(originally published at SCW Magazine)

Becoming an elite athlete or bodybuilder requires a great deal of self-discipline. Although top physical condition can only be attained by individual commitment and hard work, the encouragement and guidance of others play a large part in helping people reach their physical peak.

A growing number of athletes and bodybuilders in the United States and beyond look to Nutrabolt’s sports nutrition products to enhance their lives. Like its customers who work with coaches, trainers, spotters and others to meet their goals, the company also believes in partnering with others to achieve its top potential.

The Bryan, Texas-based company relies on third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to warehouse its products, and uses freight brokers to handle its shipping. Third-party partners also manufacture Nutrabolt’s products.

“We’re a brand sales and distribution company, so we’re heavily reliant on outsourced supply chain partners, and there’s good and bad elements to that,” Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Casey Bauer says. “Outsourcing creates a different dynamic in our supply chain operations where those partnerships become crucial to our company. We spend a lot of time talking about how to become closer partners with the people executing our supply chain.”

The company regularly works directly with its manufacturing, 3PL and other partners in demand alignment. Nutrabolt recently made a significant investment in its relationship with supply chain partners when it purchased the Logility supply chain planning software platform, which it plans to fully implement in June.

Nutrabolt purchased Logility licenses for use not only internally, but for some of its co-manufacturers as well, which will allow partners to see immediate feedback on supply and demand levels for Nutrabolt’s products.

“We want to operate with our partners as one, and this is one of the biggest ways we can create that integration,” he adds. “We want to eventually do the same with our 3PL and freight broker partners and make sure we create as much visibility across the supply chain as possible.”

The Logility implementation and other process improvements implemented since Bauer joined Nutrabolt in mid-2015 are anticipated to reduce the company’s inventory by over 25 percent by the end of the year.

The company was founded in 2002 with the mission “to be the highest achieving and most respected nutritional life sciences company in the world, delivering superior products and service, while creating life-changing opportunities for customers,” it says.

Nutrabolt took a large step forward in fulfilling its mission in 2007, when Doss Cunningham became its CEO following his purchase of a majority share in the company from one of its founding partners. Cunningham then brought in President Manish Patel in 2008, who also bought into the business.

After becoming Nutrabolt’s owners, Cunningham and Patel set out to grow its revenues from under $10 million to the more than $200 million in sales it sees today, Bauer says.

The pair accomplished this task in part by growing the company’s Cellucor brand of nutritional supplements. The brand includes supplement and performance products across several categories including pre-workout, protein, weight loss and post-workout recovery. C-4, the brand’s pre-workout product, is a market-leading pre-workout supplement.

Cellucor has grown from being distributed at a regional level to becoming a top-selling brand at national specialty retailer GNC. The company in recent years has developed additional supplement brands: Neon Sport, Royal Sport and Cavalier.

In 2014, the company brought in a new equity partner, MidOcean Partners. MidOcean’s minority share investment in the company has helped “take Nutrabolt to the next level” by encouraging it to add to its executive team, Bauer adds.

The efforts of Nutrabolt’s owners have helped the company receive a number of accolades including being named “Vendor of the Year” by GNC three times and earning “Pre-workout of the Year” by Bodybuilding.com in late 2013. In addition, the company has been a back-to-back-to-back recipient of the Inc. 5000 distinction, recognizing it as one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States.

Leading-Edge Products

In addition to GNC and other specialty retailers, Nutrabolt’s products are available online at Bodybuilding.com, among others. The company is seeing expansion of its brands in big-box and general grocery retailers such as Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco as well. “Food, drug and mass retailers are recognizing the growth in the sports nutrition space, so we’re seeing more customers available to us,” Bauer says.

Amazon is also expanding its sports nutrition offerings. “That channel has grown dramatically for us over the past 12 months, and we predict it will continue to grow for us going forward,” he adds.

Bauer credits the success and expansion of Nutrabolt’s products to the company’s extensive research, development and product development efforts. “We have a real understanding of the consumer and what they want, and stay at the cutting-edge of that,” Bauer says. “We make sure we have the best products and best clinical data available – when we go out with a new product, we have a compelling story behind it.

“I’m consistently blown away by how the team here understands our consumers and keeps us on the leading-edge of making products customers can get behind.”

Nutrabolt’s core customers include athletes and bodybuilders who closely study and research sports nutrition. “They believe in it, invest in it and it’s a critical part of their lifestyle,” Bauer says. “They know what to expect from a product, understand the ingredient profile and know what they are looking for.”

The company’s move into big-box and other large retailers has seen the expansion of this customer base. “We’re really seeing the emergence of people who are into general fitness such as CrossFit, which means we have to come up with unique formulations targeted to those groups.”

