By: Reebok Spartan Race Pro Team member Miguel Medina
You’ve gone to a Spartan Workout, trained hard with the daily WoD and followed the advice on the daily FoD. Race day is right around the corner and it’s time to pack all your gear. Hydration pack: Check. Gels, Guu’s, Mustard packets, compression and shoes: Check. You’ll just eat really expensive nutritionally void food at the airport and your fill of cookies, peanuts and pretzels; right? Road tripping it? Load up on fast food, energy drinks, and chips… right? WRONG!
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice all your hard work over a day of running from gate to gate or driving across state lines. Spartans are smarter and more resourceful than that. With these tips and tricks on you’ll be ready to conquer your next race from the moment you walk out the door with some planning you can still make nutrition convenient.
Planning and execution
Now before you start throwing the entire farmer’s market into the crockpot let’s think of the following: How many hours will it take you to arrive to your destination and how long will you be staying there? Plan it out, write it out, and prepare food a few days out. If you don’t have time MAKE TIME AND SPARTAN UP. TV and social media can wait. For example, if it’s an entire day’s drive, you can pack a cooler with tons of healthy snacks and enough meals to last you a day that were prepared at home and can be kept on ice. Making food in the crockpot like roasts or stews are great. You can store them in reusable bags or containers. You could also make different sandwiches. Just make sure to keep the cooler somewhere where the sun won’t shine directly onto it.
If you’re flying it can be a little trickier. But have no fear — that’s why most airlines have one free carry-on and a personal item (check with your carrier ahead of time). If the flight is domestic you can pack an entire backpack full of food for the rest of your day traveling. Aim for solid foods to not have issues with TSA, otherwise, check any necessary liquids in your bags. Furthermore, you can bring an empty reusable bottle for water and fill up at drinking fountains on the plane/airport or at rest stops on your drive. Avoid the sugary and artificially flavored drinks, stick to water, or if you need something different stick to coconut water, tea, coffee, etc. If you take any supplements those can be packed away in a reusable bag which saves space allowing for more food. Plus, you won’t sound like a walking pharmacy.
Food and Hydration
I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay well-hydrated when traveling, especially a few days out from the race. Staying hydrated means that your urine is a light yellow tint (in case you were wondering). So drink plenty of water since the longer you sit the more inflammation can begin to set in and stiffen your joints and muscles. Not to mention all the horrible things that begin to go on in our bodies with being seated for a prolonged amount of time.
Acceptable drinks include:
- Tea (preferably unsweetened)
- Coconut water (avoid it if it’s from concentrate)
- Drinks containing probiotics (avoid the stuff with lots of sugar, maintaining your gut healthy is essential for the proper absorption of what you put in your body)
- Coffee (not too much as you can get dehydrated, opt for using grass-fed butter and MCT oil if you want to give it some flavor without adding cream or sugar)
- Drinks that are artificially processed, sweetened or with a list of ingredients that read like a chemistry book aka juices, soda, energy drinks, etc.
- Alcohol (it will dehydrate you and affect the absorption of nutrients)
Snacks and meals shouldn’t be much different from your usual healthy nutrition regimen. The only real difference comes when you consider having access to refrigeration. If you’re driving pack a cooler full of food as mentioned before and prepare meals as you wish. If you’re traveling by plane then I tend to stick to foods that don’t need to be refrigerated. On the road you’ll typically run into rest stops or gas stations with microwaves, most the time gas station attendants haven’t had any issues with me heating up some food in it — after all you’re still buying gas for the drive. For a trip by plane I tend to stick with foods that don’t need to be heated like sandwiches, salad bowls, or meal replacement shakes that I can mix with water in the terminal or in flight. Below are some ideas for the flight and the road!
Smart snacks for travel:
- Vegetables: carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, homemade vegetable chips
A great way to preserve some leafy greens that you can bring along like kale, spinach, or spring mix is using some lemon juice and pepper. Try adding some olive or coconut oil to it as well! It doesn’t spoil as the Lemon preserves it for a day.
- Fats and protein: unsalted nuts, seeds or trail mixes jerky, hardboiled eggs. Vegetarian or vegan alternative- tofu, seitan, tempeh prepared your favorite way and stored in a reusable container. I tend to add some kind of sauce to it to keep it from drying out.
- Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes uncooked if you’ll have access to a microwave. Cooked if you’ll be flying. Just make sure to eat them within 24 hour if they’re cooked and not refrigerated. Regular potatoes in the same fashion AVOID the salt, butter, etc. or you’ll be ruining this complete plant based protein. Quinoa or brown rice bowls with a bit or olive or coconut oil along with some of your favorite herbs and spices. My favorite combination is some turmeric, garlic, pepper, onion, cumin and rosemary.
- Fruits: Apples, Oranges, Pears etc. If you’re bringing more fragile fruit like bananas or strawberries make sure they are easily accessible to prevent them from making a mess of your stuff. Using a hard, plastic and reusable container is always a good idea.
What to avoid:
- Fast food
- Processed foods
- Foods with labels that say “natural” but have an ingredient list like a chemistry book.
- High starch or sodium filled foods. They’ll wreak havoc on your gut!
The three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Use Ziploc bags, old produce bags, plastic containers for food like yogurt, fruit and vegetables as these foods can have new life breathed into them by storing them properly. For example, storing your celery with a bit of water in a sealable plastic container will help it last. Portion size and creativity go a long way too. For example, Chinese food take-out boxes are great for individualized rice/quinoa bowls. Mason jars make a great place for storing more fragile foods.
Ideally, you can bring your own utensils, but if you can’t try and use the same pair you pick-up throughout your trip. When booking a hotel try and find a place with kitchenettes as this will help offset the costs of going-out. Additionally, try and book relatively close to a grocery store so you can continue to make healthy choices during your race weekend. Lastly, if there’s a mini-bar in your hotel room you can ask the hotel to empty it out ahead of time for two reasons. First, to avoid any temptation of eating unhealthy foods and wasting money on inflated hotel items. Second, it makes room for you to store your perishables and keeps beverages cool.