Ready, Set, Fuel: How to Fuel Your Performance with Sports Nutrition

Imagine your body as a race car

Your training as the engine

Your injury treatment as the tune ups

Your diet as the fuel

And you are the driver.


If you start to view food as fuel, you have the ability to drive your athletic performance to the next level. Based on the quantity and quality of foods you consume, you can directly effect your athletic performance by utilizing nutrition as your competitive advantage. Here is how you can manipulate the three macronutrients of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to take your training to the next level.

Carbohydrates = Fuel


  • 40-65% of total energy
  • Carbohydrates help you:
    • Provide a primary fuel source during exercise
    • Store energy in muscles and tissues for later use
  • Complex → Long-lasting energy → Ideal for meals
    • Ex: Oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato, whole-wheat bread, pasta
  • Simple → Quick energy → Ideal for pre/post-workout snack
    • Ex: Gatorade, fruit, white bread

Protein = Repair & Recover


  • 20-35% of total energy
  • Protein helps you:
    • Provide building blocks for muscles
    • Maintain and repair body tissue
    • Assist in recovery from illness or injury
  • Protein sources range from low to high amounts of fat
    • Very Lean → Least fat
      • Ex: Chicken (white), Fish (white), Egg-whites, Non/Low-Fat Dairy
    • Lean → Some fat
      •  Ex: Chicken (dark), Fish (salmon), Lean Beef
    • Medium fat → Most fat
      • Ex: Ground beef, Pork Chop, Whole Egg

Fat = Endurance


  • 20-35% of total energy
  • Fat helps you:
    • Provide a secondary fuel source during exercise
    • Absorb vitamins and minerals
    • Provide fullness and satiety
  • Healthy fats = Unsaturated
    • Ex: Avocado, nuts, olive oil, salmon, peanut butter
  •  Unhealthy fats = Saturated, Trans-Fat
    • Ex: Butter, packaged goods, processed foods (chips), processed meats (hot dogs)


Each meal you consume can be considered an essential part of your training routine. Start viewing food as fuel and begin to feel the results through your performance. Nutrition can be your competitive advantage when you fill your plate with energy-enhancing, muscle-building, and endurance stimulating foods.

Stay tuned for next month’s post on sports nutrition for more tips and tricks to fuel your performance.

Maggy Boyd is currently the University of Illinois at Chicago Sports Nutrition Intern for the Flames.

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Maggy Boyd

Maggy Boyd

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