Gastro-intestinal illness is a major cause of concern for athletes who travel extensively for tournaments. Whether it is within one's country or abroad, it helps to be prepared for the journey. Children and adolescents used to regular customised meals often face difficulty in adjusting to foods from other cuisines. It becomes essential for the parent to be equipped with the right resources to ensure the child athlete does not lose out on energy due to cramping, dehydration and food poisoning.
The aim as far as nutrition is concerned would be to meet protein, carbohydrate and energy requirements, meet fluid needs, ensure adequate vitamins and minerals and food safety.
Here are some tips for travelling athletes:
* Seek information from athletes who have visited the place earlier — tour organisers and coaches can often provide useful information.
* Source information about the place of stay, food available, stores in the vicinity, local cuisine, etc.
* Check if there are facilities for cooking. If parents are travelling with children, it becomes easier to provide balanced meals.
* In-flight menus often cater to special needs such as low-calorie and vegetarian foods. However, gather all the details prior to travelling.
* Avoid fruit juices and caffeinated drinks, since they can cause increased urination. Plain water is the safest.
* Milk powder, ready-to-eat gravies, spreads, muesli or cornflakes, peanut butter, jam, dry fruits and nuts can be carried along or bought once you reach your destination.
* Meal replacements or liquid meal supplements come in handy, especially when the athlete is not ready for a heavy meal before a big game.
* Use bottled water.
* Look for foods that are served hot. Stay clear of raw chutneys and salads.
* Sports drinks come in handy to prevent cramping and meet fluid needs — the sodium in sports drinks encourages more fluid uptake.
* A hand sanitiser is a must to keep your hands clean.
* While eating at restaurants, a buffet is preferable for a team with varied preferences. It is important to eat right. A pre-plated meal is ideal for those on a weight loss programme.
* Keep cartons of soy milk, flavoured milk, cereal bars, fruit, dry fruits, crackers, muesli and plain biscuit for snacking in between meals.
*Avoid ice cubes in fruit juices or cold coffee — they could be a source of infection.
* Shell fish and other types of seafood can also cause allergies. * Roadside eateries and stalls may be tempting, but eat only from reputed hotels.
* Eat fruits only if they can be peeled.
* Acquire cooking skills.
* Avoid sharing cups or bottles since infections spread quickly.
* Plan your meals and beverages carefully so that you do not lose out on energy for your competition and training.
(The author is CSCS (NSCA), C.H.E.K. and expert trainer)