Nutrition for Travel
Car, van, bus, or plane, most athletes have to use some mode of transportation to get to a training session, training camp, and/or competition venue. Travel and staying “out of town” can present dietary challenges, which are easily overcome with careful nutritional planning.
While travelling, athletes would be wise to stick to their usual training diet consisting of ample carbohydrates, moderate protein, low fat, and sufficient fluids. Adherence to the training diet during travel may require the athlete to bring along suitable foods and fluids. Alternatively, travel pit stops will be necessary to acquire foods and fluids when on the road.
Perishable travel foods, such as sandwiches, cheese, meat, and milk should be stored at their safe temperature. To avoid food poisoning, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
Portable travel food and fluid ideas: fresh fruit, raw veggies, unsweetened juices, trail mix with dried fruit and dry cereal, yogurt, YOP™, milk, chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, sandwiches made with bread, pitas, wraps, or buns, low-fat muffins, beef jerky, peanut butter on celery or crackers, pretzels, popcorn, granola bars, Vector Bar™, and sport bars.
Overcoming jet lag: Adequate hydration is critical. Athletes should carry a water bottle and sip fluids frequently. Airline travel is especially dehydrating. Well-hydrated athletes reach for at least 1 cup (250 mL) of fluid for every hour of air travel. For more details, see Fluids for Athletes and Long Distance Travel.
- To reduce risk of dehydration, consume a high carbohydrate diet prior to departure to build extra glycogen (energy) and fluid stores.
- Drink one cup (250 mL) of fluid for every hour of air travel.
- Limit pop, coffee, tea, and alcohol.
- Pack extra calories with nutritious portable snacks.
- Set your watch to the destination time upon take off.
- Upon arrival, go out in the sunlight to help adjust to the new time zone.
- Allow 1–3 days to adjust for every time zone crossed.
Athletes will stay in a variety of accommodations at their travel destination, from hotels to fully equipped suites. Some athletes will continue without interruption to plan, purchase, and prepare their usual sound nutrition. However, others, especially children and adolescents, may lack culinary skills and dietary knowledge. These young athletes will benefit from nutritional guidance.
In many cases, the travelling athlete’s meals and snacks will be purchased from reliable restaurants and/or retail outlets. In advance, the coach or team manager should research to find suitable restaurants and grocery stores near the athlete’s training and competition venues.
To support optimal performances in training and competition, a selection of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and lean meat should be emphasized from restaurant menus and store purchases. Nutrition advice regarding restaurant meals may also be useful for most athletes, especially regarding low-fat, wholesome food choices geared
towards performance and health.
Illness can result from consuming spoiled food or beverages. Some symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, cramps, headaches, and fever. These symptoms can occur within 2–4 hours after eating spoiled foods or fluids.
Preventing food poisoning:
- Check the “best before” date on purchased perishable foods.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
- Eat in reliable restaurants.
- Make sure all meats are well-cooked, especially poultry.
- Wash your hands with soap before eating snacks or meals (or use hand sterilizers).
- If the water supply is questionable, then stick to these simple rules:
- Drink bottled water.
- Eat only vegetables and fruit that can be peeled (i.e. avoid salads, raw veggies, etc.).
- Use bottled water to wash vegetables and fruit before peeling them.
- Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
- Avoid ice cubes.
For more information, check out the Nutrition Away from Home tip sheet. If you are travelling outside North America, check out some of these nutrition around the world tip sheets:
- Nutrition in Turkey
- Nutrition in Italy
- Nutrition in Korea
- Nutrition in Greece
- Nutrition in Japan
- Nutrition in Norway
- Nutrition in the Dominican Republic
- Nutrition in Brazil
Travel to training sessions, camps, and competitions can be an enjoyable experience for athletes. Travel also provides an opportunity for athletes to enhance their skills by competing or training with different teams and coaches. If top performance is the goal, with careful planning, travel-related nutritional concerns can easily be prevented and top performances achieved!