How to eat healthy and maintain running performance when traveling this summer
Summertime often treats runners to fun weekend races in neighboring cities and states, short getaways to the beach or pool, and family vacations. However, whether you are traveling by car or plane, don’t let all your hard work and healthy nutrition habits fall by the wayside.
Unhealthy eating or overeating at restaurants can make you feel sluggish before a race or run, and skipping meals can cause mid-run breakdowns. Remember, losing weight and getting into a good nutrition routine is much harder than maintaining, so don’t let yourself “go” while on vacation.
Here are three nutrition tips to help you maintain healthy eating habits while you are traveling. Plus, I’ll include a list of healthy, travel-friendly snack ideas to keep you nourished and energized for runs when on the road.
Know what you need
As I have discussed in previous blog posts, knowing what foods your body runs on best is crucial to figuring out your individual nutrition requirements.
You should be using your training runs at home, when the environment is the most controllable, to determine what foods your body functions the best on. Figuring out what keeps you feeling healthy and strong during your runs while you are home will help guide you while you travel.
Traveling for a race
When you are traveling for a race, the meals you eat the day before your race are very important. If you have a specific pre-race meal that works for you, try to find a restaurant in the area the serves a similar meal.
For example, if you like a stir fry of chicken, vegetables, and rice, look for an authentic Chinese restaurant. Make reservations early as restaurants fill up in both big and small town marathons. Getting a dinner on a normal Saturday night in Chicago or New York can be tough, but finding an open table when 50,000 runners are trying to do the same thing is next to impossible. If you’re racing in a small city, the marathon is the only show in town, so things will get booked quickly. Call ahead and find a place you’d like to eat and make reservations. Don’t leave your meal to chance. Find a relaxing place and enjoy a nice comforting dinner.
Most restaurants have their menu online, which will save you time driving around trying to find your favorite pre-race meal. Occasionally, there is not a restaurant that serves anything similar to your favorite pre-race meal. If this is the case, try and stay in a place with a small kitchen or kitchenette that would allow you to make your favorite pre-race dinner and possibly pre-race breakfast.
This past year, when I ran Boston, I brought a bag of quinoa with me (a staple for my pre-race dinner) and a bag of oatmeal. Not many restaurants use quinoa, and it is hard to find oatmeal at 4 or 5 a.m. on race day morning. By packing these meal staples, I was able to relax the days before the race, knowing I had what I needed to fuel my body for the race.
Traveling when not racing
If you are traveling for vacation or business, you may not necessarily be racing, but you may plan on running and maintaining your mileage.It is still important to plan ahead and know what your body needs to run well.
If you can’t run without your morning coffee, check to see if your hotel room provides a coffee maker or if there is a coffee shop close to where you are staying. If you have your heart set on a long run in the area you are staying in, avoid foods you haven’t tried before the night before you run. This will help avoid uncomfortable GI distress the following day and make your long run much more enjoyable.
Pack for travel days
Travel days allow for less control over what and when you eat. However, when you pack nutritious snacks, you increase your chances of eating healthy and prevent unplanned, unhealthy snacking that stems from grumbling tummies and boredom. If you are traveling by car, fill a cooler full of your favorite healthy snacks.
When traveling domestically by plane, you may not be able to take liquids through security, but you can pack food. On my last trip with my husband, we traveled with hard-boiled eggs, avocados, apples, nuts, cut bell peppers, cucumbers, and snap peas. We had the freedom to enjoy our snacks whenever our tummies desired, and we weren’t forced to eat unhealthy airport food.
When we landed at our destination, we both felt fresh and ready to run, instead of sluggish and tired. Making sure you have healthy snacks packed on travel days is crucial if you plan on running well when you arrive at your destination.
Keep drinking fluids
Hydration plays a crucial part in running or racing well the days following traveling; it is important to keep drinking fluids while you are traveling.
When traveling by vehicle, include beverages in your snack cooler, like electrolyte drinks, coconut water, and sparkling water. One of the biggest reasons people don’t hydrate while driving is the inconvenience of bathroom breaks. However, as a runner, getting out to stretch your legs every couple of hours is only going to help you stay loose and limber for your upcoming runs.
The Research Institute for Sports and Exercise Science published a review article in 2007 that discussed the gradual fluid loss that happens to the body while onboard an airplane. The study concluded that the inconsistent and small rations of fluid the flight attendants hand out are not going to be sufficient to keep you hydrated.
To stay hydrated while flying, pack an empty water bottle to fill up at a water fountain once you have gone through security. You may even want to pack electrolyte packets or tablets to keep your electrolytes balanced while you are traveling.
Healthy, travel friendly, snack ideas
- Pre-Cut Vegetables
- Bell Pepper
- Snap Peas
- Carrot Sticks
- Sliced Zucchini
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Nut Mixes
- Protein Bars
- Dried Fruit
- Beef Jerky
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Individual Nut Butter Packs (like Jason’s)
- Sliced Turkey
- Cheese Sticks
- Individual Tuna Pouch
- Protein Powder in sandwich bags
Summer is a great time to train for a race, build base miles, and establish healthy habits that improve your running performance. Don’t let your summer travels and vacations ruin all the progress you make this summer. Use these healthy tips and snacks to keep you running well as you travel for races, business, or pleasure.