As runners, heading to exotic locations, or even a few hundred K down the road to race is all part of the excitement. After all, it’s one of the ways I can convince my wife to let me do the occasional race, she can get a holiday in the process while I recover. Although with two young kids, I’m not sure if she looks at it in the same light as me? Anyway, racing away from home can bring up a few “issues” surrounding your eating plan. Unless you have your own fully stocked motor home, or similar, I’m guessing you are like me and have to put up with whatever is available at the time. Which brings a few risks with it.
The last week of training for a big race and the days that follow, your nutrition is never more important. If you end up eating junk food, you could be setting yourself up for a big fall as you may not be in peak condition on the day or you could end up with an upset stomach halfway through the event ruining all your hard work. So what do you do? Not eat at all, or carry a boot load of food with you?
Of course, not eating is not an option and carrying a car load of food is simply impractical in most cases. Especially if you have flown interstate or overseas. The first thing I suggest you do in this case is to not stress about it. Stress can actually disrupt your digestion, so just try and relax and make the best choices possible with available options.
Eating out at roadside diners or restaurants is inevitable, so here are some of the best choices you can make in these situations.
Breakfast in many places is an option between sugary breakfast cereals and pancakes. What I generally go for is the good old fry up. It’s not what I would normally have given a choice, but it beats cereal. Eggs are something that is number 1 priority for me as they are a great food, but I would suggest having them lightly fried or even poached. High heat destroys a lot of the good fats in the yolks, so things like scrambled are generally the worst option.
If you have a choice between bacon or sausage, both are not great and tend to be highly processed, but I would go for the bacon. You generally know what is in it, although with sausage, who knows what you are going to get! A side of spinach lightly cooked in butter is a great side along with some mushrooms and you have a reasonably good breakfast that is hard to go too wrong with. A nice piece of fruit will top it all of nicely too.
I personally avoid the toast, as I don’t agree with bread, it’s just not that good a food. But if you must, make sure they use butter and not margarine. If margarine is the only option, better off just eating it dry.
Lunch I tackle very differently. I would very rarely advise someone to go to a charcoal chicken (rotisserie chicken) type store, but if all you get from there is the chicken, no problem at all. You can generally find a supermarket wherever you go and pick up a salad mix, some carrots, tomatoes, cucumber and a handful of olives (if you like them) and it’s a great easy lunch. I sometimes even go for the Greek salad they make at the chicken shop if I’m really stuck. It’s actually not that bad. Especially if you carry your own vinegar and olive oil to drizzle over the top of it as a dressing.
Dinner can sometimes be the trickiest option depending on where you are. Many times it’s a case of what meat would you like with your pasta or chips. Both of which I would avoid for many reasons which I wont go into today.
What I try and do is firstly not upset the chef by trying to change his whole menu. I’ve heard too many horror stories with this kind of thing. I choose a meal with a nice meat that is not grain fed, pasture fed is far better, and steamed vegetables with some butter melted on top. I usually ask for the butter on the side, or just take some from the bread basket they have on offer. If you really want potato, baked is your best option with melted butter again. Yes I love my butter! And no, it’s not actually fattening.
Soups and stews I find can be a risk as you really can’t guarantee what they have put in them. Flavour enhancers, thickeners, artificial flavors etc. I don’t mean to be a killjoy here, but these are things that can potentially have an effect on your race prep or recovery.
Really what we are trying to do in the lead up to an event is eat foods that help stabilize your blood sugars (not high grain foods like pasta and breads), eat plenty of good fats and proteins and you will find once you get to the race, your energy levels will be far more consistent throughout the event and your recovery will be that bit quicker allowing you to get back to training sooner.