Fuel on the Road: Hotel Room and Travel Food Hacks

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With Fuel Your Ride almost available (and already out for preorder!), I’m pretty excited. But I’m also increasingly self-aware about my own nutrition. I’ve been pretty good about taking care of myself and, well, fueling my ride both on and off the bike for the past few years, after some serious missteps in my overtraining days, but there’s always room for improvement.

I recently wrote about what I’ve learned about eating in-ride, and the more I write about nutrition and the more I’m seeing other athletes from a coach perspective, the more I really understand just how hugely important proper eating is. And it’s even harder when you live on the road most of the time! So in the past few weeks, I’ve been really assessing my own diet hyper-critically, and thinking about being a good role model for the juniors I was helping coach at this last camp, plus the fact that, as someone who writes about this stuff, I need to be able to walk the walk in addition to talking (or writing) the talk. A strong cycling body isn’t built on donuts, after all…

But enough about me. I wanted to talk a bit about the last couple days of eating for me—all in a hotel with no fridge or microwave, and in the van.

My favorite food and travel hacks:

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Prep when possible: Right before we left our place that had a full kitchen, Peter and I hard-boiled some eggs and made two massive salads so we had dinner already lined up for our lovely room at the Motel6 that night. Then, all we did was buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to add some protein (vegans or those on a tight budget could sub in a can of garbanzo beans instead). Super tasty, and because we’d pre-chopped our salad, it was really easy. Dressing-wise, I actually didn’t use any. We had peppers, tomatoes, spinach and kale with a really ripe avocado sliced on top, so when it mixed together with a bit of salt and pepper, the avocado acted like a creamy dressing on its own.

Come prepared: We travel with a pretty extensive kit right now, and it includes a skillet that can also serve as a CrockPot for big meals (we’ve fed 10 cyclists with it before!). It’s great for mornings, when we do eggs, spinach and sweet potatoes in a scramble, but there’s very little that it *can’t* cook. Plus, ours breaks down into a pretty easy-to-travel-with size. But if you don’t have a ton of room or you’re flying/carpooling, in Fuel Your Ride, pro mtb-er Georgia Gould suggests a good knife for easy chopping. I’ll also add in some kind of plate that you can shop on, plus a fork and spoon. (And a corkscrew, but that’s not really a nutrition tip!) We also carry salt, pepper, olive oil and a can opener, and there’s very few situations we can’t handle with that setup.

Take advantage of amenities: This one isn’t exactly nutrition-focused, but it’s my number one travel tip. Always use the restroom when you can, even if that just means washing your hands there. You don’t always have easy-access washrooms, so when you do have one, use it! (The amenity rule also applies to hotel freebies like gyms and breakfast buffets. Even if the buffet sucks at first glance, there’s almost always at least some kind of fruit or oatmeal you can swipe.)

Pack right for drives: It’s easy to find simple carbs, they’re everywhere. When you’re packing snacks, put an emphasis on proteins. I love Rumble protein shakes for quick, tasty hits of protein and some carbs, but I also do stuff like hard-boiled eggs, plus carrots and hummus. Peter can eat pretty much anything in the car and does crazy salads with canned sardines or salmon, so whatever works for you! But snacks and meals you pack should be heavy on protein, good fat, and veggies. Fruit is great too, obviously, but it’s easy to find at most convenience stores, and obviously, baked goods and candy are entirely too easy to find, so there’s no reason to pre-pack them!

Keep calm and carry on: I have a serious tendency to get hangry. Peter gets grumpy when he’s tired. So when I notice myself getting grumpy, I ask whether I’m thirsty, hungry, tired or justifiably irate at something. Most of the time, I can eat/nap/drink and fix my mood, but if I don’t think about it, I’ll stay in a grump for hours. And that’s just unpleasant in a road trip buddy.

Hydrate!: I know for me, staying hydrated on big travel days or in hotels is the hardest thing, so I try to get a huge bottle of water and make sure I get through it by the end of the drive or day. Keeps me, my digestive system and my skin much happier.

Indulge: Like I said before, there’s no ban on donuts. The highlight of my week coaching the camp was this stop at the Julian Pie Company for a slice of apple crumble pie. It’s not that your nutrition needs to be perfect all the time—that’s no fun for those of us who love pie and cookies! Just make sure it’s not time to pig out every time you get in the car for a long trip—especially if you’re like me and constantly traveling.

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