1. Go for familiarity over variety: Yes, in general, eating a diverse diet helps ensure you are getting all the nutrients that you need. At home, including the full rainbow of fruits and veggies will supply you with a range of vitamins and minerals that are unique to each color. Eating various sources of protein and carbohydrates will also provide a greater range of nutrients like iron, B vitamins, calcium, and more. That said, when you are traveling, simplifying your diet will make it easier to maintain quality and consistency. I have standard airplane food, pre-race dinners, pre-race breakfasts, and snacks that I know I can pack with me or that use ingredients I can find anywhere. When you are hauling bikes through airports, standing in lines for rental cars, and navigating to your lodging, you have less energy to be creative with food; a pre-set plan makes that job easier and thus more likely to happen.Here are some of my go-to meals:
- Plane food: brown rice, sauteed broccoli and kale, chicken, cashew sauce
- Pre-race dinner: rice pasta, spinach/pepper/onion + lean red meat (venison, etc.) + marinara sauce
- Pre-race breakfast: Plainly Elizabeth’s granola on almond yogurt, eggs
2. Simplify don’t skimp: Simplifying as mentioned above is useful. However, you don’t want to skimp on any of your macros. Whether traveling to perform as athletes, to enjoy a vacation, or to accomplish a work mission, we need the energy from carbohydrates, the building properties of protein, and the satiating qualities of fats to feel ready. If you notice, my pre-set meals above each contain all three macronutrients. For example, my plane food has brown rice for carbohydrates, chicken for protein, cashew sauce for healthy fat, and of course veggies for nutrients. When you are designing your travel meals, ensure that each one contains carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
3. Research in advance: Once you know your travel schedule, get on Google Maps and search the areas you are visiting for natural grocery stores, local farmers markets, and healthy restaurants. Sometimes, these spots are en route from the airport to your lodging and will be inconvenient to access once you settle into your destination. By stopping on the way, you’ll be all set for your trip. In addition to researching spots to buy food, make out a list of all the meals you will need for your trip so that you can calculate exactly how much and what food to buy. This will avoid wasting food or ending up with a dinner unaccounted for!
4. Hydrate: Traveling on airplanes and traveling to elevation can both result in dehydration. Also, when traveling as an athlete, as we get closer to race day, we tend to ease up on the fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables which usually are a source of hydration. Not only does hydration help with alertness and energy, the opposite–dehydration–can actually get confused with hunger and lead to unhealthy eating. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, or water with electrolytes if needed, as you travel and once you arrive. If you find yourself feeling abnormally hungry, it might actually be that you are dehydrated!
5. Bring Your Essentials: If you have certain must-have food items that might be hard to locate in remote race locations, bring them with you. See #3 above. Do not expect to find your specialty items at a mainstream grocery chain. For example, if you have a nut allergy, and use no sugar added sunflower butter, pack it in your checked bag. Not all grocery stores will carry it. Just remember that anything liquid or gel must go in your checked bag, not your carry-on. Other items that may be hard to find:
- Specific gluten-free items
- Specific dairy-free yogurts
- Organic / no sugar added dried fruits
- Clean / organic snack items like crackers or granola
- Your favorite organic coffee beans
- Fancy oatmeal/yogurt add-ons like hemp seeds or cacao nibs