10 Nutrition Hacks for Traveling Athletes
Author: Lentine Alexis
1. Study up on a snack strategy.
Before heading out on a trip, I always study up on the area where I’m headed. I check in on grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops -anything I think I might need during my stay. Then, when I land I typically stock up on snacks that are tricky to carry with me; anything perishable and sometimes favorite breakfast items so I don’t have to endure a stale bagel or goopy oatmeal on the hotels’ continental spread.
2. Get groceries from the get-go.
I travel so often, I’ve fallen into the great habit of shopping for ingredients and items perfect for packing up on the go and I keep them on hand whether I’m traveling or not. Dried nuts and fruits, seaweed snacks, little slices of cheese and small bits of charcuterie, and even veggies and fruits that are easy to slice up for on-the-go. Plus honey sticks, almond butter packets, and favorite energy bars. I always have a few options on hand so whether I’m stuck in meetings down the street, or traveling all the way across the world, my nutrition isn’t derailed.
3. Load up a lunchbox.
That’s right. Get yourself a little to-go container to carry with you when you GO! That guy who brought along the gross fast food sandwich or stinky kiosk salad might give you a side glance, but that’s likely jealousy. Any reusable container will do, whether its adorned with Superman (or Superwoman!) or it’s just a reusable bowl with a lid. If you’re a real fanatic, a collapsible freezer bag is super handy and will keep all of your snacks at the right temperature until you enjoy them. And, the bag is handy on your trip too, to store ingredients or snacks that you pick up along the way. Once you’ve picked your lunchbox weapon of choice, fill it with salads, sandwiches, whatever snacks you have on hand. Don’t forget to toss in a spork and to enjoy last night's leftover spaghetti or whatever strikes your fancy!
4. Stash smart.
I keep little pouches of maple syrup, honey sticks, almond butter packets and a chocolate bar in the pockets of my carry on for whenever hunger hits (or for whenever I didn’t have the forethought to pack stellar snacks.) These little ingredients never perish, and they work wonders to take airport oatmeal, random bananas or apples, lattes and all the low blood sugar crashes associated with travel to the next level. I also always have single serving sticks of Skratch Labs Wellness Hydration Mix in my pockets, ensuring that I don’t dehydrate from long days in transit (and late nights celebrating with friends upon arrival!)
5. Keep a snack kit in your suitcase.
Always. Toss in ziploc bags, a spork (or spoon,) a folding knife and a little camping can opener. The ziploc bags will come in handy when you come across worthy snacks on your travels, and you can fill them with leftover salad greens, your favorite breakfast cereal, or even a proper sandwich. You can also use them to carry ingredients you’ll mix together in an empty cup, or pilfered bowl along your route. You never know when you’ll want a spork (but likely for all the incredible concoctions yet to be determined above,) and the folding knife and can opener will empower you to pick up snacks along the way that you might not otherwise choose. Cheese and charcuterie are great snacks that travel well, but require a knife to enjoy. Likewise, it's great to be able to spread almond butter on bread, or hack into an apple on the go.
6. B.Y.O.C - bring your own condiments
Think those tiny squeeze bottles are just for inadequate amounts of shampoo? Think again. Pick up a couple of tiny plastic bottles and fill them with olive oil, lemon juice, or salad dressing. Pack them in your lunchbox to boost the flavor of whatever pre-packed or in-flight purchased snack. This is particularly handy to carry Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, rice vinegar and maple syrup in 3 oz sizes to make…
7. Bring breakfast. (aka: Airport Oatmeal!)
My Almond Butter + Chia Airport Oatmeal ritual is easy but specific. It doesn’t actually require a recipe, but it does require a little resourcefulness and a few minutes of forethought. You can also make oatmeal out of Skratch Labs Anytime Energy bars by cooking them down in milk (cow, almond, coconut, oat) or water.
Here’s what you do. Before you leave the house, pull together:
- a couple snack or quart-sized Ziploc baggies (I usually have 3 groumet oatmeal packs ready at all times)
- quick-cooking rolled oats
- your favorite crunchy accoutrements. I like cacao nibs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, whole almonds, etc.
