Nutrition Guide for Travelling Athletes
by Clare Wood
Travelling away from home can be a challenge to anyone. If you are an athlete, there is an extra challenge of finding the appropriate foods to eat when nothing is familiar. Being out of your normal routine can compromise your nutritional status and lead to fatigue and poor performance while travelling. The aim is to try and stick closely to what you normally do when you are at home. To allow for this to happen you need to plan and prepare things before you actually leave the country. See specific information about travelling to England, Greece, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, China and Japan.
The Plane Trip
Humidity on a plane is very low and fluids are not always offered regularly. All of this can be lead to dehydration, so:
- Accept all (non-alcoholic) drink offers while on the plane
- Take your own drink bottle
- Plan your fluid intake (2-3 liters in 24 hours or ~ 1 cup per hour)
Inactivity on a long trip means your energy requirements are slightly lower when travelling, so avoid eating just for the sake of it.
Long hours on a plane can upset the stomach or gastric system. To avoid this:
- Eat yoghurt daily for the week prior
- Eat higher fibre options for the few days prior
Jetlag is a disruption in the 24hr circadian rhythm (this is your time clock or sleep/wake cycle). The ‘competitive edge’ can be lost after crossing one or more time zones. Ways to adapt to the time zone shift include:
- Adapt meal and snack times to destination times before and during the flight
- Avoid catnaps during the day, sleep at local ‘bedtime’
- See more Tips for Athletes to Beat Jetlag
Change in Weather Conditions
The temperature at your destination may be warmer than at home. If this is the case, staying hydrated will be a key focus.
Remember your hydration strategies:
- Keep your drink bottle with you at all times
- Check for clear urine color
- Drink frequently during the day (not just before and after competition)
Change in Routine
Be aware of changes in your normal routine. A day of travel will result in lower energy needs, whereas a day of games or training will require higher energy needs.
- Don’t eat just because you’re bored, listen to your biological signs!
- Eat when you’re hungry
- Stop when you’re full
- Stick to your nutritional plan
Considering the Game Schedule
While you're away you will be on a tight and hectic schedule. You need to cope with this by recovering from every game to allow you to be at peak for the next game.
- Plan snacks and meals around game times
- Have a snack as soon as possible after the game
- Include a snack containing both carbohydrate and protein, a lower fat option is the best option
- Hydrate well
Living in a Hotel
If you are staying in a hotel, there will be minimal cooking facilities available, so you will be relying on restaurant and takeaway food.
Remember the main principles for eating well at a restaurant:
- Choose the restaurant carefully
- Meals based on carbohydrate foods
- Low fat is preferable!!
- Ask for water on the table
- The waitress is there to help you – ask him/her
Good carbohydrate extras include: bread, fruit juice and soft drinks
Take Home Messages
- Don't get put off by the different foods
- Try and stick closely to what you normally do
- Always think carbohydrates – how do I get more?
- Remember to stay well hydrated
- Recover well and you will survive the time away from home
- Enjoy the experience!
- Sports Nutrition for the Traveling Athlete
- Tips for Beating Jetlag for the Travelling Athlete
- Staying Healthy While Travelling