- Learning the foundational guidelines of proper sports nutrition can take an athlete far.
- Fueling timing matters around high-intensity activity.
- SportFuel recommended products are well-researched and tested at the highest levels.
- As an athlete, it’s important to know how to choose the best fuel when you are underprepared.
- The last step to every fueling program is to refine. You need to learn to update and adjust your fueling to life changes.
You asked for it, so here it is!! Foundational sports nutrition guidelines to keep your tank full. But before we dive into the what, let’s look at the why.
Whether you are a pro athlete, on a pro-weight-loss mission, or just trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle as you age, keeping your nutritional tank full is KEY to your success.
Your body is a high-powered and complex machine, so it needs fuel and a fueling schedule to match, one that can leave it operating at its best. You are not going to put regular gas in a Ferrari are you? No way! So today, make a promise to your body that you will feed it the fuel it needs and deserves.
It’s also important to remember why you are doing this. Take a moment, breathe, and get in touch with your why, so you can be ready to receive all that sports nutrition has to offer!
Timing is everything.
Proper fueling before, during, and after any workout, game, or practice with high-quality food is important for optimizing energy, performance, and recovery. Although every athlete will have different needs based on their unique biology and goals, there are foundational guidelines within sports nutrition that all athletes can experiment with!
Remember that fueling needs to match the intensity and duration of your activity, and portion sizes should be adjusted based on individual needs and goals.
Pre-activity fueling guidelines
4-6 hours before your activity, make sure to have a meal with carbs, protein, fat, and vegetables. Some great examples of this can be found in our Breakfast with a Boost guide, or you can choose your own from our Recipes!
Remember that fueling for your activity happens all day, not just in the couple hours during and around your sport.
Then, an hour before you begin your activity, you will want to consume a real food snack with smart carbs and protein, then within an hour before you are active, make sure to include fluids, aminos, electrolytes and possibly UCAN. The goal here is to fuel properly without spiking blood sugar (and to avoid any crashes later on).
Recommendations for pre-workout/practice/game snacks:
- Overnight oats with mixed berries and collagen peptides
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Grass-fed beef stick + 1/2 a banana
Game time fueling guidelines
The last hour is now up, which means it’s game time! During your activity, your fueling will involve electrolytes, aminos, sea salt, water, and potentially the additions of UCAN and of coconut water (if you aren’t supplementing with electrolytes already). Consumption of UCAN and coconut water during your activity will depend on the type of training, sport, duration, and intensity. SportFuel® Senior Sports Dietitian, Alex Cotie, likes to top off her endurance training with UCAN Energy at the 60-minute mark during her training as she gets ready for the Zion Trail Half Marathon. Other great options for fueling during your activity include:
During workout/practice/game snacks
- 1 cup grapes
- 1 apple
- 1 orange
- 4 dates
- 1 cup cubed watermelon
- 1 cup mango slices
- 1 banana
Post-activity fueling guidelines
Now that you’ve finished your activity, you need to rebuild. Training and competition have you exerting so much—your body breaks down your sugars and even stored fat to perform your best, which means it’s time to give your body what it needs to replenish.
Recovery fueling is what not only helps you maintain, but also allows you to continue to get better. Post activity, your priority should be a meal, but if you do not have access to a full kitchen, you can opt for a recovery shake.* The best shakes will include UCAN Energy, aminos, glutamine, and collagen or another high-quality protein source. If appliances are nowhere to be found, try these snacks listed below!
*For a low/moderate activity that is less than an hour in duration where you plan to eat within an hour after you finish your activity, you do not need a recovery shake (unless your current goals involve consuming more calories and recovering very quickly).
- Take any of the “During” snacks and add 2 tbsp of a nut or seed butter, coconut flakes, ground chia seeds, flax meal, KitchFix granola, or organic beef or turkey jerky (Paleo Valley, Epic, Nick’s Sticks).
- Mixed berry smoothie with collagen protein + 1/4 avocado + UCAN® Energy
- Hardboiled egg with sea salt and fresh fruit
- Jackson’s Honest sweet potato chips or beet chips dipped in organic, full-fat cottage cheese or guacamole
- Organic raw pressed juice (beets, carrot, berries, mixed greens, or other fruits) with collagen peptides
When you forget to prep your fuel...don't stress!
As an athlete, being underprepared can bring on a lot of stress. Sometimes when you are preparing to head out of town for a tournament or a chain of away games, you run out of time and forget to pack your fueling basics.
Before you start to stress, read through these on-the-go how-tos so that no matter you’re eating restrictions or performance goals, you will be able to make smart decisions with your food.
Remember that real food fuels, but also that something is always better than nothing. There is no doubt that the SportFuel or UCAN Bar will fuel you better than a Nature Valley bar, but if your only option is a Nature Valley bar and you have a full-day tournament in front of you, then the Nature Valley bar is much better than nothing at all!
What to look for
Vending machine guidelines
- Real-food ingredients
- Best options are normally trail mix, granola bars, or RX bars
- Avoid energy or monster drinks as well as colored sports drinks, which have artificial flavorings and lots of added sugars. Instead, opt for water with an electrolyte packet, coconut water, or clear sports drinks.
Snack bar tips
- Compare labels by asking to check ingredient lists.
- Best options may be a sub sandwich or lettuce wrap with protein, lettuce, tomato and other veggies, fruit, a performance bar, and a large cup of water.
On-the-go: fast-food restaurants with real food options
- Sweet Green/Mad Greens
- True Food Kitchen
- Panera Bread
- Noodles & Co.
- Jimmy Johns
- Jason’s Deli
- Firehouse Subs
How to get started
Let’s remember that sports nutrition is all about keeping your tank full so you can have full energy, focus, and the physical power you need for your sport—emphasis on YOU! If you are looking to make some changes to your sports nutrition, start by adding one new addition at a time. Pick something that’s impact feels the most urgent, necessary, and exiting. Sustainable change often comes from tapping into intrinsic motivation, aka your why for doing something, not someone else’s.
You have the power to control your fueling and performance success.
If you have any questions or are ready to further personalize your performance nutrition, book your commitment-free exploratory call with our team here.