Diet for Marathon Runners – Travel


When travelling, it is not always easy to maintain optimal nutrition. By finding out what food to expect at your destination and being prepared, you can make sure you have the food you need to avoid problems like dehydration, inadequate carbohydrate intake, fatigue, nutritional inadequacies, unwanted loss or gain in weight, and stomach upsets like ‘travellers diarrhoea’.

Potential nutritional pitfalls when travelling include expense, unfamiliar food, unsafe food, difficulty reading food labels in another language, increased needs due to changes in the environment (eg: increased fluid and carbohydrate needs), reduced access to food and fluid, and boredom eating.

 

Strategies to optimize nutrition when traveling

Driving:

  • Take fluid with you so you can keep hydrated.
  • Take travel snacks with you so you don’t need to rely on what is available at service stations, fish and chip chops, convenience stores, and fast-food drive throughs. Travel snacks could include fruit, sandwiches, fruit bread and muesli bars. 

Local events:

  • Find out which meals are provided.
  • Organise accommodation with cooking facilities.
  • Plan food for each meal. Take food with you or go to a supermarket when you get to your destination (it will usually be cheaper than eating out).
  • A chilly bin is a good way to transport perishable foods.
  • Take your pre-competition, competition and post-competition food with you.
  • If pre-competition meals are provided, eat the amount of food you would normally have. This will help prevent overeating or eating inappropriate foods.
  • Check out suitable restaurants before eating out.
  • When at restaurants, ask for extra carbohydrate foods or dishes that you would like. After all, you are paying! For example, request extra potato or bread, sour cream, dressing on the side. 

Flying:

  • Inform the airline of any special nutritional needs you have.
  • Take fluids in a drink bottle so they are readily available.
  • Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol, as they will promote urination, contributing to the dehydration caused by flying.
  • For long-haul flights take snacks with you, for example, fruit, yoghurt, sandwiches, dried fruit. 

Overseas events in familiar countries:

  • Find out what food is available at your destination by ringing ahead, or talking to people who have previously travelled to those locations.
  • If food is provided, inform chefs of any special nutritional needs you have.
  • Take your pre-competition, competition and post-competition food with you.
  • Be aware of special nutritional requirements at your new destination such as increased needs for fluid, carbohydrate or other nutrients.
  • If you will be at a destination where food and water are safe and familiar you will be able to buy most food you need. 

Overseas events in unfamiliar countries:

  • When food may be unsafe, unfamiliar or expensive, take food with you if possible. For example, liquid meal preparations, breakfast cereals, powdered low-fat milk, dried fruit, fruit juice packs, canned fruit, quick-cook noodles and pasta, muesli bars, biscuits, sports bars, canned food and camping meals. Check customs regulations (your food should be fine if sealed).
  • Check drinking water is safe; also check the water you use for cleaning your teeth and washing your mouth. Unless you know it is safe (sealed bottled water usually is), sterilize your drinking water by boiling or using sterilization tablets.
  • Be careful with raw vegetables, salads and unpeeled fruit; raw shellfish; ice cream and ice cubes; underdone meat or fish; and uncooked, cold or reheated food. These can all be contaminated with undesirable bacteria, leading to food poisoning. Fresh-cooked foods are safer. You do not want to spend all your time racing from one toilet to the next instead of competing.