by Sumiko Marie
(Editor's Note: Sumiko is a talented kettlebell competitor and bikini athlete. She travels frequently aroud the world and is one of the best examples I know of someone who plans the plan and sticks to the plan. She takes a few simple steps to make sure she's prepared while traveling and these simple tips are effective for any type of athlete, whether preparing for a physique competition or getting ready to battle on the mat or in the field.)
Travel. Life on the road. Work or pleasure. No matter the reason for the adventure, it takes preparation to maintain consistent nutritional programming. With a little bit of forethought, you can have your cake and eat it too. (Actually, protein…maybe I should have said protein.)
I will tell you something. I love to travel. Nomad. Gypsy. Call me what you will! Home is wherever I happen to be so you will find me on the road more often than not.
Whether it is for an overnight trip or two weeks, preparation is key to not going off the deep end nutritionally. It is a delicate balance. As a kettlebell sport athlete and bikini competitor, it is vital that I stay on track – especially during travel.
Here are my top 3 tips for any type of travel:
1. Stay hydrated.
2. Do your research.
3. Have a back-up plan.
1. STAY HYDRATED. Water, water, water. During travel, I avoid high sodium food options and replenish my body with a minimum of four (4) litres of water per day and sometimes up to seven (7) – think 1-2 gallons. This one step really makes the difference in how my body handles the flight, minimizes jetlag, etc.
I admit I like to cut it close when it comes to air travel. I don’t like to wait around and waste any time. I check in online and then get to the airport in time to zoom through security and board. But, I learned my lesson about playing it too close. During my last flight from Belgium to New York – I made it to the airport barely in time to join my boarding group! I didn’t have a chance to stop for water. I was at the mercy of the flight attendant. For seven hours. In this time I will typically consume at least 3 litres of water. As you can imagine after my 11th refill, she cut me off! Apparently, she needed to save some for the other passengers. #lessonlearned (Tip: Pack a couple of the larger 1.5L bottles empty and fill them at the airport. I buy water in the airport shop and consolidate. It is less bulky and way easier when traveling light)
2. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Have a plan. Preparation is key to success and being hungry without a plan…no bueno.
Spend an hour or so online before you travel. What restaurants are near your destination? What supermarkets? Nutrition stores? Meal delivery services are growing in popularity…is there an option near you? Will your hotel have a refrigerator in the room or do you need to request one? Will the hotel prepare meals to complement your “dietary restrictions”? (Tip: I have had better luck with hotel and restaurant staff accommodating “dietary restriction” because of health requirements than as an athlete that’s “just picky” if you know what I mean…)
If you are traveling internationally, learn the local language to identify the items you need. For example, here in Belgium you find Flemish and French – chicken=kip or poulet, turkey=kalkoen or dinde, oats=haver or avione, eggs=eieren or oefs. It really helps when you are cruising the aisles of the supermarket to easily identify the items.
The strictness of approach depends on what type of training you are doing and where you are in your schedule. If you are in the final weeks of preparation before a competition then your restrictions are tighter than if you are simply maintaining healthy habits while traveling.
I have been known to eat a half-frozen turkey patty on a flight if I am within weeks of a bikini competition. Food for fuel is the name of the game and when it is time to eat – I am going to eat! Keep in mind that it is not always so strict and it is most important to design a plan based on your specific needs and restrictions. What can you carry-on? Can you prepare sufficient meals to travel with? If it is a shorter trip then sometimes you are able to take with you everything that you need. (Tip: You can have frozen packs on flights BUT they will not typically allow you through security if the pack is melted and gel-like in substance)
3. HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN. Be prepared. I always have something to eat with me. Usually enough to tide me over for two meals as a “just in case”. Unexpected delays. Rerouted flights. Lost luggage. Shops close. Plans change.
I prefer to eat my meals from whole food sources (chicken, turkey, eggs, etc) but we make concessions when we travel. Honestly, I love Quest Protein Bars. LOVE them. But there is some addictive quality to them (My name is Miko and I am a Questbar Junkie). I know my limitations. I cannot eat just one. Don’t laugh. I lack control…if there are five in my bag then I eat five. Nevertheless, if you have more willpower than I they are great in a pinch…one of the few protein bars that I can read through the ingredients label and understand. Toss a couple in your carry-on and you are set.
We do what we have to do in a pinch. My experience is that low/no carb travel days leave me feeling better and with more energy to push through. (Tip: For back-up, I travel with water, protein powder and raw or unsalted nuts – personally, I like almonds/cashews.)
There are so many more specifics to address depending on your particular variables. The above represent the basic top three tips for successful travel based on my experience that can apply in all scenarios.
As I wrap this little segment up, let me give you a snapshot of what my “minimalist approach” looks like. Keep in mind that I travel light (carry-on only and light enough to lug around all day with me). I usually look for resources at my destination to fill my requirement.
I eat 5-6 times per day. This is what works for me to maintain my energy and stamina while also training at least 6x per week. Each meal is either a shake (protein powder pre-measured) or I pre-package the portion (of chicken, turkey, etc) in a ziplock bag and freeze it overnight before departure. If I am having a complex carb with the meal, it is pre-measured and ziplocked. Think dry oats, quinoa or brown rice…99% of the time you will catch me with oats because I find this easiest to travel with measure and prepare. (Tip: Prepare everything ahead of time. You are less likely to deviate. We all know that the interpretation of a “heaping scoop” varies depending on how famished we are! Let’s set ourselves up for success!)
If you are going to pack your meals or even if you will prepare the bulk of your meals once you arrive, below is also a list of what I consider the “must haves”. As with everything speak with your health professional before making any major adjustments as suggestions are based on my experience and do not replace the direction provided by a licensed medical professional. Yes, my disclaimer is done so let me get back to it and share a few more ideas:
Clearly this list is not all-inclusive and things vary trip to trip but maybe these get you going in the right direction. If you have specific questions or I can provide more helpful hints based on your travel duration and programming. Follow me on twitter @sumikomarie |IG sumikomarie |facebook.com/sumikomarieonline or just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.