I recall not so long ago when I was at a weightlifting meet with my husband and the hanger had set in. He was coaching a couple of athletes and competing and I wasn’t going to miss any of it because, to be honest, I find the sport to be incredibly exciting and when either him or his athletes are lifting, I like to imagine that I am an amateur sports photographer with my iPhone. At this particular meet, there were no food vendors and really no good time between athletes to head out to find food. The meet sessions started to go long and soon I found myself cranky and eating a bag of Skittles from the lonesome vending machine nearby. I started to wonder how many other people were as ill prepared as I was and even more importantly, how many of those people were the athletes competing in the meet? As a coach, athlete, friend, family member, or fan, the necessity of meal planning on the road is essential to keep everyone happy. Eating on the road usually ends up in one of the Three H’s: Happy, Hurting, or Hangry. Creating a plan for optimal nutrition while on the road will decrease the stress associated with wondering if your meal will give you dreadful side effects such as food intolerance and diarrhea (Hurting), and maintaining a meal patter with set meal and snack times centered around your travel will prevent a systemic presentation of hunger and anger (Hangry), resulting in better performance and positive outcomes for all (Happy).
General Tips: Some helpful tips include carrying a water bottle with you and creating a meal pattern that includes plans for eating out. Make sure if you bring your own meals that they are kept at the appropriate temperature of 40 F degrees or below and not to eat any perishable foods that have been out at room temperature longer than two hours. Packing a lunch box and ice packs with your luggage can be handy if you participate in sporting events that have large periods of time between weigh-in and competition time. If you don’t have a grocery store near the competition venue or hotel you are staying in, most convenience stores carry bread and peanut butter. If you are lucky, you might score some bananas to make a PB & Banana sandwich. Just don’t forget some disposable silverware!
Protein: Good sources of protein that are shelf stable to take on the road with you include packed tuna or chicken (preferably in water), peanut or almond butter, unsalted nuts and seeds, turkey/buffalo/beef jerky, drink mixes for recovery beverages, and protein powder.
Carbohydrates: Good sources of carbohydrates to bring on the road include granola, instant cereals such as oatmeal, instant rice/noodles/quinoa or couscous, whole-grain snack crackers, protein bars, meal replacement powder, powdered sports drinks, and dehydrated fruit.
Dining Out: If you are going to be dining out, do not start the trip by being experimental and trying out new foods or tempting local flavors until after the competition. Make sure to do some research into which restaurants are in the area that you are familiar with and choose menu options. Try to stay away from fried foods and high fat options, as they are likely culprits for stomach upset. Choose foods that are baked, broiled, steamed, or roasted. If you’re planning pasta for the night, go for the red sauce versus the creamy white sauce. And if you or your athletes decide to completely ignore this advice, Imodium A.D. is readily available at most corner stores.
Allison Koch MA RD/LDN is completing her PhD in Nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She enjoys working with sports nutrition and weight management clients at www.aplus-nutritionandstrength.com. Twitter @DietitianAlli