By: Holley Samuel MEd, RD, LD, CPT
Traveling can leave athletes in a position to consume unfamiliar foods that may not mesh well with their typical diet or support their health goals. Perhaps these meals on the go leave a runner feeling sluggish and off their game. Regardless, if you're traveling for a vacation or traveling for work, it's important to give yourself grace in the choices you make. Nutrition to support training or health goals while traveling doesn't have to be complicated, but adopting habits that can be accommodated on the go can be beneficial.
When Possible Runners Should Shop At The Grocery Store
Whether taking a day trip or driving coast to coast, gas stations and convenience stores only have a handful of appealing options. Using local grocery stores to pick up snacks and meal items is an excellent tool for traveling during a road trip or once you've arrived at the destination.
Grocery stores are usually equipped with everything one may need and more during a "rest" stop, from non-perishable items to keep on hand, to “to go” options like sandwiches, salads, and snack boxes which can be convenient too.
*Review the list below for great non-perishable and perishable items if you have a cooler available. Don’t forget plastic or reusable cutlery and napkins!
Non-perishable grocery items for travel
Perishable grocery items for travel
Nut butter packets
Yogurt (Greek yogurt drinkable options)
Hard boiled eggs
Microwaveable protein muffin cups
Mixed bags of salad
Nitrate free cold cuts
Dried edamame or chickpeas
Pack performance-friendly fuel and snacks
As athletes who usually continue to train during travel or maybe even as a key part of the travel, it is important to plan out what fuel may be needed so you can get through your training successfully.
Questions to ask yourself before traveling: What will I eat pre run? What about post run? Do you have challenging training sessions that need pre-planned fuel and hydration? And where will all this fuel come from?
Packing extra snacks usually doesn’t cause problems. Packing cooler bags that fold up can be a convenient way to store any perishable snacks on the go. Use them in the car with ice packs, or roll them up to pack in a carry-on at the airport and find ice at the hotel, soda machine, or gas station to keep items cool until you arrive at the destination.
When planning ahead, it may be helpful to pack single-serve packets (or the whole container if there is room) of protein powder, sports nutrition drink mix or electrolytes, gels or chews, applesauce packets, granola bars, or other easy staples that can keep you running fueled in case you get in a pinch at your destination.
*Remember to pack any daily medications or supplements too- they don’t work if you don’t take them consistently or as directed!
Maintain a consistent routine
Yes, travel involves being somewhere new and perhaps taking an intentional step away from the daily grind, but having a routine keeps the human body feeling good. Maintaining a familiar routine can help promote regularity in digestion and bowel movements, contribute to good sleep, promote sustained energy levels, and make it easier to participate in daily activities.
Components of a good travel routine for runners and endurance athletes:
Stay hydrated (especially if travel incorporates hotter climates, or long periods of time in a car or plane)
Eat every 2-4 hours so keep energy levels up and choose some familiar foods if possible
Include carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber at meals and snacks to keep blood sugar stable and stay satiated
Manage stress levels and bring any tools along that help with this
Have a sleep adjustment strategy if switching time zones is a component of travel
Traveling for work or for fun doesn’t need to derail any progress you make in your health related goals. It always feels nice to return from a trip feeling good with some energy rather than feeling drained and out of place.