed for their quick absorption rate by the body. Indeed, their branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids contents are higher than those of other protein sources. Branched-chain amino acids stimulate protein synthesis, which facilitates some recovery processes. Thus, their contents in essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids make whey proteins especially suitable for the development and strengthening of muscles, consequently optimizing recovery after physical exertion and improving sportspeople’s performances.

By their high content in essential amino acids – such as lysine, methionine and tryptophan – whey proteins have a nutritional value superior to the one of caseins and other edible proteins.

Obtained by whey filtration, whey proteins are used in numerous foods industries. They possess indeed some very interesting functional properties: depending on the extraction process proteins may be whipping or gelatinizing. Rich in essential amino acids, whey proteins are a direct source of energy for muscles. They contribute to maintaining lean body mass.

Their benefits in regard to sports nutrition are numerous:

  • Development, recovery and maintenance of muscle mass and tissue:
    • The amino acids contained by the protein stimulate muscle growth and regeneration,
    • Being easily digested and quickly absorbable enables this protein to prompt a quick body’s recovery process.
  • Weight maintenance:
    • Whey proteins facilitate the feeling of satiety, thermogenesis as well as the maintenance of blood sugar levels after eating,
    • Several studies have proved that whey proteins help both preserve lean body mass and reduce waist size.
  • Bone health:
    • Whey proteins contribute to maintaining natural bone health in adults.

Moreover, whey proteins are an ingredient occurring naturally in milk, easily flavored and sweetened as needed.

Heat-resistant, they can be used in various products (instant powders, bars and gels).

Thus, sports nutrition often uses dairy ingredients that are derived from whey. They consist mostly of whey proteins such as whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate as well as whey protein hydrolysate.



Whey protein concentrate WPC

Whey protein concentrates (WPC) are obtained from whey that has been desalinated and made lactose-free to varying degrees (ultrafiltration process followed by spray drying). Using diafiltration may increase protein concentration.

The protein content of these ingredients varies from 15% to 80%.

Besides the known benefits of whey proteins for sports nutrition, WPC also show very interesting functional properties:

  • Hydrophilic agent (cost reduction in formulation)
  • Foaming and whipping powers (stable film)
  • Emulsifying power (proteins enable the stabilization of fat emulsions)
  • Gelling, viscidity

Click here to discover our WPC


Whey protein isolate WPI

Whey protein isolates (WPI) are obtained by concentrating and purifying WPC. These products have a minimum protein content of 88%.

WPI are pure proteins that offer many advantages:

  • Low lactose content (content < 1%)
  • Low lipid level
  • Low residual sodium content

Easily digested, WPI are often used in the production of foods for sportspeople (drinks as well as other dietetic products).

Besides the known benefits of whey proteins for sports nutrition, WPI take part in the recovery after physical exertion – especially in muscle mass gain.

The functional properties of WPI are similar to the ones of WPC as mentioned above.

Click here to discover our WPI

Nowadays, the milk cracking process enables further improvement with the possibility to isolate some particular protein fractions such as the alpha-lactalbumin. Thanks to non-aggressive and non-denaturing technologies, it is now possible to provide native ingredients with a structure very similar to the natural one they have in milk.



Milk protein concentrate MPC

Milk protein concentrates (MPC) are skimmed-milk concentrates with a protein content (caseins and whey proteins) in dry matter exceeding 42% (preferably higher than 75%). Protein content varies from 42% to 85% depending on the level of membrane concentration.

The casein-whey protein ratio is almost similar to the one of the original skimmed-milk. However, MPC lactose contents vary in accordance with protein concentration.

Regarding sports nutrition applications, the casein-whey protein ratio can be modified by liquid combination. To better suit the requirements of the sports nutrition industry, the whey protein proportion of these MPC is therefore increased to boost their nutritional values.

MPC preserve the structure and amino acids content of milk proteins. Their nutritional and protein values enable them to take part in muscle mass development and weight control.

They possess many functional properties (gelling, foaming, whipping and emulsifying powers, taste preservation, solubility and resistance to heat treatments).

Click here to discover our MPC


Acid caseins

Caseins are highly purified proteins made from skimmed-milk (through acid or enzymatic coagulation). They represent 80% of milk protein content.

This ingredient is obtained by coagulation with hydrochloric acid to bring the pH of pasteurized skimmed-milk to the casein isoelectric point in order to make it insoluble.

Edible acid caseins are especially used in sports nutrition for their functional properties among other things: texture improvement, water retention, emulsifying power.

These so-called slow digestible caseins are particularly suitable for achieving muscle protein regeneration..

Click here to discover our acid caseins



Caseinates are made from lactic caseins (dissolution by neutralization then dehydration or drying).

Various kinds of caseinates exist with diverse benefits for sports nutrition:

  • Calcium caseinate: calcium contributes to several essential functions of the organism (cell reproduction, muscle contraction, cardiac activity, skeleton development and maintenance…),
  • Sodium caseinate: good nutritional value and excellent functional properties (emulsifying power, thickening and bulking agent, low viscidity),
  • Potassium caseinate: potassium is essential for muscle contraction (especially for the cardiac muscle).

In general, caseinates are used in sports nutrition because of both their high protein content and numerous technical and functional applications.

Click here to discover our caseinates


What about liquid milk?

Hydration is fundamental for everyone, but even more for sportspeople, because of its direct impact on physical as well as mental performances. Drinking before, during and after a training session is therefore more than essential. We are used to drink water to hydrate ourselves, but what about milk? Various studies* carried out on sportspeople have shown that cow milk can be an adequate alternative to mineral water. Indeed, due to its nutritional contents (including water – water stands for 90% of milk composition – and electrolyte – such as sodium and potassium – contents), milk enables a good rehydration after physical exertion.

As previously noted, dairy products are a protein source, but they also represent an essential supply of calcium – as a valuable ally to muscle activity – for sportspeople. It contributes to nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Therefore, an insufficient calcium intake can cause muscle cramps to sportsmen.

Thus, thanks to its water content (90%) and the quality of its nutrients (proteins for muscles, vitamins and minerals including calcium), milk is an excellent recovery drink. Especially since a study of 2014** has proved there was no link between the consumption of dairy products before a sports competition and intestinal discomfort. One more reason not to put dairy products aside!

* Milk: An Alternative Beverage for Hydration ? Pegoretti C, Antunes AEC, Manchado-Gobatto FDB, et al. Food Nutr Sci 2015; 6 (6): 547-54

* *Haakonssen E.C. et al. (2014) Dairy based pre-exercise meal does not affect gut comfort or time-trial preformance in female cyclists, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise ; DOI :