Have you ever thought that if you hit the gym hard or often enough, or drank enough protein shakes, you’d reach your peak performance without ever having to change your diet? While some believe a calorie is a calorie, the science says otherwise—you cannot out-train or out-supplement a poor diet.
Without a solid nutrition foundation, those small tweaks to an athlete’s supplement or fueling regimen won’t have much impact. The bottom line is simple: To fuel your training and recovery best, eat a wide variety of real, unprocessed foods in the right macro level for you. Starting with your nutrition first will help you achieve your goals and optimize your performance. Additional supplements can be helpful when fine-tuning your regimen later on.
What does it mean to eat real food? An easy way to start building a real-food foundation is to focus on minimally processed foods, especially when it comes to protein and starchy and non-starchy vegetables. Focus on eating the rainbow—we’re talking Mother Nature’s rainbow, not the artificial kind—to get your energizing micronutrients, fiber, and also your whole-food carbs from the starchy veggies. Ask yourself, how many different colors have you eaten today? When choosing proteins, quality is key. Remember, you are what you eat and what your food eats, so choose proteins like grass-fed and finished beef, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild caught fish.
In addition to what foods to focus on, it’s also important to consider when you are eating and how both factors are influenced by type of activity. What time of the day is it? How long or intense is your activity? Are you working on building strength, gaining endurance, leaning out, or enhancing mobility? Other things to think about are how the weather may influence your outdoor training or how you might feel if you eat right before you train—can you digest whatever you ate prior, or will it sit too heavy during your training? Do you have a very high intensity workout planned where you know you will need both extra fuel and fluids to power through?
There’s so much to consider, so here are some real-life, generalized scenarios to help guide you:
Scenario 1: Morning Run
You’ve planned a first-morning run, but you don’t want to wake up any earlier than you have to—you need to put on your running shoes and get out the door for a 2-hour run shortly after your alarm beeps, but you don’t want to run on an empty fuel tank. It’s a bit warm outside, and you know you need to fuel right as you focus on endurance. You are looking for something to eat, but nothing too heavy like a full breakfast or a large smoothie. You need a good in-between option.
Fueling Plan: Mix 1 scoop of UCAN Energy and 1 scoop of Thorne Catalyte electrolyte mix with water. You’ll need about 30 minutes to let this digest and start to fuel you, so take this right when you wake up. Also be sure to pack a UCAN Edge for the midway point of your loop. Run with a water bottle or bladder, and if you tend to cramp up, sweat a lot, or if it’s particularly hot that morning, mix in some UCAN Hydrate. Once you’re done running, sit down for a well-rounded recovery breakfast such as a veggie-filled omelet with unrefined sea salt, organic breakfast sausages, potato hash cooked in butter, olive or avocado oil, and a handful of fresh berries.
Scenario 2: Indoor, Morning Strength Training
Your first-morning workout is indoor strength training, HIIT, or cross-training that will last about an hour. Your goal is to lean out.
Fueling Plan: This might be a good time to go fasted if your goal is to lean out, but make sure to keep a bottle filled with water or water + no-sugar electrolytes to sip on during your session. If your goal is not necessarily strength or power, then you can minimize your pre-workout fueling in order to prolong your overnight fast, which allows you to keep burning fat for fuel. A fasted workout can take some time to adjust to, but if you try it and still feel like you’re missing out on energy, add a scoop of UCAN Energy 30 minutes before your training starts. UCAN does not spike blood sugar and allows fat to be burned as fuel, so it won’t take away from your goals to lean out. Play around with what feels best and either way, make sure to eat a balanced breakfast afterwards.
Scenario 3: Late-Afternoon Heavy Lifting
You’ve decided on a late-afternoon lift that will last a little over an hour. Your goal is to lift heavy and build strength; you want to get the most out of this workout. Your lunch was a loaded salad with chicken and avocado and a large sweet potato with some butter and sea salt. That was just over two hours ago, and it’ll be another hour until your workout, so you know you’ll be starting to get hungry once your workout time rolls around.
Solution: With an hour left until it’s time to train, have some overnight oats or chia seed pudding with fresh berries and 1-2 scoops of collagen peptides mixed in. When it’s about time to start your session, add some electrolytes to water and sip on that throughout your workout. Because of your goals to build strength and perform your best during this workout, your electrolytes can be with or without sugar. No-sugar electrolytes can be UCAN Hydrate or Selina Naturally electrolyte powder, but if you’re looking for that extra boost, try Skratch Labs Wellness Hydration mix or Designs for Sport Hydration Complex*. For even more muscle fuel, add a scoop of amino acids such as Thorne Amino Complex or Designs for Sport Amino Complex* to your electrolyte water.
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Top Three Top-Off Snacks
- Chocolate Strawberry Overnight Oats. Find our recipe here.
- Grab ‘n Go Options: PaleoValley beef sticks with dried mango slices or fresh berries; UCAN bars; SportFuel On the Go Mini Meal bars (if you need a bit more substance)
- Superhero Muffins by Run Fast. Eat Slow. You can find their recipe here.
Some of our Favorite Products
- Fueling carbohydrates: UCAN Energy, UCAN Edge
- Electrolytes: UCAN Hydrate, Thorne Catalyte, Selina Naturally Electrolyte Powder, Skratch Labs Wellness Hydration Mix
- Amino Acids: Thorne Amino Complex, DFS Hydration Complex*, DFS Amino Complex*, Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, Sports Research peptides
- On-the-go snacks: PaleoValley products, SportFuel Bars, UCAN Bars
Building a Sustainable Smoothie Handout (click here)
For additional examples, or customized fueling plans, always feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
*Email us at email@example.com for access to Designs for Sport products