Sports Nutrition for Traveling Athletes
Athletes need to look after their Nutrition while Travelling
Traveling athletes may find it hard to maintain their optimal nutrition. If you can find out what food will be available where you are going, then you will help ensure you have the right food to make sure you avoid problems that may occur. These problems may be dehydration, fatigue, an inadequate amount of carbohydrate intake, other nutritional inadequacies, stomach upsets and even weight gain or loss.
Don’t rely on airlines to refuel you! Take food specific to your nutritional needs.
Some of the pitfalls that can cause nutritional problems while traveling are unfamiliar food, not understanding food labels because of the language barrier, an increase in fluid and carbohydrates due to the environment, and even boredom eating.
Strategies to Optimize Nutrition when Traveling
• Make sure you take fluid along with you to keep hydrated.
• Having travel snacks along with you will help you to keep from relying on what might or might not be available at places like service stations, convenient stores and even at fast food restaurants. Some snacks to include would be fruit, fruit bread, nuts, sandwiches and even muesli bars.
• Find out if there are meals provided and which ones(s) they are.
• Try to get accommodation that will have cooking facilities.
• Plan for meals. You should either take food or go to the store once you arrive at the destination, it will end up being cheaper.
• Use a cooler to get perishable food to the event and back.
• Make sure you have the food you will need for the event along with your pre and post event food.
• Sometimes pre-competition meals will be provided, so only eat the same amount you normally would. This helps to make sure that you don’t overeat or eat food that is inappropriate.
• When eating out make sure you know what is suitable.
• When eating out it is recommended that you buy extra carbohydrates and other dishes you would enjoy. You are the one who is paying. Some suggestions are extra potatoes, bread, having dressing on the side and sour cream.
• Make sure the airline knows of your special nutritional needs.
• Your fluids should be in a bottle ready to drink. You may have to buy bottled water after security.
• To avoid dehydration when flying, keep away from tea, alcohol and coffee.
• If your flight is long or you have layovers you might consider taking snacks like fruit, sandwiches, nuts and dried fruit.
Overseas events in familiar countries:
• You can find out what will be available as far as food by calling ahead to see what they have, or even talking with people who have been where you are going.
• If food will be available make sure the chefs know what your dietary needs will be.
• Make sure you have food, not only for your competition but also your pre and post-competition, with you.
• Make sure you are aware of special nutritional changes or requirements where you are going. These may be things like extra fluids, other nutrients or carbohydrates.
• If the location you go to has safe food and water, you can go to the store once you arrive.
Overseas events in unfamiliar countries:
• If the food may be considered unsafe, expensive or unfamiliar to you, it is best to take your food with you. Some examples may be breakfast cereals, dried fruit, powdered milk, liquid meals, canned fruit, sports bars, etc. Make sure to check the regulations for customs to make sure it is OK. As long as the food is sealed it should be OK.
• Make sure the water you will be drinking, and brushing your teeth with, is safe. If the water is sealed in a bottle you should be OK. If not, sterilize the water by boiling it. Alternatively, use sterilization tablets.
• You need to watch out for the raw vegetables, fruit that is unpeeled, salads, ice cubes, ice cream, meat or fish that is not cooked. Also, any food that is cold, uncooked or reheated should be avoided, as it may be contaminated with bad bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. You came to compete, not go from one bathroom to another.
Sports Nutrition – Iron
Get the lowdown on iron, and the importance of iron intake!
Why do you need iron? Iron is an important element that plays many roles in the body.
You use iron to:
• Get oxygen to the different parts of the body.
• Ensures that the immune system is working well.
• Gets the enzymes needed for energy production working.
• It will help maintain and develop the brain functions.
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia
Iron deficiency can occur when:
• When you do not include enough foods containing iron in your diet. Some examples are diets that include fast food, fads, low-energy, and even a poorly balanced one that include mostly vegetarian.
• Also when you need increased amounts of iron. Examples of this include replacing any blood you lose from menstruation and/or injury, when you grow, and during physical activities.
How do I know if I have iron deficiency?
You will know if you have an iron deficiency because you may feel lethargic and even tired. You will not have the same stamina when it comes to training and you could become ill more often. In the early stages of deficiency your performance may not be affected. When the deficiency is not treated it could lead to something called iron deficiency anemia, which can and will impair your performance. Once you get to the point of iron deficiency anemia it could take several months to get back to where you were. If you can prevent the iron deficiency or even the iron deficiency anaemia, it could save you a load of time. Use your doctor and dietitian as a resource when it comes to preventing, and even treating, iron deficiency.
How can I prevent iron deficiency?
