Eating on the road can pose a challenge for athletes striving to maintain a training diet that has adequate energy, carbohydrate, protein and fluids.
Here are some guidelines for choosing high-performance foods and fluids while traveling.
It's easy to become dehydrated while traveling, especially on airplanes. To prevent dehydration: Drink at regular intervals throughout the day.
Carry sports drinks and water with you.
Limit caffeinated and alcoholic beverages as they are diuretics and promote fluid loss.
Take nutrient-dense foods along for the trip. This is especially important when traveling to a foreign country, where familiar foods may be harder to find and food-borne illness may be a concern. Pack: Sports bars, granola bars
Dried or regular fruit, nuts and trail mix
Pretzels or baked chips
Whole-grain crackers, bagels, breads, rolls, muffins
Peanut butter and jelly
Cans/packets of tuna or chicken
Visit the grocery store
Meals can be made in a hotel room if there is a microwave and refrigerator available. Some easy-to-prepare meals are:
Breakfast: Bowl of cereal, milk and a banana
Bagel with peanut butter, orange juice
Cottage cheese, canned peaches, orange juice
Lunch: Turkey sandwich, apple, oatmeal raisin cookies, and milk
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, baby carrots, granola bar, cranberry juice
Dinner: Roast beef and cheese sandwich, chocolate chip cookie, juice
Cheese/chicken quesadilla with salsa, lemonade
Salad with romaine, tomatoes, carrots, tuna, cheese, apple and milk
What about low-carb choices?
Low-carb foods are everywhere, from restaurants to grocery stores to health clubs. However, these foods are usually not the best choice for athletes. Significantly cutting carbohydrates hurts performance by reducing speed, strength and stamina.
Quick tips: Athletes should fuel their bodies two to three hours before practices, events and games with a high-carbohydrate meal or snack. Team leaders can organize pre-game meals for the whole team, including high-energy foods like breads, bagel, pasta or rice. Athletes should fill 2/3 of their plates with high-carbohydrate options for quick energyand the rest with high-protein, low-fat items such as grilled chicken, turkey or lean roast beef. When eating at a restaurant, athletes should look carefully at the menu to see how food is prepared. Words such as fried, crispy, creamed and au gratin all suggest high-fat content. Better choices are steamed, broiled, stir fried and poached.
Look for: Pancakes, french toast, waffles
English muffins, bagels, toast with jam, low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter
Scrambled eggs, soft-boiled egg, breakfast burrito
Cereal (hot or cold)
Lean meats such as Canadian bacon, ham, turkey or veggie sausage
Low-fat yogurt, cream cheese and cottage cheese
Low-fat muffins, fruit/oatmeal bar
Skim or 1% milk
Fresh fruit, fruit juice, smoothie
Limit/Avoid: High-fat meats such as sausage, bacon, corned beef hash
Donuts, biscuits or croissants
Lunch and Dinner DELI/SUB
Look for: Sandwiches with turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken
Wraps with chicken, shrimp, fish, veggies, tofu
Salads/salad bars -- include veggies and fruit for carbohydrate. For protein include cheese, nuts, seeds, eggs, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, cottage cheese or plain tuna
Light/fat-free mayo, light/fat-free salad dressings
Limit/Avoid: Sandwiches made with high-fat meats such as salami or bologna or with tuna salad
Regular "mayo," "special sauces," regular salad dressings
Mayonnaise-based potato or pasta salads, macaroni and cheese
Fried chicken wings, nuggets
Look for: Chicken chow mein, chop suey, rice noodles
Steamed vegetables and rice
Stir-fry vegetables with shrimp/chicken/pork/beef, tofu
Hot-and-sour soup, Wonton soup
Fresh spring rolls
Limit/Avoid: Deep-fried items such as egg rolls, wontons, sweet-and-sour pork or shrimp
High-fat meats such as spare ribs
Fried chow mein noodles, fried rice
High-fat sauces such as peanut, coconut, lobster sauce
Look for: Vegetarian antipasto
Low-fat sauces such as marinara, marsala, tomato or red clam sauce
Pizza with veggies, chicken, Canadian bacon
Salads (chicken, shrimp, mixed greens, spinach)
Spinach, mushroom tortellini
Minestrone soup and bread sticks
Limit/Avoid: High-fat meats such as pepperoni or sausage
High-fat sauces such as alfredo, gorgonzola and pesto
Garlic or cheese bread
Look for: Chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, bean burritos, soft tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, tostados or quesadillas
Salsa, baked tortilla chips
Gazpacho soup, tortilla soup
Vegetarian refried beans, black/red beans
Limit/Avoid: Taquitos (deep fried)
Cream-based sauces (pollo a la crema)
Guacamole, sour cream
Refried beans with lard
Suzanne Nelson Steen, D.Sc., R.D., is the Director of Husky Sports Nutrition Services for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For more information on the latest in proper sports nutrition and hydration, visit www.hydrationworkshops.com.