Apr 10, 2018
Road Food: Feeding Your Athletes During Travel

By: Heidi Strickler, RDN, CD

Both local road travel and long-distance air travel can throw a wrench into an athlete’s eating routine and can compromise performance and overall health. Trouble sleeping, lack of refrigeration and familiar foods, time zone and climate changes, increased reliance on eating out, motion sickness, and inconsistent meal timing are just a few of the obstacles traveling athletes face. Read on for tips to optimize your athlete’s nutrition during travel.

Know Before You Go

One of the first steps is becoming familiar with your destination. This includes where you will be sleeping, eating, and competing, and any stops in between.

  • Staying at a Hotel? Ask about fridges and microwaves in rooms; if there is a continental breakfast and what is on the menu; if there is a convenience store for snacks; and if there is a restaurant on site with an online menu.
  • Locate nearby grocery stores and restaurants. Call restaurants and make a reservation. Inquire about creating a menu for your team with select options from the main menu (see more below).
  • At the competition location: Is there fresh water available? Will there be food available that is appropriate for competing athletes? If it is outside, is there shade cover? Are there restaurants or food vendors close by?

Snack Smarts

Snacks should consist of familiar and easy-to-digest foods that supply protein and carbohydrate, as well as electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. A variety of flavors (sweet and salty) and textures (crunchy and creamy) should be offered to prevent taste burnout. Liquid fuel options like juices, sport drinks or shakes are also a good idea in the case of low appetite or upset stomach.

Examples of food combinations with carbohydrate and protein:

  • Breakfast cereal or granola with milk or yogurt
  • Sandwiches/wraps with protein (meat, cheese, nut butter, hummus, eggs)
  • Ready-to-drink smoothies or shakes
  • Crackers or rice cakes with pouches of tuna, salmon, or chicken
  • Trail mix
  • Graham crackers or pretzels with peanut butter
  • Protein bars with >10g protein

Traveling by Road?

If you are traveling by bus or van, your food options significantly increase. You can pack liquids, bring coolers, and stop for movement, feeding, and hydration. Make sure to have small Ziploc bags and necessary utensils. To ensure food safety, make sure your cooler is iced down well – if your cooler temp is above 40 degrees F, your food only has 2-3 hours before it will need to be thrown out.

Examples of cooler must-haves:

  • Individual Greek yogurt
  • Individual milk – flavored, plain, and non-dairy options
  • Cheese sticks
  • Sandwich fixings (lunch meat, cheese, lettuce, condiments, tortillas/bread)
  • Pre-cut veggies
  • Individual hummus
  • Fruit and/or squeezable fruit pouches
  • Carbohydrate-based sports drinks

Traveling by Air?

If you are travelling by plane, your options are more limited. Foods should be shelf-stable, in individual servings, and easy to eat. No liquids, spreads, or gels over three ounces.

Examples of airplane-compliant snacks:

  • Low fiber snack bars (<10g protein) and protein bars (>10g protein)
  • Rice cakes, whole grain crackers, pretzels
  • Individual spreads (hummus, nut butter, jam, honey, cream cheese)
  • Tuna pouches
  • Beef or turkey jerky
  • Trail mix
  • Fruit (apples, clementines, bananas)
  • Pre-cut hardy veggies (carrots, celery, snap peas)
  • Just-add water”” foods (Instant oatmeal and noodles

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