The recommended daily intake of iron is:
• Adolescents (12-18 yrs): 10-13 mg/day
• Women (19-54 yrs): 12-16 mg/day
• Pregnant women: 22-36 mg/day
• Women (54 + yrs): 5-7 mg/day
• Men (19 + yrs): 7 mg/day
As an athlete, you have a higher need for iron because of blood losses from bleeding, and the destruction of red cell. All athletes, but especially females, need to aim for the upper end of the recommended iron intake daily, and make sure you are getting your iron checked on a regular basis.
Which foods contain iron?
Dietary iron comes in two forms which are haem and non-haem.
Haem iron is a source of iron that is absorbed by the body easily. It can only be found in animal food like meat, fish, poultry and shellfish. The iron content is higher in meat that is redder.
Non-haem iron can be found in plants. It is not absorbed into the body as easily because of the inhibiting factors below:
• Phosphoric acid found in things like legumes, soy products and wholegrains.
• Phytic acid found in things like oatmeal, wholegrains and unprocessed bran.
• Oxalic acid which is found in things like rhubarb, soy bean products, silverbeet and spinach.
• Tannic acid which can be find in things like tea and, to some extent, coffee.
You can improve the absorption of non-haem iron by including the following enhancing factors into your daily life:
• Ascorbic acid which means eating food that is high in vitamin C.
• You can eat meat along with foods that are non-haem iron sources.
Practical tips to improve iron absorption:
• Make sure you are including lean red meat in your diet three to five times a week. Red meats not only provide iron but also help increase the absorption of both haem and non-haem iron.
• If you’re not including food containing haem iron, then make sure you are including non-haem iron.
• Also include foods high in vitamin C with your meal. Some examples include citrus food like oranges, grapefruit, fruit juice, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and peppers.
• It is wise to avoid things like coffee and tea one to two hours before and after a meal.
• Buy foods that are fortified with more iron, like bread and cereal. You will know if it is or not, by looking at the list of ingredients.
The facts about iron supplementation
• It is best to only take iron supplements when under a Doctor’s supervision and when you have been diagnosed with a deficiency. It is really on something to be used for the short term.
• Food is the best way to maintain your iron levels for the long term.
• Long term use of the iron supplements can have a negative effect on the body.
What could happen if you use iron supplements all the time?
• It reduces your ability to absorb things like zinc, calcium and copper, which will increase the deficiency risk.
• There can be an iron build-up which can be toxic.
• There is an increased chance of free radical damage.
• There is a higher chance of infection, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, or even stomach discomfort.
The fallacies about iron supplementation
Iron supplements shouldn’t be used for inadequate diets. Your performance will not improve with the use of iron supplements except in cases of iron deficiency anemia.
Sports Nutrition – Protein
What is protein?
• Protein is the body’s building blocks and is made up from a combination of 20 different amino acids.
• Nine of those amino acids are only made in the body, and are only provided by way of diet. They are extremely important.
• Protein comes from both plant and animal sources.
• All the essential amino acids in protein can be found in an animal source.
• Protein you get from a plant source lacks at least one, if not more, of the essential amino acids.
Vegetarians have to plan very carefully to make sure they include all the essential amino acids in their diet.
Why do you need protein?
You need protein to:
• Help develop strong tissues and muscles in the body.
• For the body to get oxygen.
• Prevent illness – it is what helps the antibodies to keep a healthy immune system.
• Trigger positive reactions in the body.
You will want to eat some protein after training and competition. Protein helps to improve the muscle glycogen restoration because it will increase the rate the glucose is stored in the muscles, it will help repair muscle tissue and help optimize gains in the lean body mass. It is recommended to get between 10 and 20 grams during post training.
Protein plays a small part when it comes to providing energy when you no longer have glycogen stored. If protein is used as energy it can’t be used for things like muscle growth, muscle repair or muscle recovery. You can spare protein by having plenty of glycogen stored.
How much protein do you need?
Scientific studies have shown that athletes should consume at least 15% of the energy they need from protein every day.
It isn’t uncommon for people to eat more protein than is really needed, so meeting the protein requirement is pretty easy. As athletes increase the energy intake, they will many times increase the protein intake.
When trying to increase muscle mass you will want to make sure you are consuming enough energy, mainly from carbohydrates. When energy and carbohydrate intake are not increased you are going to use the body’s protein stores for energy, which means you will lose muscle.
Can you have too much protein?
Yes! The risks of too much protein are:
• When you eat too much protein and not enough carbohydrate for the energy your body will begin to use protein as energy and this is wasteful.
• When there is extra protein breakdown in the body you will urinate to get rid of it. This makes your kidneys work more, and can potentially lead to dehydration because of the many trips to the bathroom.
• Foods that are high in protein are often high in fat.
• Protein foods can be more expensive, especially animal protein.
• You will lose more calcium when your diet is high in protein.
How can you work out your daily protein needs?
Athletes should aim for about 1.2 to 1.4g per kg of your body weight every day in protein.
Body weight X 1.2-1.4g = the amount of protein you need every day.