- Traveling by road involves one to sit for an extended period which can lead to bloating and acidity.
- Taking flight journeys have a risk of dehydrating the body as the pressurized cabin causes increased fluid losses.
- While traveling by foot, choose high-protein and complex carbohydrates like brown rice, pasta, quinoa, pumpkin etc. that will keep one full for longer and give lasting energy.
In today’s modern world of sports, travel is an indispensable part of an athlete’s life. Whether it is traveling for training camps or competitions, it becomes challenging for athletes to meet their nutritional goals. Even the destination of travel, i.e. overseas or domestic, can make a significant impact on the eating habits of an athlete. They cannot take any chances and have to be on top of their game before the competition. As travel disrupts the standard eating patterns, that can lead to suboptimal nutrition, affecting the training and performance of an athlete. Therefore, athletes have to follow a comprehensive diet plan that helps them meet their physical needs.
The following list gives five unique nutrition tips for the traveling athlete customized based on the mode of travel and the destination.
1. Nutrition for traveling by bus or car
Most people get a ravenous appetite when they hit the road. It might be psychological, but the last thing an athlete needs is eating junk food under the pangs of hunger. It is crucial to plan for the journey in advance and pack accordingly.
Pack a few snacks for munching and prepare a few easy, healthy meals to take while on the go. Snacks like protein bars, fresh fruits, and nuts are nutritious and straightforward. Quinoa black bean salad, sandwiches, and hummus-celery are some healthy meal options to eat in car or bus. Pack the meals in airtight containers which will keep them fresh and avoid staleness.
Eggs are a rich source of proteins, are low in calories, and keep the appetite full for longer. So, athletes can carry hard-boiled eggs with them.
Traveling by road involves one to sit for an extended period which can lead to bloating and acidity. Yoghurt is a wonderful probiotic that keeps the gut healthy and prevents any chances of acidity or stomach issues.
Studies suggest that packaged items like bread, butter, processed cheese, and bottled water are safe to consume. But one must avoid foods like cold meats, salad, tap water, ice and dairy products to prevent any illness and diarrhea. Apart from these, instead of relying on service stations for drinking water, carry additional bottled water from home.
2. Nutrition while traveling by plane
Taking flight journeys have a risk of dehydrating the body as the pressurized cabin causes increased fluid losses. One might get headaches and feel constipated due to dehydration.
Carry high-carbohydrate, low-fat snacks and meal option in hand luggage. Pack some extra high-carbohydrate foods like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, low-fat yoghurt, popcorn, quinoa, and sweet potato in case of stopover delays. According to a LiveStrong article, having a high-carb, low fat, and low protein diet improves the metabolic rate and digestive health.
Athletes should carry their water bottle on the plane to supplement soft drinks or juices provided by the flight crew. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages are a big no-no while flying. According to an Insider article, drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages can cause dehydration.
Jetlag is another major problem caused by crossing different time zones which can make the athlete feel tired, disturbed sleep cycle, and agitated bowel movements. To tackle this issue, one can start adapting their time table to destination time a day or two before departure. Keep a food diary, with meals and their timing as a reminder, to make it easy to adapt to the changing timezone. After arriving at the destination, do some light exercises which will let the body adjust to the new timezone and minimize the signs of jetlag.
3. Nutrition while traveling on foot
Plan ahead before going for long hikes or runs. Pack light, compact, dried and dehydrated foods like instant noodles or soup mix according to the number of calories that one needs to burn in a day. While traveling by foot, choose high-protein and complex carbohydrates like brown rice, pasta, quinoa, pumpkin etc. that will keep one full for longer and give lasting energy. While hiking, stay hydrated with not just plain water but water with electrolytes like vitamin water, ORS, or other hypotonic drinks to replace bodily fluids lost during sweating. Some sports people consume steroids to increase their performance but suffer from estrogen imbalance as a side-effect. To counter this hormonal imbalance carry a strip of Nolvadex tablets.
4. Nutrition at Hotels
While traveling to a new destination, it is common to have gastrointestinal problems due to the change in food and water. According to a study, eating unhealthy foods can have a significant influence on gut health and can cause the growth of harmful microbes in the gut. Therefore, eating healthy food will promote the increase of healthy microbes which keeps the gut healthy.
Staying in self-catering accommodation provides flexibility with preparing food of their choice, which is the safest and healthiest option. Carry ready to eat meals and use the hotel’s microwave to prepare oatmeal, scrambled eggs or a muffin. Stock the hotel room’s fridge with healthy snacks like yoghurt, fruits, and some veggies. If the local water feels unsafe, then drink water only from sealed containers and clean teeth also using the same water.
Raw fruits and vegetables like leafy greens should be washed thoroughly using bottled water, as they might contain microbes due to pesticides and washed using unhygienic water. It is safer to consume fruits like bananas and mangoes that need peeling. Avoid munching on fatty foods like fried items, creamy, or crispy items as they would increase body fat and slow down the metabolism.
5. Eating at a Restaurant
If eating at a restaurant is a necessity like in the case of a gala dinner, then follow precautions. Dine-in only in reputable restaurants and try not to become overwhelmed by the large spread of food items. Go through the menu and choose a meal that fits the diet plan with the right portion size.
Select foods with quality carbohydrates like whole-grain bread and rice and consume lean proteins like beans, tofu, fish, and chicken. While eating, don’t forget about hydration. Ask for a glass of water without ice. According to a HuffPost article, restaurants often serve ice prepared from tap water which might contain harmful microbes that remain potent even after freezing.
Traveling can make it challenging to stick to a healthy diet, but nothing is impossible if one does proper planning in advance. To minimize the impact of traveling on an athlete’s performance, eat and hydrate well. Research well and gather information about where one would be staying and what are the healthy meal options.