Travel is a normal part of life for most of us, but this is especially true for professional athletes. Traveling away from home brings on various disruptions, distractions, changes in schedule and exposure to different foods that can significantly impact strict eating habits. Some of the biggest nutritional challenges faced by the traveling athlete include:
- Meeting daily vitamin and mineral requirements
- Balancing energy intake
- Being aware of food safety and making sure not to consume something that will make them feel ill
- Achieving carb and protein requirements
- Staying adequately hydrated
The best way to combat any sort of changes brought on by travel is to strategize, be efficient and work hard to minimize the impact brought on by the change of environment. Whether traveling overseas or on a long trip by bus, the key to maintaining nutrition for the traveling athlete is to plan ahead and be prepared.
Before embarking on any trip, take the time to put together a general plan of where, when and what you plan to eat. It is very important to try and keep the foods and meal times as close as possible to the usual daily routine at home. Spend some time researching the destination and be aware of what restaurants and grocery stores are nearby. Here are some helpful tips to maintain good nutrition for the traveling athlete:
- The best way to guard yourself from indulging in unhealthy food is to plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks. Things like carrot sticks, trail mix, beef jerky and popcorn will satisfy hunger pangs without ruining your diet.
- When booking accommodations look for a place with a kitchen or kitchenette so you can easily prepare meals without needing to go to a restaurant.
- If you are following a very restricted diet, make sure to inform airlines ahead of time. If they can’t accommodate then pack your own food and carry it on, but make sure to check TSA guidelines in advance to ensure that you can bring your food through security.
- Easy foods to pack if traveling to an unfamiliar country are breakfast cereals, dried fruit, canned fruit, quick cook noodles and pasta, muesli bars, sports bars, cheese and crackers, raw vegetables, low-fat muffins and yogurt.
- Invest in a reliable cooler bag to keep food cool and to minimize the risk of food poisoning.
- When you are traveling it stops you from being as active as usual, so you may need to eat less than you do on training days. Be mindful of what you are eating and check in to make sure you are still consuming the nutrients and minerals you need to feel your best.
- Long travel can sometimes mess up your digestive system so aim to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that are rich in fiber.
- Check ahead of time if the water at your final destination is safe for consumption. If it’s not then drink only from bottled and sealed containers, avoid ice, brush your teeth with bottled water, avoid salad vegetables and only eat fruit if it is peeled. You don’t want to have to run to the bathroom every few minutes and suffer from stomach issues if you are competing.
- This is a given but stay away from fast food restaurants and fried food – try not to overindulge if you do decide to stray from your diet. A little bit of diet cheating isn’t the end of the world, but if you are going to be competing you want to stay as strict and disciplined as you can – you can celebrate with food later once you’re done with your competition.
Traveling presents many challenges that can compromise nutrition and result in poor performance. The best way to maintain healthy habits on the go is to have the intention and discipline to continue eating delicious, healthy food. If the desire to maintain your healthy habits is there, then the rest will come easy. When you stray away from your daily routine it can be very easy to fall into unhealthy situations, but with a little bit of preparation, creativity and being resourceful you can do anything. Whether you are an extremely active individual, aspiring athlete or just thinking about changing your lifestyle, we are here to support you as you transform into a newer, better version of yourself. Book your appointment with us so we can create a custom plan of action for you and help you meet your weight loss goals. Being healthy and feeling good about yourself is more than just a destination, it’s an ongoing journey and a lifestyle that you have to work hard for and maintain in order to live at your full potential!