by Rachel Wells, Rev3 Ambassador Team Member
The broad topic of nutrition can be a tricky one and is something that is personal and unique to each of us. In addition to our physical training plans, what we put into our bodies as fuel is an important part of being a good athlete. For many of us, one challenge of traveling is finding healthy food options while on the road. Whether we are away from home for training, races or for vacations (or my favorite—for combination race-cations!) sometimes it can be hard to stick with our personal nutrition plans, especially if we don’t plan ahead.
I remember my very first triathlon back in 2011. I crossed the finish line and was absolutely exhausted…and famished. The post-race food options were not very good and there were limited gluten free options (I have Celiac disease which means gluten is an absolute NO for me). This sent me into a fit of hanger and I made my companion Jillian drive me to the nearest drive-thru for some salty, greasy, deep-fried French fries. Gluten free, sure. Healthy? Uh, no, not in the slightest. Since then I’ve learned the importance of planning ahead and stashing not only fuel for before and during my event but for afterwards as well. Without planning ahead, I’ve been known to make lousy food choices out of desperation.
Here are some other tips that I have found to be helpful ways to keep my nutrition—and hanger—in check:
- Research the location you are traveling to as well as towns along your route. Being able to plan ahead specific restaurants or other options for meals prevents debacles such as suddenly realizing it is 7pm on race-eve and you have NO idea of what or where you will be eating dinner.
- Pack healthy snacks to have in the car or airplane in your purse or bag. If you’re traveling in the car consider bringing a small cooler as this will increase the number of food options you can bring with the ability to keep items cold. I try to eat as many whole, fresh foods as I can because I know they help me feel and perform my best. This means avoiding most pre-packaged snack items. My personal bring-along favorites are things like apples, oranges, bananas, hard-boiled eggs, raw nuts, individual serving packets of nut butters (watch added sugars and oils), dried fruit (no sugar added preferably), raw veggies like carrots and broccoli (maybe with a side of hummus!), and of course lots of water. If you can do dairy, yogurt (I like Greek yogurt with low sugar) or cheese sticks are also good portable options. *See the end of this post for some suggestions of easy, healthy whole-food snack items that can be easily prepared prior to your travel and packed to take along.
- Stay in places that have access to a refrigerator, microwave, and/or stove. Don’t just limit yourself to hotels, I have found that staying in condos or cabins with groups of friends can be not only less expensive than some hotels but more fun! Preparing my own food instead of counting on restaurants to have acceptable options is sometimes just less stressful (and often less expensive!). Plus, preparing and eating a “home”-cooked meal with friends or teammates can be more relaxing than a busy, noisy restaurant. Food to prepare on site can be packed at home or purchased upon arrival at a local grocery store (research this ahead of time!). I also have an inexpensive electric griddle that plugs into any outlet that I sometimes tote along while traveling. If you are staying somewhere that has a fridge but no stove, you can use an electric griddle to prepare something warm like eggs or pancakes.
- Don’t eat anything new the day before a race! Just like you wouldn’t (most likely!) wear brand-new shoes or a new tri kit for the very first time the day of a race, don’t mess with your nutrition the day before or day of the event! This is where planning ahead can really help…pack your old-reliable staples.
- Let yourself celebrate a bit after a great performance! Whether you “let loose” with chocolate, salty chips (a personal favorite ☺), a beer (or two!) with friends, or a dish of ice cream…in my opinion, you can’t be all-work-and-no-play with your nutrition plan ALL of the time! Celebrate in moderation, though, and don’t let one celebration turn into a week-long or month-long ordeal.
With a bit of foresight and planning, nutrition doesn’t need to be stressful. Food/fuel is a very important part of racing and health. When you fuel your best, you will feel and perform your best as well.
Here are a few of my favorite, easy whole-food recipes for some snack items that can be easily packed for travel. These recipes also happen to be gluten and dairy free.
Chocolate Energy Balls
These are decadent little guys. Among other benefits, the magnesium in the dates has anti-inflammatory properties…great for athletes! These are a staple in our home and are frequently requested by my husband!
1 cup walnuts
1 ½ cups pitted dates
3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
4 Tablespoons raw cacao powder
Splash of pure vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
Pulse in food processor until all ingredients are well-combined and a soft dough-like ball forms. Roll into 1-2” balls using your hands. I put these in small disposable or reusable snack bags and then store in the freezer until we want to eat/pack them.
Easy Banana-Oat Cookies
You may have seen the easy two-ingredient cookie recipe floating around Pinterest and various blogs and thought to yourself, “those can’t possibly be delicious.” Take it from me…they are! Actually, don’t take it from me. Do yourself a favor and make them and form your own opinion! You likely already have the ingredients in your home. I love to have these cookies on hand in my fridge for quick, easy, healthy breakfasts or snacks. Yes, I said it: I eat these cookies for breakfast!
2 large bananas
1 cup of oats (I use regular gluten-free oats because I like the hearty texture, but quick oats also work fine)
Mash together both ingredients with a fork. If the batter seems a bit too thin (perhaps your bananas were larger than average), stir in a few more oats. Scoop onto a cookie sheet that is either greased or lined with parchment paper and cook in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until slightly browned. Cool (or don’t)…and eat! Tip: I like to store bananas in the freezer once they start to go brown to keep them on hand for recipes like this one.
Now here’s where things can get really fun. The possibilities for mix-ins are virtually limitless. Add one (or more!) of these options for a myriad of taste and health benefits!
Scoop of nut butter
Raisins or other dried fruit
Walnuts or other nuts
Chocolate or carob chips
Last tip: if you’re registered for or considering participating in any Rev3 races in 2016…search for your event(s) on Facebook and request to be added to the applicable group(s)! We have Facebook groups created for each event. Feel free to post questions related to the race or area (like where to find good grocery stores and/or restaurants!) in the group to help you plan your personal nutrition strategies ahead of race weekend. Here’s to a great, healthy 2016 season!
Rachel is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, avid runner and wanna-be triathlete. When she’s not working or training, she’s probably making something to eat. She loves creating recipes and trying new restaurants. She lives in central IL with her runner husband and their two cat-kids. They’re expecting their first human kid in April 2016. Their little guy has already run two marathons with Mom, including one BQ. Rachel has been a team member since 2014 and is excited for the return of Rev3 in 2016!