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Athlete Interview: How to Eat Properly, Maximize, & Recover on the Road

Most professional athletes travel frequently and spend large amounts of time in transit. Yet when you are in transit, it can be extremely difficult eating well and it also makes it more of a challenge looking after your body as you can’t always access a gym or fit in your cardio.

This week I decided to have a chat with Neil Fowler, Head of Sport and Exercise Science/Plyometrics at Manchester Metropolitan University in Crewe, to get some tips on what athletes should take with them when they are heading overseas to compete, and how they can best maximize their time.

CK: One thing I have found when I am away is I can’t get a lot of the food I normally would. What types of foods should athletes be taking with them when heading off for competitions?

Neil: So when you are travelling a lot your energy really gets out of whack. It is key to peak performance to stay properly hydrated, have proper energy balance, and make sure your body is in a state to play elite competition.  The main items you want to take with you in your packed luggage are energy-dense foods: Energy bars, nutritional products, fluid replenishment items and adequate supplies of protein (i.e. tins of tuna).You can take all of these items with you as long as they are sealed, and it will save you time and money once you get to your destination.

CK: I know myself I spend a lot of time sitting in airports and on buses, etc. What are your top tips to maximize dead time and what kind of (small) items are best to pack?

Neil: There isn’t really too much you can do when you are in a seated position. My advice would be to utilize the time by going over the mental aspects of your game. You can analyze your performance, go over videos of your competition and stretch or exercise when you get a chance. Then when you get to your destination you will feel physically and mentally more prepared.

In my opinion the humble towel is one of the best items to take with you. You should never go anywhere without your towel! One of the smaller ones that you can roll up and then use to help with stretching your hamstrings, using it under your muscles (ie. your ITB). You can use it similar to a theraband if you don’t have one of those. A small sports towel is so versatile and doesn’t take up much room at all. I would recommend putting it in your hand luggage.

CK: Game recovery stuck in a hotel room?

Neil: All you really need for recovery to get rid of lactic acid is to create an ice bath if possible, and access to hot water. If you can’t access ice, you can still use the hot and cold taps and simply alternate. (i.e. one minute hot, one minute cold – do this at least three times). You can use your sports towel to stretch.

CK: Any other tips?

Neil: Tennis balls and squash balls are great for rolling, combined with your towel. Take lots of energy dense foods. You have to keep those energy levels high for when you land, that is crucial. And make sure you stay hydrated.

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    Packing energy dense foods and small versatile items like towels seem like practical solutions for athletes on the go. Maximizing downtime for mental preparation is a smart strategy too.
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