Nutrabolt’s newest products include C4 On The Go, a pre-mixed, 10-ounce version of the C4 product, which is typically available in powdered form. Bottles of the product are being sold at retailers as well as gyms. “This makes the product much more convenient,” Bauer says.

The company in April launched a line of protein bars. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing what we believe to be the ideal protein bar offering,” he adds. The line will be available in Target, with other large retailers to follow.

Making a Difference

Nutrabolt maintains close connections not only to customers, manufacturers and 3PLs, but to the community as well. “Community work is an unbelievably critical part of our culture,” Bauer says.

The company’s community commitment extends to the interior of its headquarters, where a 20-foot wall of inspirational quotes and phrases with the theme of “grow and give back” greets employees and visitors.

Nutrabolt’s community efforts focus on organizations and events that make a difference in the lives of children and families. The company partners with local organizations including United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the Brazos Valley Food Bank. Each year, it sponsors a holiday drive, where it provides Christmas presents and a Christmas dinner to families in need. More than 100 families and 300 children are typically assisted annually.

The company tracks its philanthropic efforts in a manner similar to other business metrics such as its order fill rate, with the ultimate goal of continuous improvement. “We push ourselves to continue to grow our touch within the community,” Bauer adds. “We’re heavily invested in giving back, more so than any place I’ve seen.”

Before I go any farther I need to make it clear that the title of this article is a complete lie and is very misleading. The fact will forever remain that Brussels Sprouts and Kale will never taste good. However, spend one day eating race food and your appreciation for real food (I’m talking cheeseburgers, not veggies) will increase exponentially. Often times, nutrition is overlooked by newer or younger endurance athletes. But most experienced competitors will tell you nutrition is every bit as important as physical training. So what do you eat?

For starters, a lot of calories. Calories are your best friend when training. Along with calories, you need to try and include sodium, potassium, and sugar. Depending on the length of your race your body will burn anywhere from 1,000 calories to 12,000 calories. That being said, it is very important to be giving your body more than just water. One of the most commonly used sources of nutrition by endurance athletes is gels and chews. Gels, also referred to as GU’s (name brand), is just what it sounds like, a gel like substance that is packed with high amounts of sugar, sodium, and potassium to create a quick and easy source of calories without filling you up. Chews act much like gels but have a consistency that is closer to a gummy bear. One issue many athletes struggle with is food upsetting their stomach while they workout. That being said, it is very important to practice with the food you plan to race with to ensure your stomach can handle what you are feeding it. Another great source of calories can be found in plethora of sport drinks out there. Fluid based nutrition is typically much easier on your stomach and can be a great source of nutrition. The next question is when and how much should I eat?

Disclaimer: This is going to be different for everyone. For a starting point, most people create their training nutrition plan based on calories per hour and then divide it between cycling and running. On the bike, typical caloric consumption ranges from 200 calories an hour to 450 calories an hour. Personally, I aim for 350 calories per hour and it looks like this…

When I get on the bike:

  • One gel (100 calories)
  • Immediately followed by 8oz of sports drink (100 calories)
  • Followed by 8oz of water

30 minutes later:

  • One gel (100 Calories)
  • Immediately followed by 4oz of sports drink (50 calories)
  • Followed by 8oz of water

Then I repeat this process until I finish my ride.

Like I said before, every person is going to have a different system and different amounts of calories that work for their body. In whatever you choose, the key is to do it consistently, take notes on how it went, and try different techniques and times to determine what works best for you.

Running is much like cycling, but the amount of calories consumed is far less. For me its very simple. I take one gel every 45 minutes to an hour followed by 8oz of water to dilute it in my stomach and that’s it. Others will do chews, sport drinks only, fruit, chips, cookies… you’ll see a lot of odd foods being eaten at races. Again, like the bike, try different times intervals of eating, different sources of food, and different amounts. I recommend taking notes on everything during this period to help better remember what you did on various days.

The last step is recovery, which for me is pretty simple. Some people like to do certain foods at certain time increments, combined with different tribal dances to optimize recovery, and if that works for you, great! For me, I just make sure to get a decent amount of protein in me within 30 minutes of finishing my workout and try to sip on electrolytes and lots of water for the rest of the day.

I’ll leave you with this: try not to get frustrated if you don’t find a system that works the first time. For many people it takes years to perfect a nutrition plan for training. And when you do find a system that works, don’t be afraid to try mixing it up every once and a while to see if something else works better. Like I said before, the best way to find what works is simply trying different plans and being consistent in all of them. And I promise, if you try that enough you’ll start justifying bringing breakfast tacos and beef jerky with you as a source of nutrition. A good coach might tell you to not waste your time because that won’t work, but I’m all about a good story. So by all means, carry on… and happy eating.