Nutrition on the Go
The planning phase prior to departing for a tournament is crucial to your performance. This phase involves taking into consideration the court surface, equipment adjustments, travel, acclimatization and most importantly, nutrition. It is important to be proactive and set travel and competition nutrition plans in preparation for your tournaments. Quite often, foods offered while travelling to another country other than your own can be unfamiliar and/or unavailable, which can lead to suboptimal (under) fueling, decreased performance and other complications.
Read on to learn sáme tips and advice about general travel nutrition that will allow you to maximize your performance on match days and for the duration of the tournament. We will discuss what to prepare/eat/drink while travelling, nutritional supplementation, information on gastrointestinal issues, special diets, medical conditions and hydration.
Before You Travel
Some players may choose to carry travel nutrition equipment which allows them to prepare suitable athletic meals anywhere in the world. This can include a hot pot travel cooker, travel power converter, measuring cups, spoons and a selection of the following foods:
Foods to pack for the plane:
- Bottled water and sport beverages
- Powdered sports drink (individual sachets)
- Low fat muesli bars
- High carbohydrate sports bars
- Home-made sandwiches
- Dried fruit or fruit/vegetable leathers
Foods to pack in your suitcase or to send ahead:
- Breakfast cereal
- Instant porridge sachets, grits, cream of rice
- Instant noodles
- Low fat muesli bars
- Dried fruit
- Fruit cups
- Sports drink powder
- Meal supplement powder
- Sports bars
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Powdered milk
On The Plane (When Your Tournament Really Starts)
At airports, familiarize yourself with healthier restaurant options that meet training diet recommendations, which generally consist of complex carbohydrate and lower fat content. While on the plane, it is important to stay hydrated. To help maintain fluid status, keep a bottle with you to refill on the flight, buy sport beverages at the airport to drink during the flight, choose tomato juices, soups and salty snacks such as pretzels, and drink extra fluids at each meal. For meals, choose the regular option and if the meals are too small, ask for extra bread and fruit. Do remember that if you are inactive for long periods of time, you may not require as many additional snacks as you would when training or playing matches. Eat more iron rich foods before flights but avoid iron supplements on the day you fly because of the risk of constipation.
After Stepping Off the Plane
It is important to incorporate adequate fruits and vegetables into your nutrition plan during travel. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which are known to reduce respiratory illness and asthma symptoms and are beneficial to your health. Obtaining safe, fresh and readily available produce can be a challenge. Make sure that you wash (using clean bottled water) any fruit and vegetables that have skins. It may be safer to consume bottled juices and cooked vegetables if you are uncertain about the safety of the water.
- Travel with your supplements in extra plastic sealable bags and keep them sealed.
- Take enough vitamins and other sport food supplements with you to get through your entire trip.
- Check with customs about what you can carry with you to your destination. Be aware of travel rules and limitations. You may need to ship your supplements and food directly to your destination.
Having Tummy Troubles?
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems or “traveler’s diarrhea” is common when travelling. Being an athlete doesn’t protect you from such conditions. GI problems may exist for up to a week and consist of symptoms such as abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or loose bowels, nausea and vomiting, and/or reflux.
If you are having GI issues, avoid the following foods: High fiber foods (whole gains, nuts, raw vegetables), acidic foods (fresh orange and grapefruit juices, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa), high fat foods (fried foods, fatty meats) butter, oils, salad dressing, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol.
To help ease your gastrointestinal issues, these are safe foods/beverages to consume: peeled and cooked fruits and vegetables, white breads and dried crackers, plain rice, juice (pear or apple), herbal teas (non-caffeine), ginger drinks, skinless chicken, tuna turkey, lean beef, probiotic yogurts, bottled water
Special Diets and Medical Conditions
Most tennis players need a minimum range of 25-30 grams of protein during lunch and dinner meals.
If you are a vegetarian, maximize your protein needs with some of the following high-protein foods: legumes, soy, tofu, tempeh, seiten, meat substitutes, pasta with cheese, beans, veggie burgers/sausages, eggs, soy and rice dairy, nuts and nut butter.
Lactose intolerance, an inability to digest milk and milk products due to a lack of or absence of the enzyme lactase, can occur among athletes. Meeting calcium needs is a main concern with a lactose free diet. Use products that are fortified with calcium or eat lactose free products (e.g. soy, rice, and almond milk/cheese; coconut milk/yogurt; olive oil, soy margarine, margarine spreads).
Gluten intolerance is experienced in persons with medically diagnosed Celiac disease. There is no advantage to avoiding gluten if you do not have medically confirmed gluten intolerance. The tennis athlete may compromise her carbohydrate energy intake if she avoids gluten containing foods. Despite restrictions, the athlete with Celiac disease can still enjoy a wide variety of grains: corn, rice, soy, potato, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, amaranth and lentils are all naturally gluten free.
Being well hydrated is essential for optimal performance. Hydrate the night before to prepare the body for experiencing the stressors of travel. Again, make sure you keep hydrating on the plane. According to research, the human body loses approximately 300ml of water per hour from the dry atmosphere in flight. That is equivalent to one LARGE glass of water. Adequate hydration levels leading up to competition and having normal levels of water in the body are associated with a slower onset of fatigue, lower body temperature, lower perceived rate of exertion, and proper electrolyte balance causing a less body weight lost during competition.
The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.