Elite sprinters are required to travel interstate and overseas regularly to find quality competition opportunities. While this can be exciting, it can also be stressful. It is often hard to meet nutritional needs in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when time and finances are limited. Unusual foods, different standards of food hygiene, limited food availability and interference with usual routines can see athletes either gaining weight or failing to meet their nutritional requirements. The following tips may help give athletes the best chance for success.
1. Have clear nutritional goals and stick to them
Striving to address each of these common challenges face by travelling athletes is recommended. Remember that having these goals is a great way to start however it’s important to follow through to ensure success.
- Achieving carbohydrate and protein requirements
- Meeting daily vitamin and mineral requirements
- Balancing energy intake
- Maintaining adequate hydration – See our 5 Top Hydration Tips
- Food safety
2. Ensure food safety
Gastrointestinal problems are common when travelling to foreign destinations. These can occur in both developing countries and ‘safe’ destinations. Adopting good personal hygiene and food safety practices will help to decrease the risk of infection and illness.
Avoid sharing cups, bottles or utensils as infections and illness can be transmitted this way
Is the local water safe to drink?
Drink only bottled water or drinks from sealed containers
Avoid ice in drinks
Clean teeth with bottled water
Avoid salad vegetables unless washed in bottled or boiled water
Only eat fruit if it can be peeled
‘High Risk’ areas
Eat only from reputable hotels or well known franchises
Avoid street stalls and markets
Be wary of fish and shellfish
Only consume food that is steaming hot or has been refrigerated adequately
3. Investigate what to expect at your destination
Knowing what kind of food will be available at your accomodation, surrounding it and at the event location on race day are all important to ensure your best performance.
4. Plan accommodation with meals in mind
Organising an apartment with cooking facilities gives you more control over your meals and can keep food costs down. If you choose not to cook, make sure your accommodation is conveniently located near shops and restaurants.
If getting catered meals keep in mind that hotels often only provide 3 meals per day at certain times. Ensure that foods that you will need will be provided at the time you need them. It is important to keep foods and meal times as similar as possible to the usual daily routine at home. Also check that food will be available for you at the required times on race day.
5. Take a supply of snacks
This way you always have access to something suitable that is familiar to you. These can be useful during travel (car, bus, plane), the days leading up to the event or on race day itself. It may be useful to send a package of supplies ahead to decrease baggage. Remember to check with customs/quarantine regarding foods that are restricted from crossing certain borders or entering certain countries.
Low fat 2 minute noodles
Rice cakes are good options to pack
6. Make good choices in restaurants
- Beware of hidden fat in restaurant meals
- Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter about cooking methods and ingredients and request changes if necessary
- Add carbohydrate to meals with plain bread, plain rice, fruit or juice if necessary
- If eating from a buffet don’t over consume
7. Stay hydrated during flights and other travel modes
- Sports drinks are a great option for staying hydrated in the air because of the added sodium encouraging thirst – Aim for approximately 1 cup per hour
- Caffeine can contribute positively to fluid balance if regularly consumed by the athlete
- Avoid alcohol