Food is fuel

Performance Plate

Tricks from 9 Pro Athletes for Eating Well on the Road

Making healthy meals while traveling doesn't have to be hard

On the road, eating the right food is a tall order. (Zach Miles/Unsplash)
performance plate

Making healthy meals while traveling doesn't have to be hard

It’s easy(ish) to eat the right foods at home. On the road, it’s much more difficult. But elite athletes, who abide by strict nutrition plans while traveling nonstop, have to figure it out. For outdoor athletes, competitions typically take them to small, rural towns all over the world—places where an abundance of nutritious food or sport-specific packaged goods may not be readily available. So how do they do it? We asked nine athletes for their most reliable on-the-road eating hacks.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Winner of the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon

“A lot of people travel with different tinctures and supplements and gels, but I try just to be dependent on what is in my immediate environment at the time. I can usually adapt pretty well, but if I’m going somewhere that I know might have nutritional shortcomings, I try to bring along foods with me that I think I might need. I’m not very scientific about it. If I’m traveling domestically, I’ll pack whatever is in season and growing in my garden. I also make oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies that are great to eat before a run.”

Carl Decker

Five-time Downieville All-Mountain World Champion

“I’m a big fan of the banana and peanut butter snack hack. The banana gives you some volume and fills you up, and the peanut butter’s fat and protein keep you that way. And once you lick the spoon, there’s no cleanup. Just peel the banana and add (preferably natural) peanut butter to each banana bite. Then maybe just eat a couple spoonfuls of pure peanut butter for dessert if you’re particularly deserving. I’ll eat a PB banana to augment a breakfast before a big ride or as a midnight snack at least a couple times a week. It tastes great, it’s cheap, and it’s pretty healthy. When I travel, I often bring a jar of PB with me. I tend to eat a lot of it, and the brands I prefer can be hard to find in some areas—especially overseas. A word of advice: Keep it in your checked bag. I’ve yet to smuggle a container of peanut butter through airport security. Losing your peanut butter is always a sad way to start a trip!”

Devin Logan

US freeskier and Olympic slopesetyle silver medalist

“When I’m on the road, it’s really important for me to stay on top of my protein intake. You’ll always find a peanut butter protein bar in my backpack and in the pocket of my jacket while I’m skiing. I also like to grocery shop wherever I am and find lodging with a kitchen so I can prepare my own meals.”

Dean Karnazes

Ultramarathoner and author of ‘Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner’

“My biggest nutritional travel hack is packets of smoked salmon. I find smoked salmon healthier and more satiating than beef jerky. I used to carry tubs of sardines in olive oil, but open one of those in a plane and you get a lot of angry stares from fellow passengers. Rightly so.”

Nikki LaRochelle

Member of the 2017 U.S. ski mountaineering team

“Rule number one is avoid McDonald’s. I also don’t worry about how long something has gone unrefrigerated. If you’re able to throw this caution to the wind, you can really optimize your travel food options. I’m keen on stealing my kid’s string cheese. Other options include carrots and hummus, Larabars, apples, Justin’s Nut Butter snack packs, and dark chocolate. Also, pro tip: Bringing loud snacks (carrots, apples) is a great way to forge new friendships on airplanes…NOT. But you’ll never see them again. So rule number two is loud snacks with no concern regarding refrigeration.”

Rebeccah Wassner

Pro triathlete

“I travel to races up to 15 times a year, and I always pack my own food. One of my favorite things to pack is bone broth. I either make my own or take BRU Broth, which is just as good and much more convenient. I find that it helps me eliminate that run-down feeling from a long flight or car drive. It’s also a great way to hydrate while packing in some extra nutrients before a race. To keep it fresh, I freeze the broth ahead of time, pack it in a PackIt cooler, and stick it in my bike travel bag.”

Todd Wells

Five-time ultra cycling national champion

Sponsored by Clif, Wells always travels with tons of the company’s bars on the plane. “Other than that, I always bring rice and Nutella to eat as my prerace meal. I know I can digest it quickly, it doesn’t mess up my stomach, and I know how much energy I can expect out of it. Nutella is easy to find everywhere, and I usually buy frozen rice at the supermarket and nuke it in the morning before my race. Every hotel has a microwave, and if you don’t have a fridge, a cooler or bucket of ice keeps the Nutella cold enough to store.”

Diego Estrada

Olympic runner and top American finisher at the 2016 Chicago Marathon

“I don’t really pack much aside from some Kind bars. But once I get checked in at my hotel, I look for the nearest grocery store and buy some easy-to-find snacks like strawberries, raspberries, pistachios, Wheat Thins, and cereal.”

Sasha DiGiulian

World champion rock climber

“I make my own trail mix and bars to bring on trips. I’ll make a stop at the Whole Foods bulk section before taking off and buy an assortment of different nuts and dried fruits to concoct something that tastes like home and keeps me satisfied.”

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