- flaky sea salt (just a few pinches–better yet, carry a little tin of Jacobsen Sea Salt)
- a couple of packets of almond butter (I love Justin's)
- a couple of packets of Untapped Maple Syrup OR Bee Local Honey Sticks
- a banana (or, you can buy one at any airport kiosk)
In each of the Ziploc baggies, combine about 1/2 cup oats, a few tablespoons of chia seeds, and a couple of tablespoons of your favorite crunchy toppings. Add a pinch of sea salt, and close the baggie tight. Pack in your carry-on in a place where you can find it, along with the almond butter and maple packets and the banana if you’re packing one from home.
When you get to the airport, find a coffee shop, restaurant or even a First-Class lounge. Then:
- Ask your kind server for two hot cups – one empty, and one filled with hot water. Also, ask for a spoon. And, a banana if you didn’t bring one and are still hankering. On your way out, grab one lid and a couple of napkins too.
- Find yourself a reasonable place to sit and assemble your oatmeal. Pour the contents of one of the oatmeal baggies into the cup, and add water just until the oats are plumping. Add maple syrup and almond butter to your liking, then top with the lid. You can also add the banana here if you like.
- Discard the cup of water (along with any water you didn’t use, any maple or almond butter you didn’t use.) Let your oatmeal sit, covered with the lid, for the amount of time it takes you to walk to your gate, check Instagram, whatever, and when you remove the lid, your way-better-than-airport-kiosk-oatmeal will be ready to enjoy.
- Don’t neglect to realize that, if you ask for a cup tray for your water (and probably coffee) from the coffee shop, you can carry your oatmeal fixings all the way to your gate and enjoy making a gawk-worthy bowl of oatmeal right in your seat. Trust me, someone will look at you and know you’re smart as a whip.
PLUS, you’ll start to feel right at home, wherever you’re going. And, you’ll arrive full of yummy, whole foods that fuel whatever you’re up to when you get there. Enjoy!
If you are in a pinch try a Skratch Labs Anytime Energy bar straight out of the wrapper instead!
8. Pilfer the coffee kiosk.
Regardless of whether you’re making Airport Oatmeal (above,) coffee kiosks are treasure troves of snacking tools when you’re traveling. Empty coffee cups hold snacks and liquids to make hot cereal, instant soup, or tea you’ve brought from home and act as bowls for whatever you’ve got in those little ziploc baggies you brought. Forgot that spork? You can get those there too. Need milk to toss on a little baggie of cereal you packed? Pick it up at the coffee kiosk.
9. Hack your hotel room.
Chances are, you have a mini fridge, an ice bucket, and maybe even one of those single cup coffee makers in your hotel room. There might be a toaster in the continental breakfast set up. Get yourself to the grocery store and stock your mini fridge with boxed salad greens, fresh fruits, individual servings of hot cereal or soup, and good quality bread. You can mix up a big salad in the ice bucket, use the coffee maker to brew hot water for hot cereal or soup (or even make eggs - just boil water and plop the eggs in there!), and you can port sliced bread to the toaster to make lovely sandwiches with avocado, or ham or whatever you have on hand. Still have those Almond Butter packets? Your toast just went beyond continental. Need a knife, bottle opener or other kitchen utensil? Don’t be afraid to call the front desk. Any hotel with a continental breakfast (much less a restaurant) will have what you need and they’ll likely be too curious to deny your request.
10. Make the shift to mobile-friendly meals.
Once you start thinking about how to hack your nutrition on the go, you’ll start to think about how you can hack your nutrition to buffer against busy days at home too. One of my favorite pre-travel rituals is emptying the refrigerator, but if you’re cooking in ways that inspire on-the-go worthy meals, your travel nutrition will always be on point. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that are carry-on approved:
Super Simple Sesame Onigiri
Almond Butter + Chia Airport Oatmeal
Apple + Walnut Spice Cake
Brown Sugar Tofu Spring Rolls w/ Enoki Mushrooms
To-Die-For Coconut Popcorn
Lentine Alexis is a curious, classically trained chef and former pro athlete. I use my bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to explore, connect and expand their human experiences through food. Follow her on Instagram @lentinealexis.