by Lisa Podlecki
Racing in a different city or town can be exciting—however, changes to your food choices or eating schedule can lead to stomach issues and under-fuelling. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can optimize your fueling strategy and be prepared to perform your best on race day.
Before You Go
During the week leading up to your departure, do some advance research. If travelling on a plane, check if food and drink will be allowed onboard. Re-read the details of your accommodations to confirm if breakfast is included. If yes, see when it is served and if this aligns with your pre-race schedule. Find out what kinds of items will be provided, particularly if you have allergies or specific dietary needs. Do an online search to locate the nearest restaurants and grocery stores.
Claire Ward / Unsplash
If you have the option to pack your own supplies, here are some suggestions:
- A cooler or lunch bag with ice packs
- A reusable water bottle
- A microwave-safe dish and cutlery
- A variety of portable snacks
- Race day nutrition, such as a hydration belt, sports drinks, gels, energy chews and so on. Pack what you have been using during training. Avoid trying anything new on race day!
On The Road
The safest best is to eat foods you are familiar with. Stay away from new dishes or delicacies that may lead to an upset stomach. Constipation can be a symptom of travelling, so ensure you stay hydrated and keep up your daily fibre. Try sipping on water during the day and avoid alcohol, as it has a dehydrating effect. Also, incorporate high-fibre foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks. Continue to eat at regular times (about every three to four hours) to stay energized.
Sometimes, ordering food or going to a restaurant will be your only option when travelling. For meals, aim to have equal amounts of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables (about one-third of your plate for each) with a source of healthy fat. Here are some ideas about what to order at breakfast:
- Carbohydrates – French toast, English muffins, bagels, bread/toast, cereal, oatmeal, muffins, pancakes, fruit
- Protein – eggs, cheese, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk
- Healthy fats – peanut butter (or other nut butters), avocado, nuts, seeds, plant-based oils
For lunch or dinner, scan the menu for more wholesome choices such as:
- Sandwiches or wraps
- Stir-fry with meat/poultry/fish/tofu and vegetables, served over rice or noodles
- Mexican soft tacos or burritos
- Grilled chicken or tofu burger with salad on the side
- Pasta with meat sauce, a salad and bread
- Greek kabob and salad
If you prefer to stay in and prepare your own food, make sure you’ve booked a hotel room with a fridge and/or microwave. You can easily prepare a simple breakfast of instant oats with Greek yogurt and fruit, or a quick peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich for lunch. Here are some ideas to stock up yourmini fridge:
- Milk, water or juice
- Individual cheese portions
- Peanut butter
- Homemade muffins
- Fruit and vegetables
Snacking on the go can be a challenge, as not all foods travel well. If purchasing something at an airport or gas station, skip the junk food and choose something more nutritious such as trail mix or a granola bar. Here are some additional snack ideas:
- Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Single-serve cheese portions or cheese strings
- Individual packs of hummus and/or peanut butter
- Raw vegetables (carrot sticks, mini cucumbers, grape tomatoes)
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Tuna packs and crackers
- Pretzels or air-popped popcorn
The best advice I can give is: stick with the basics. Plan ahead and if possible, prepare a few meals and snacks before you leave. Continue eating foods you are familiar with and maintain your regular eating pattern. Aim to cover three or four different food groups at meals and at least two when snacking. Stay hydrated and get a daily dose of fibre. Most importantly, enjoy the experience and have a great race!
Lisa Podlecki is a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist in Edmonton. Lisa loves helping individuals meet their nutrition goals in a healthy and sustainable way and regularly speaks at the Running Room training programs. For more information, visit her website at www.oaktreenutrition.com. (Bio photo: Kaihla Tonai Photography)