Mar 14, 2023
Health and Safety: CSCCa April | Jordan Harris Fueling

Fueling Station Design Considerations for Programs without a Dietitian
Jordan Harris, MS, RDN, LDN

Written by a Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association Registered Dietitian (RD). To learn more about sports nutrition and CPSDA, go to

Fueling stations are a great opportunity to provide snacks and supplements that optimize the training adaptations of collegiate athletes. However, designing a fueling station can be an expensive and daunting task due to the logistics associated with prioritizing nutritional status of athletes while adhering to a budget. Athletic programs might spend anywhere from a quarter-million to 1.5 million dollars annually to complete this task.

Ever since 2014, when the NCAA changed its legislation to allow unlimited feeding for athletes, the number of sports dietitians and fueling stations in collegiate athletics have skyrocketed (1). In most major athletic conferences fueling station design is guided by sports dietitians, though this is not always the case. Some programs that need to feed multiple athletic teams may lack the funds to afford the expertise of a sports dietitian, and rely on pre-existing staff to provide food to athletes. Regardless of the professional running the fueling station, athletes need to be fueled and fueling station design needs to be optimized for this task.

This article will discuss two major fueling station design points that programs without a sports dietitian can consider: location, and item selection.

Physical Location

The term “fueling station” may conjure up an image of stainless-steel counters lined with blenders located beside Gatorade-sponsored fridges to some people, but it is in fact, a varied term that can refer to several situations. The two main types are centralized and satellite fueling stations.

A centralized fueling station is normally a nutrition operation’s home base. This is where most of the snacks and supplements are made and offered. Depending on the scope of operation and foods offered, these spaces may require permits and compliance with federal and state Food Code standards. If you’re not sure, consulting with your local regulatory authority and health inspector can be a great resource. The ideal location will be in a central area that athletes pass multiple times on a daily basis. Common locations are adjacent to weight rooms, player lounges, locker rooms, or practice sites.

Aside from athlete access, consider location factors that minimize stress on staff and assure food is handled safely such as:

  • Proximity to storage areas
    • If a weight room lies between the fueling station and the storage space, it can be stressful as well as dangerous for staff and athletes to transport products in a timely manner through a space where athletes are training.
  • Proximity to receiving areas/loading docks
    • Supplies need to be received and transported to the storage areas in a timely manner, so a fueling station with safe and direct access to or connected to a loading dock can be convenient
  • Access to waste disposal areas, sinks and, cleaning/sanitation tools
    • If a fueling station is making a variety of food/snacks, trash disposal and sanitation tools are key in keeping a food service operation neat and clean
  • Access to food prep areas
    • When food prep areas are near the fueling station, food production times can be greatly reduced
    • Additionally, athletes typically love to see that their food is freshly prepared, so food prep areas in/near the fueling station that they can see can be a great incentive to eat

Satellite fueling stations can also be set up throughout facilities to offer snacks/meals to athletes at key fueling moments such as after workouts, practices, or meetings. Satellite fueling stations are smaller than centralized fueling stations and are often limited in regard to food production due to their limited space. While these mini fueling stations can be built into the infrastructure of a facility, they can also be economically created by combining portable tables with effective labeling to display snacks and supplements. The same points above are important to consider.


The second component to consider when designing a fueling station is product selection. It is important to understand that quality food items do not have to be unique and/or expensive. Utilizing a food-first approach that focuses on giving athletes fresh fruits, simple sandwiches (deli meat with cheese, peanut butter and jelly, etc.), and small snacks like hard-boiled eggs, Rice Krispies Treats, granola bars, or cheese sticks will help to limit expenses while meeting nutrient needs. However, when considering supplemental products, a more strategic approach is needed.

An optimal supplemental product selection will be tailored to the taste preferences of teams, and focus on improving the hydration levels, recovery, and protein consumption of athletes. Additionally, dietary supplements that are offered to athletes should be 3rd party tested for athletic banned substances (2).

Programs with limited budgets should especially focus on providing options at key fueling moments throughout the day such as before or after training and games. The tables below review basic options while providing rationale for item selection during these time periods.

Pre-Practice/Workout Supplemental Products

Items Popular Brands Purpose
High Carb Energy Chews Honey Stinger, Gatorade Quick digesting carb source
High Carb Snacks Honey Stinger Quick digesting carb source
Beet Juice Humann, Juice Performer, Biosteel Improve vasodilation/endurance
Collagen Momentous, Klean Soft-tissue repair
Hydration Packets The Right Stuff, Drip Drop Electrolyte replenishment
High-carb Drink Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte High-carb hydration with electrolyte replenishment
Low-carb Drink Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte Low-carb hydration with electrolyte replenishment
Water N/A Fluid replacement

Aside from beet juice which improves vasodilation/endurance (3), hydration packets which are helpful for quick electrolyte replenishment, and collagen for soft-tissue repair (4), the focus is on high-carb easy to eat snacks before workouts. This can be easily substituted for whole fruit, fruit chews, or quick snacks like granola bars. Drinks are used for electrolyte and fluid replenishment before workouts to optimize hydration levels before training (5). All athletes need carbohydrates to fuel their performance, but athletes with weight concerns can utilize low-carb options to manage their hydration status.

Post-Practice/Workout Supplemental Products

Items Popular Brands Purpose
Custom Protein Shakes  — Protein source, fluid replacement, and serving of fruit and/or vegetables
Ready to Drink Protein Shakes Gatorade, Muscle Milk, Fairlife Protein source and fluid replacement
Pickles/Pickle Juice PickleAde Sodium replenishment, cramp relief via TRP channels
High-carb drink Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte High-carb fluid and electrolyte replacement
Low-carb drink Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte Low-carb fluid and electrolyte replacement
Water N/A Fluid replacement

A focus on fluids that meet multiple nutritional needs following workouts can be a great way to optimize hydration status.

While fueling stations are a great opportunity to provide snacks and supplements that reduce nutrient deficiencies, athletes still need to be encouraged to eat balanced meals throughout the day when possible. However, an emphasis on designing fueling stations to meet athletes at the right locations with the right products can optimize their performance through proper fueling before and after practices and competitions.


  1. Council approves meals, other student-athlete well-being rules. Published April 15, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  2. Eichner AK, Coyles J, Fedoruk M, et al. Essential Features of Third-Party Certification Programs for Dietary Supplements: A Consensus Statement. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2019;18(5):178. doi:10.1249/JSR.0000000000000595
  3. Zamani H, de Joode MEJR, Hossein IJ, et al. The benefits and risks of beetroot juice consumption: a systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2021;61(5):788-804. doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1746629
  4. Praet SFE, Purdam CR, Welvaert M, et al. Oral Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides Combined with Calf-Strengthening Exercises Enhances Function and Reduces Pain in Achilles Tendinopathy Patients. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):76. doi:10.3390/nu11010076
  5. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(3):501-528. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006

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