Athlete nutrition away from home

Sometimes it can be difficult to maintain good athlete nutrition when travelling away for competition, particularly if there is no access to cooking facilities. I am currently interstate in Perth with my eldest daughter who is competing in the Australian Junior Track and Field Championships this week. In order to ensure she still had access to appropriate athlete nutrition while away, there was a bit of meal planning to do.

Why is it so important to plan athlete nutrition away from home?

1. Options for eating healthy foods may be limited when away.
2. Trying new foods or those familiar but cooked by someone else at a restaurant, for example, can pose an increased risk not agreeing with your athlete and may therefore impact race performance.
3. There may be a tendency to snack on less nutritious and athlete appropriate foods when they are not readily available.

Here are my tips on keeping athlete nutrition as healthy as possible when competing away from home.

1. Book accommodation with cooking facilities.
2. Pre-bake and take! Pre-prepare home cooked meals and snacks where possible.
3. Supplement this with tried and tested packaged foods suitable for athletes on the go.
4. Plan your meals ahead and make a list of items to purchase when you get to your race destination.
5. If eating out, be selective to familiar foods, nutritional needs, and method of cooking.

1. Book accommodation with cooking facilities

If you are away for competition for more than just a couple of days, it is practical to stay in accommodation with cooking facilities rather than a studio or hotel room. By being able to cook your own meals, you will be able to provide your athlete with foods their bodies are familiar with, healthier options to takeaway and restaurant meals, and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal upsets that may impact performance.

2. Pre-bake and take!

Before we left, I baked up some goodies to take with us. By having homemade snacks on hand, you are less likely to purchase less healthy convenience foods. It also worked well to leave a batch of food options for my younger daughter to have at home as she continues to train while we are away.

Also taking your own snacks on the plane reduces the temptation to consume foods that are usually not optimal for performance.

Athlete food we prepared

Athlete food we prepared and brought with us included:
• Homemade bircher muesli base mix – just need to add juice, yogurt, and fruit.
• Oat Slice – great pre-race fuel or snack.
• Sweet potato chips – good source of carbs and magnesium for pre-racing.
• Salted edamame – great for recovery with its high protein content and sodium replacement.
• Roasted turmeric chickpeas – great for recovery with its high protein content and anti-inflammatory properties.
• Almond choc bites – high in protein and good fats, with carbs necessary for recovery.

In addition, I also took a batch of spaghetti bolognese sauce – my daughter’s usual pre-race dinner. If possible, it is always better for young athletes to eat what their bodies are familiar with before race days to minimise the risk of gastro issues. Even though we had to fly to Perth, my frozen sauce was perfectly defrosted (still icy and not runny) once I took it out to reheat 8 hours later as I had it stored in my very handy Fridge to Go bag!

Take care with food prep

It is important when travelling to consider the proper transport of your food, particularly certain food items which require refrigeration. The Fridge to Go is the perfect athlete accessory for safely and conveniently transporting and storing cold food at the track. It has now become an integral accessory in our household now, also used for carrying pre-training/racing fuel, post training/racing recovery, school lunches, and even mum’s groceries!

3. Supplement this with tried and tested packaged foods suitable for athletes on the go

You can supplement your home cooked athlete nutrition with a range of healthier packaged snack items. Like all the other of foods consumed during race week, these should be tried and tested by your young athlete to ensure there are no unwanted stomach upsets pre-race!

Healthier packaged food options

Here are the healthier packaged food options my daughter took with her:
Baby Macro Organic Fruit Puree Pouches – I know, these are supposed to be for babies, but the puree form helps them to be more easily digestible than eating the solid fruits. The squeezy pouch packaging also provides a convenient way for young athletes to get a great pre-race carb boost on the go! They come in a variety of flavours, the one with the most carbs being Apple, Banana, Pear & Mango Puree – 18.5g of carbs per 120g pouch. The ingredients comprise all organic fruits and Vitamin C only.
Macro Chia Pots – Provide protein and carbs mainly through fruit and chia. These are a handy addition to supplement larger recovery snacks such as yogurt. They come in a couple of flavours including Mango, Coconut & Pineapple, and Raspberry, Blueberry & Acai. There is also a spoon included for convenience on the go.
Corn Crunch – These roasted corn kernels provide a natural source of carbs great for pre-race fuel.
Weetbix – Good race week cereal to have on hand. The Organic Weet-Bix variety is lowest in sugar.

Even though there are many young athletes using protein powders, I have a preference for my girls to take their nutrition from real foods. As you can see, there are many food options to meet adequate protein requirements for young athletes post training for recovery without the risks and costs involved with protein powders.

Hydration

Another very important element of athlete nutrition is hydration. Even though water is my daughter’s main source of hydration, going into a week of racing in the forecast over 30-degree heat, it is a good idea to pay extra attention to keeping well hydrated, even on the plane trip over.

My daughter brought Hydralyte Effervescent Electrolyte Tablets for travel and Hydralyte Sports Powder for racing, good for hydration and electrolyte replacement. Whilst some level of glucose is required in optimal rehydration, many sports drinks have excess sugar levels. Hydralyte appears to have one of the lower levels of sugar in their sports rehydration products.

4. Plan your meals ahead and make a list of items to purchase when you get to your race destination.

By planning ahead and then cooking these meals while you are away, you are ensuring your young athlete is well fuelled, and that recovery will be optimal during race week.

In addition to the usual necessities such as milk, rice, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken etc. here are some quick and easy ideas to add to your athlete nutrition snack list:

• Greek or plain yogurt – This is rich in protein and great to add to breakfast or for recovery.
Chobani Oats Pouches – Ranging in flavours, this fruit yogurt with steel-cut oats provides around 10g protein per 140g pouch in addition to around 20g carbs which is convenient for athletes on the go.
• Grapes – Frozen grapes are a perfect pre-race high carb nibble when racing in hot conditions.
• Watermelon – Chilled slices for hydration and reduction in muscle soreness

5. If eating out, be selective to familiar foods, nutritional needs, and method of cooking.

If you do not have access to cooking facilities whilst away, try to select menu items similar to what you would normally eat at home or what meets nutritional meal requirements. In particular, you may want to avoid deep fried high-fat dishes and ensure carbohydrate needs are met.

Athlete nutrition does not need to be too difficult if you invest a little extra time into planning ahead. The key recommendations are:
1. To ensure adequate fuelling with carbohydrates,
2. Proper recovery with protein and carbs, and
3. To reduce the intake of foods that your athlete has not tried and tested before.

What does your young athlete like to have pre and post race?

Athlete Nutrition Away from Home

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