That's according to speakers who joined a panel discussion entitled 'from primary research to on-field performance' at NutraIngredients' Sports Nutrition Summit in Amsterdam last week.
Prof James Morton, professor of exercise metabolism and nutrition at Liverpool John Moores University, said the industry has a responsibility to embrace social media and try to control some of the confusion circling the net.
“The world is more connected than it’s ever been and yet its more disconnected than it’s ever been as people are looking at their phones the whole time.
“We can’t control the people providing the information on their phones from people who aren’t qualified to provide that information and yet it’s being taken as fact and that can get the industry so confused."
Influencers got the intel
Nick Morgan, director at Sports Integrated, said it is tough to take complicated science, turn it into understandable messages, create products that pay into the science, and implore people to listen, understand, and act on the messages.
“The big thing we try and do is change people’s behaviour. It’s a very complicated area and it’s one thing to read the information but it’s another thing to understand it and it’s another thing to follow it."
He added that people tend to listen to people they trust and look up to and, as such, many brands have started trying to communicate the science to shoppers via influencers on social media.
But he admitted this may not necessarily be the best way to get the facts out there.
Dr Adam Carey, chair of ESSNA, suggested there’s some information that just has to come from the true experts.
“It’s really difficult to imagine the people out there on the ground are going to have all the information. They are getting better but for really technical information you need to go to a practitioner.”
Weekend warriors downing gels
Prof Morton added that sometimes a case study of a high performance athlete can remind people there’s credibility to the science out there like when Team Sky revealed how they used nutrition to help Chris Froome win the Giro d'Italia.
But the panel agreed there is a balance to get right as they also need to ensure consumers don’t take information out of context and assume they should consume the same products as their favourite athletes.
Morton added: “People like Chris Froome are extra-ordinary athletes and people might put themselves in his position when they get on the bike at the weekend.
"But their requirements are very different so buying a product that an athlete needs could actually have a negative impact on performance.”
Dr Carey argued that the answer is to be transparent about exactly who the product has been created for especially when it has been created for elite athletes.