Elizabeth Broad: Nutrition tips for travelling, part II

With under a year to go until Rio 2016, athletes will travel a lot more. Here are some common issues they may encounter. 25 Sep 2015
Portrait picture of a women in Team USA uniform in front of a landscape

Team USA's Elizabeth Broad, Senior Sports Dietician, regulary blogs for paralympic.org

ⒸElizabeth Broad
By Elizabeth Broad

Earlier in September, Elizabeth Broad, Senior Sports Dietician at the United States Olympic Committee, provided travel tips for athletes who will be on the road a lot more with less than a year until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

In that blog, she discussed tips for athletes to bring for their travels and what to do on arrival. This is part two of her blog.

Common travel issues:

Eating too little – The unfamiliarity of food in a different country can put some athletes off, whether it is the look, smell or taste of the food or simply not knowing what is in it. The more restrictive you are with your eating choices at home, the more difficult it will be to adapt when you travel. It is important, therefore, to try different things – and if not, to be prepared to take your own food supplies.

For some athletes, they will get fed a meal three times a day but not in between meals. Athletes with very high energy needs or who can only tolerate small volumes of food will not be able to eat enough if they only have three meals a day. It is important therefore to remember to take snacks away from meal times and / or find a supermarket where you can purchase snacks.

Constipation – A lot of people suffer from constipation when they travel. This can be due to low fibre foods served at airports and on flights, prolonged inactivity, dehydration and a change in the food supply from the usual.

It is very important to find ways to consume adequate fibre-rich foods on arrival (e.g. whole grain breads / cereals, fresh or dried fruit, vegetables and salad). You may also consider taking a fibre supplement of some form. Dried prunes are also generally effective and provide a rich source of nutrients.

Dehydration during travel – Many para-athletes are deliberately dehydrated or restrict fluid intake during travel due to difficulty of getting to a bathroom on a flight. Flights can incur dehydration due to the dry air conditions.

Dehydration will increase your risk of illness as it dries our airways (our first line of defence), increases the risk of urinary tract infections and prolongs the recovery period from travel. Athletes with spinal cord injuries are encouraged to speak to their doctor regarding appropriate bladder management during travel, and to consume small amounts of fluid regularly rather than deliberately dehydrating for travel.

Upset stomach – Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea are examples. When athletes travel, the food supply is different and may contain different small bacteria and organisms than what they’re used to. Eating the local yoghurt each day, or a drinking yoghurt, may help the gut adjust more quickly, as it provides a good range of probiotics.

Eating too much – When athletes travel, they often stay at places where they are either served meals from a buffet or they eat out at restaurants, rather than cooking for themselves. This makes it more difficult to regulate their serving sizes, especially if they do not have to reach into their own pockets to pay for the food! If you are competing, there may be more time to eat since you are likely to not be training as much as usual – which increases the likelihood of gaining unwanted weight.

To prevent over-eating:

- Pick one dish only at a buffet rather than a bit of everything – this makes serving a normal serve size easier to do.

- Do not go for dessert / a second plate if you do not do that at home.

- At restaurants, take a good look at the menu and choose nutritious options according to your training needs rather than something you would eat on a special occasion or when on holiday!

- Put salad / vegetables on your plate FIRST.

Elizabeth Broad is the author of “Sports Nutrition for Paralympic Athletes.