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Sheila's Nutrition Digest Vol 13 - Tips and Recipes for Traveling Athletes
By:  Sheila Kealey   (2006/12/09)


Many athletes have a hard time eating a nutritious diet when they're away from home. Training camps and multi-day racing formats figure prominently in athletic routines. Since these events place additional stresses on your body, it's a time when optimizing your nutrition should be a priority: unfortunately, for many, it's a time when nutrition is compromised. It makes a lot of sense to plan nutritional strategies for these events, since it will help athletic performance, promote recovery, and keep your immune system in fighting shape. Now who wouldn't want that?

Remember the Basics

During training and longer races, it's critical to keep well hydrated and nourished with a sports drink, more substantial food or bars as needed, and pay specific attention to recovery nutrition. Although you can often satisfy these needs with real foods, convenience is a priority when traveling, and it's a good time to have commercial sports drinks, bars and gels, and recovery products on hand. XC Ottawa athletes use e-load sports drink, e-mend recovery drink, and Clif bar products (bars, blocks, and gels.)

Supper Time . . .

Athletes should try to eat frequently throughout the day, but traditionally a great proportion of the day's caloric needs are satisfied at the supper table. Make sure this meal contains the nutrients your body needs to recover, stay healthy, and help fuel your workouts. The time to prepare and cook healthful meals can be a challenge, especially when away from home, so I've put together some tips and a list of simple recipes to inspire you.

General Tips

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE! (meals with little preparation, few ingredients, easy cleanup)
  • Try to book hotel room/condo with a kitchenette/kitchen or at least a fridge
  • Find out what you need to bring: e.g., hot pot; electric skillet, small cutting board, rice cooker, etc.
  • Food safety: pay attention to cleanup and refrigeration. Avoid raw meats when cooking facilities aren't optimal -- use canned options like tuna, salmon, chicken, or frozen meatballs (precooked).

At the Supermarket

Pick up these foods for quick, convenient, and nutritious meals:

  • Frozen vegetables (Cooking Tip: Add frozen vegetables to pasta water 5 minutes before the end of cooking).
  • Frozen meatballs (lean meat, chicken, veggie)
  • Canned beans (legumes)
  • Fresh vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, carrots)
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Tomato sauce
  • Whole grains (whole wheat pasta, bulgur, brown rice)
Fast and Simple Meals for Athletes (click to download)

I've looked through many resources and come up with some great recipes that are nutritious and hearty enough to satisfy an athlete's appetite and palate. These dishes range from extremely simple, to a little more complex, but generally most have a short list of ingredients, require little preparation, and many can be made in one pot (which minimizes cleanup). Exact measurements usually aren't necessary, and being creative and substituting ingredients based on what's available or your tastes is encouraged!

This article was inspired by a talk XC Ottawa athletes gave this summer at a Cross Country Ontario training camp. Nakkertok Nordic Cross Country Ski club coach Mike Vieira asked for ideas for quick and healthy meals athletes could cook in one pot when they were at training camps or races.

Interesting Reading. . .
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