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Beyond Goldfish and Gatorade: One Company’s Mission to Transform Sports Nutrition for Student Athletes

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Two years ago, Brett Relander was on the hunt for a nutrition solution to supplement his son’s sports-infused lifestyle. Staring at the shelves, Relander was frustrated—and a little taken aback—to find the market saturated with junk: fruit snacks, “granola” bars and sugar-laden drinks. He noticed “the Goldfish and Gatorade diet” on the sidelines of his son’s games, too.

For Relander, who holds a degree in Exercise Science and is a father of three, this didn’t sit well. The idea to launch a product with the right balance of taste and nutrition began to take shape.

“It was a lightbulb moment,” he recalls. “I felt like it was my calling.”

In February, Relander saw phase one of his project come to life with the launch of X1 Fuel, a sports nutrition company dedicated to helping student athletes achieve their full potential.

Fueling Active Lifestyles

Relander’s career has primarily focused on marketing over the past decade, but he’s kept his passion for kids and sports alive: Back in 2000, he interned at the prestigious CooperAerobics Center, and he’s coached countless kids’ sports teams over the years. Today, he’s dedicated to making sports nutrition his primary focus. He’s bootstrapped X1 Fuel using a $300,000 credit line from a hometown bank, and hopes to continue growing the company as well as its product offerings.

“To get back to something that I’m really passionate about is a dream come true,” says Relander.

X1 Fuel recently released two powder-based products—one for pre-training and one for recovery—that can be mixed with water before and after workouts for easy, on-the-go nutrition.

The journey hasn’t been without its challenges, though: Finding a reliable manufacturer that would meet X1 Fuel’s high standards proved elusive for months. Finding the right mix of ingredients, too, was a lengthy process. Ultimately, Relander decided on an all-natural superfood mix high in antioxidants and taste-tested by kids as young as six. The recipe contains no GMOs, gluten, caffeine or artificial sweeteners.

Relanders’ own kids use the products, and they certainly need the fuel: His 6-year old daughter packs in nine hours of gymnastics every week, and his son is as active as ever, playing basketball, volleyball, and year-round soccer for the FC Dallas club.

One of the most crucial elements of post-exertion recovery for kids, says Relander, is getting replenishment within 30 minutes of working out. This can be difficult or impossible after a game or practice, since it often takes families as long just to drive home. X1 Fuel addresses the issue of nutrition on the go: Each product order comes with a shaker bottle with two compartments, so it’s easy to take anywhere.

“Whether these athletes’ workouts are an hour or three hours long, we want to make sure they’ve got the energy available from a quality source—not just from loading up on sugar,” explains Relander.

Though X1 Fuel looks like something you might find in the supplement aisle, the products are classified as food—and are manufactured in an FDA registered and inspected facility. Transparent labeling, says Relander, such as the products’ clearly stated Nutrition Facts, is key.

“It was a little bit more expensive and time-consuming from a regulation perspective, but it was the right path to go down,” says Relander. “We want to build trust with our customers; we want them to know that what they read on our labels is true.”

The payoff has been promising: From March to April, the company saw sales double, and they are on track to double again in May. Recently the products also received certifications from Informed-Choice, an organization that tests for banned substances (of which X1 Fuel contains none). These certifications, says Relander, will help X1 Fuel “take its place within the sports nutrition market.”

Core Values that Go Beyond Nutrition

Beyond new product releases, Relander has big plans for X1 Fuel’s future.

He’ll accomplish these goals in part through the company’s partner program, which consists of a network of coaches and sports professionals who act as brand ambassadors. A few of the notable names who have joined the “X1 Family” to date include: Darrin Morris, an international rugby player and World Cup international coach; Eve Pearson, a registered sports dietician and owner of Nutriworks; Scott Sealy, a former FC Dallas professional soccer player; Justin Musil, president and founder of Elite Sports Advertising; and Brad Prichard, a high school basketball coach and owner of Prichard Performance. Relander personally vets each partner to make sure they fit the brand’s overarching vision.

It’s not just nutrition that X1 is aiming to disrupt: He hopes to use X1 Fuel’s core values—CHOOSE the positive, GIVE your best, RECOGNIZE achievement—as a foundation for a leadership training program that will address student athletics from a holistic perspective.

“There are plenty of physical training resources, but not a lot of people talk about the mental side,” explains Relander. “I want student athletes to understand that when they get up in the morning, it’s their choice to be positive—whether on the court, on the field, at home, at work, wherever.” To help spread his message Relander plans to host events for student athletes that focus on leadership, visualization, sportsmanship, social media best practices for athletes, and the mental side of sports.

Relander plans to take 100% of the ticket sales for these events to fund a scholarship program for student athletes. The proceeds will help lower-income families afford the expenses of recreational athletics for their kids—everything from club fees to cleats. In turn, the program will help strengthen student athlete communities around the country.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to supporting the kids. The juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak, when Relander sees how X1 Fuel is helping young people live more active, healthier lives.

From a dad’s perspective, especially, Relander is aware of how crucial it is to keep kids active in an era of screens and smartphones. (His daughter, he says, knew how to handle a smartphone at the age of one.) Sports helped shape who he is today, and Relander’s hope for X1 Fuel is that it will help kids make the most of the valuable lessons they can learn out on the field (or on the court, in the gym, etc.).

“Sports, to me, are a way to get kids active, get them outdoors, get them learning about dedication and teamwork. Sports help kids learn about being accountable to teammates—and about making a commitment and seeing it through.”

Which is exactly what Relander plans to do with X1. He hopes to take the company beyond physical products and make it into more of a movement: “We want people who care about the kids.” he says. “We want to get as many people involved in the X1 Family who share our values as possible. It’s about purpose.”

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