THE TRAVELLING ATHLETE
Subaru Epic Dartmouth Triathlon, N.S.
PLANNING AHEAD IS a critical component behind any successful athletic training program. The same process and thoughtfulness that goes into an athlete’s training plan should be applied when considering nutrition and hydration while travelling. This extra step and care will help to minimize the physical and psychological stress associated with travelling long distances for competition.
Restaurant and fast food meals are notoriously high in fat. Fat provides flavour and helps fill the stomach, which could lead to a lower intake of carbohydrates at the meal. Carbohydrates are the best foods to fuel our muscles and provide us with adequate glycogen stores. The following tips will help ensure a high carbohydrate diet is consumed while reducing added fats and minimizing any stomach discomfort associated with eating unfamiliar foods.
1. BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS
Fresh fruit, dried or freeze-dried fruits, whole-grain crackers and cereal, instant oatmeal, protein bars, protein powders, low-fat energy bars, electrolyte powders, nuts and seeds, along with trail mix are all healthy and convenient options. If faced with irregular meal times and inadequate meals, pack an “emergency meal” t hat doesn’t re qui re refrigeration such as a peanut but ter a nd honey sa ndwich or wrap.
2. ASK FOR MODIFICATIONS
Ask questions about how your meal was prepared and the ingredients used. Ask for dressing and sauce on the side to limit the added fats. Limit foods that are fried, au gratin or prepared with cream sauces and gravies. Instead choose foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, roasted or poached. Limit high-fat items on sandwiches and salads and stick to healthy sources of fat such as avocado and nuts instead of butter, bacon or cheese. For example: when ordering a baked potato, ask for it plain and mash the potato with milk for moistness.
3. LIMIT GASTROINTESTINAL DISTRESS
If you have any dietary restrictions, have a card made in the language of the country where you are travelling that clearly states the foods you cannot eat. Present this to your server when you sit down to eat. If there are no healthy options available at the meal, consider having your “emergency meal” or using a meal replacement bar afterwards if your competition is fast approaching. It is much better to be patient in these instances than regret your food choices a couple of hours afterwards.
4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
5. STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE
If you know where you will be dining, review the menu ahead of time and plan out your selections. See if nutrition or calorie information is available to stick to lower fat and higher carbohydrate options. If you already have a game plan before you arrive you are more likely to stick to your plan when presented with the vast selection of palatable foods (i.e. sugar, fat and salt in the perfect combination to cause you to want more). Avoid long gaps in between meals and try to have a snack two to two and a half hours before eating out. This will help you slow down at your meal and avoid feeling overly full afterwards from eating too quickly. It is critical to never get hungry or thirsty when training and preparing for competition.
The extra time and consideration spent when planning ahead to make healthy choices will pay off when competition day arrives and you feel well fuelled and ready to perform at your best. Nothing is worse than your focus and concentration being diverted away from your athletic event due to stomach discomfort or feelings of low energy as a result of inadequate nutrition or hydration. Consider allowing yourself a treat after the competition for motivation to stay on track. After all, the 80/20 (eating well 80 per cent of the time while allowing indulgences 20 per cent of the time) should still be applied when travelling.