You should keep this in mind when planning training camps or competitions abroad

Joëlle Flück 22. September 2021


In recent months, attending training camps or competitions abroad was either impossible or limited for many amateur athletes due to the pandemic. With the first easing of restrictions and the resumption and implementation of major city marathons such as the World Marathon Majors in New York, Boston, or Chicago, one topic comes to the fore: nutrition when travelling.

This article is presented by the Swiss Sports Nutrition Society

You should by no means wait until you arrive at your destination to address this topic. It needs to be dealt with in the months beforehand when embarking on your marathon preparation. How should I plan my trip, how long before I travel? What kind of food do I need to take with me, and what kind of competition nutrition is the organiser providing? And last but not least, you need to inform yourself about the expected competition conditions on location, such as hot or cold temperatures.

The trip needs to be well prepared

Marathon preparation involves really intensive training during the last few weeks, which can hamper the immune system. A long flight and overcoming jet lag just before day X are additional stresses to which the body is exposed. It is therefore worth noting that there are a few things you can already do during the flight to alleviate the strain and avoid a possible infection.

One of the most common problems on long-haul flights is the loss of fluids. The air conditioning usually makes the cabin air very dry and thus dries out our mucous membranes, which are an important defence against viruses and bacteria. This is often also exacerbated by an insufficient fluid intake or the consumption of alcohol. It is therefore worthwhile ensuring you drink enough fluids during a long flight. Going to the toilet can also give you a welcome break from the “stiff" sitting position and help relax your muscles. You can also moisten your mucous membranes with a seawater spray or nasal cream. Just make absolutely certain you choose a product that is permitted in training and competitions (Medication Inquiry from Antidoping Switzerland).

To get used to the new time zone more quickly, it is worth changing the time on the plane and adjusting your meals to the time at the destination. If you want to avoid any risk of gastrointestinal problems, take snacks and meals with you from home. Make sure you note which products can easily go through the "security check" and which may also be "imported" at the destination if you don’t eat everything on the plane. Possible snacks include muesli bars, cereal crackers, rice waffles, popcorn, dried fruits, nuts, fruit/vegetable sticks and, depending on the import regulations, cheese, or dried meat. You can take along a drinking bottle and refill it after the security check, or you can buy bottled water to ensure you always have enough fluids during the flight and don’t need to rely on the cabin crew service.

Caution is required

This basic principle ultimately applies at the destination: "Cook it, peel it or leave it" when selecting food to prevent gastrointestinal diseases. Hygiene measures such as washing your hands on a regular basis and dispensing with ice cubes in beverages can also help. Furthermore, you should find out whether you can drink the tap water at your destination. In case of doubt, it is advisable to buy plenty of mineral water!

If you end up suffering a travel-related disease of the gastrointestinal tract despite all precautionary measures, then you first need to "keep calm". In the case of nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea in particular, it is worthwhile maintaining your fluid and electrolyte balance. A sports drink, which you already have with you, can also serve you well. You can also mix your own drink quickly on the spot using maltodextrin, black tea and some salt and sugar. As soon as it goes away you can also eat small snacks such as salt sticks, rice wafers, bread, or rice. However, make sure you avoid hot spices and foods rich in fibre and fat which will further burden the gastrointestinal tract. Milk products or drinks containing caffeine should also be avoided to start with. Ginger can also help relieve nausea.

Conclusion for the next trip

It is worthwhile planning ahead when it comes to nutrition during and after the journey, especially prior to a long journey with a change in climatic conditions and time zone. Shortly before an important competition, you should take active measures to prevent any infection in the plane because this is when the immune system is particularly vulnerable. Light food and plenty of fluids will help the body in this situation.