Traveling is a huge part of an athlete’s life & career. The U.S. Men’s National Team players traveled approximately 145 days in 2013 for international games, which doesn’t include time spent traveling with their respective club teams. Therefore, it only makes sense that players make preparation for travel a priority in order to help maintain their performance, stamina and energy levels. Transcontinental travel automatically results in an adjustment for player’s circadian rhythms and the fatigue that follows that adjustment.
The goal of the team nutritionists is to fuel and hydrate the athletes appropriately in order to negate some of the effects of jet lag such as fatigue, muscle soreness and gastro-intestinal issues. Consequently, we nutritionists encourage five Smart Travel Reminders to help players stay properly fueled & hydrated while crisscrossing the globe:
1. Be prepared. Weather and mechanical delays happen. Players are encouraged to bring with them their favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit, granola/sports bars and/or trail mix as well as to make sure they have a balanced meal 1-2 hours before getting on the plane.
2. Prioritize hydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8 oz. of water per hour and keep coffee to no more than 2 cups. In order to stay on top of their hydration, players check the urine to make sure it is pale yellow or the color of lemonade. I also encourage them to bring whole leaf, green tea sachets with them for the antioxidant properties. Another rule of thumb is to consume 0.5-1.0 ounces per pound body weight fluids per day
3. Don’t skip meals. Continue to eat every 3 hours to support recovery.
4. Eat your protein. Consume a lean protein with each meal i.e. grilled chicken, grilled fish filet, deli turkey, ham or roast beef, had boiled eggs and jerky all provide good amounts of lean protein.
5. Keep meals balanced. Include the following components with each meal while traveling: a whole grain carbohydrate (when possible), lean protein, healthy fat that gives back, and two or three vegetable servings and/or a fruit serving.