Travel like a pro and score a winning advantage (part 1 of ?)

Most people are familiar with the term home field advantage, but how many have ever stopped to think about just what that means? It goes far beyond playing in the comfort of your own field or court, and includes eating home cooked food, waking up in your own bed, and having the clock in your body match the clock on the wall.

Competing in different cities is a part of day-to-day life for many athletes. Instead of watching your game/race/match performance decline when traveling, take advantage of the less than ideal circumstances to gain an advantage against your opponents!

This post is the first in a series that will examine different aspects of life on the road for a traveling athlete including making good food choices, acclimating to a different climate, jet lag and airplane travel, and keeping your body healthy.

Making good food choices can be difficult when traveling, and a little planning can go a long way.

Before you go

Whether you’ll be traveling by car, train, or plane, you can plan ahead so you’re not stuck eating fast food. Things to pack:

  • Water (unless you’re traveling by plane)
  • Sandwiches
  • Bananas/apples/oranges
  • Bars (my two current favorites are Larabar and Oatmega)
  • Jerky (Trader Joe’s has a nice variety)
  • For plane flights when bringing fresh food isn’t an option, individual packs of whey protein plus a bar can make a nice meal

In addition to packing for your travel day, don’t forget to pack the food-related items you’ll need in the new city, like sports drinks/gels, vitamins, and other supplements.

 In the new city

Finding a grocery store is usually near the top of my priority list. Most stores have a deli counter where you can get food that is ready to eat, including hot items and sandwiches. This can be very convenient for a traveling tennis team, and is usually much cheaper than eating at a restuarant. Assuming the hotel room has a fridge, you can also stock up on some essentials. This can vary widely depending on your preferences, but my suggestions usually include….

  • Water
  • Bread, peanut butter, jelly
  • Deli turkey
  • Avocados (good for adding some calories to the hotel breakfast)
  • Bananas and dates (good for on-court or off-court snacks)
  • Smoked salmon
  • Bars
  • Milk/ chocolate milk (remember chocolate milk is one of the best recovery foods after a hard workout)
  • Potato chips (because they’re delicious)

After finding the grocery store, I would also find out where the nearest Chipotle and Subway shops are. These are both places that can provide a fairly healthy meal for the traveling athlete, though they can also provide quite unhealthy meals depending on how you order. Let’s take a quick look at a few options:

Chipotle – This is usually my first choice for athletes. While people often scoff at it and think of it as unhealthy fast food, I don’t really see much wrong with ordering a bowl with chicken, rice, black beans, veggies, salsa, and guacamole. As you see, something like that can provide a good source of carbohydrate and protein, as well as healthy fats from the avocado.

However, let’s say you were to order a burrito with sofritas, rice, pinto beans, salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. And while you’re at it, why not have some chips and guacamole, along with a 20 oz. soda. The same amount of protein, with 3x the fat, 3x the calories, and 16x the sugar!

Chipotle label

Subway is another popular option for traveling athletes, and again there are good choices and not so good choices.

Subway label

The differences become even more obvious when you compare them all….

fast food table


Hopefully this post has given you some ideas to step up your travel game on the food side of things. In the next post I’ll discuss the impact that going from a colder to a hotter climate can have on athletic performance, and ways to mitigate the detrimental effects.

What strategies do you use when traveling? Any favorite food I left off the list? Add a comment here or on facebook! And to stay updated on new posts, leave your email address. I won’t bombard you with emails, just a brief note when a new post comes out.

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