It is important to maintain constant hydration, not only in preparation for an event, but particularly while in-flight. Sip water and sports drinks continuously throughout the flight as a preventative measure. Consider taking bottled water with you, as there may be a large lag in time from when seated on a plane until the first beverages are served. With regards to the new security regulations, bottled water can be purchased inside the airport once you pass security check points or you can fill empty bottles at a water fountain once you pass security. Avoid caffeine and alcohol on flights, since both have a diuretic effect, which increases the risk of dehydration in an already dehydrating environment.
Bottled water is highly recommended in foreign countries. Even though you may hear "the water's safe", it may be for the locals, but because the water supplies are foreign to our immune systems, they may cause gastrointestinal stress which can quickly put a damper on your time away.
Ironically, while it is somewhat difficult to stay well-hydrated, it is also possible to drink too much. Hyponatremia (low blood sodium) is a condition that arises from several different physiological scenarios. For endurance athletes, it usually results from sweat-depleted sodium stores diluted by excess hypotonic (low electrolyte content) fluid intake. When blood sodium concentration becomes very diluted, severe cardiac symptoms can develop. If you just finished a long work out before hopping on your plane, you may want to eat a salty snack with your water.
Use Your Resources
Hotel breakfasts, if included, often have oatmeal packets, bran cereal, fruit and yogurt that can be taken away from the breakfast area when you leave for the day.
Ask the staff if they can serve eggs even if eggs are not offered as an option. Boiled eggs are often available by request.
Beware of buffet-style breakfasts and stick to the same choices you would normally make at home. Watch portion size-it's easy to overindulge when traveling.
Dos and Don'ts for Lunch and Dinner
- Be conscious of hidden fats in restaurant foods especially in dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
- Stick with grilled, baked, broiled or steamed chicken, fish, and grilled or steamed vegetables. Coastal cities always have excellent grilled fish--a great choice for good quality protein.
- Limit the amount of fat in snacks and breakfast choices so that if lunches and dinners are unavoidably high in fat, the chance of overload is minimized.
- Try to include a carbohydrate choice for each of the main meals, like rice, grain bread, baked or sweet potato, or legumes.
- Try to get the whole grain options for carbohydrate choices, such as whole grain breads, quinoa, couscous, brown rice, etc.
Disruptions and distractions when traveling away from home can significantly impact performance. Preparation and self-education on destinations offer an extreme benefit to optimal athletic performance. The main priority is to remain effectively fueled and hydrated. With a little planning, it is not difficult to adhere to good nutritional strategies, even when in foreign countries.
Ilana Katz earned her masters degree in dietetics with an emphasis in sports nutrition. She enjoys working with all athletes from the elite to recreational level, and specializes in body composition and weight management. Ilana is The Sport Factory's head nutritionist and has helped a great many athletes achieve optimal performance through better sport nutrition strategy and planning.