I travel a lot.
Though surely not as much as some people, who are on the road every week for work! But I definitely get in my fair share of air miles, traveling at least 6 to 8 times per year, both in and outside of the United States.
In fact, I just returned from a quick overnight trip between my new home in Cabo, Mexico and Dallas, TX.
I travel alone and also with my family. Our kids have been flying frequently since they were 2 and 3. Today they are 6 and 12.
So we’ve had a lot of practice!
In addition to traveling for business and pleasure, I also spent a good part of 2014 and 2015 traveling between states (and once overseas) to compete in NPC bikini fitness competitions, during which my calories and liquids were either restricted or specifically set for certain foods, sodium, and so forth.
So I’ve had a whole lot of practice packing and planning for healthy travel; travel that doesn’t lead to weight gain or jeopardize my physique goals.
Traveling is fun and adventurous. That’s why I do it so often.
But it can also be stressful, downright EXHAUSTING, and very DETRIMENTAL to your health, especially your waistline!
UNELSS, you know what to avoid, and what to pack.
It’s tricky. And it’s absolutely challenging if you don’t have a plan!
“When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
That saying is 100% on the money when it comes to traveling.
Which is why I’d like to share MY plan with you. Because traveling is much more enjoyable, and easier on your body, when you can avoid some of the common pitfalls of poor planning.
You Need a Plan. Start Here!
The most important factor in healthy travel is FOOD.
Food will be your greatest obstacle while traveling.
Even restaurant food. The already large portion sizes are also loaded with more sodium, sugars, and fats then you are used to having in your home cooked meals.
Just two or three of those meals in one week can make you gain as much as 5-10 pounds!
That’s not a fun feeling at the end of your trip. I know because I’ve been there! Before I had a plan of course.
Planning Your Meals and Snacks
When I travelled for competitions, I travelled with a large cooler designed specifically for traveling. It held six meals plus four shaker bottles, my vitamins/supplements, and whatever else I could squeeze in to the side pockets.
But unless your traveling for athletic competitions or need to have your food carefully weighed and measured for some other reason, then you don’t need to go to that extreme. Especially if you want to avoid risking all your food being spread out on the security table and violated by strange hands, followed by even stranger stares and curious questions.
Here’s a simpler plan that you can tailor for yourself.
My Top 5 Food Tips for Healthy Travel
1. Plan at least one week ahead (10 days is even better). If you wait until the last minute you’re more likely to forget things and to also not have enough time to gather all the items you need. I usually keep a notepad on my counter top and begin writing things down as I think of them throughout the week.
2. Drink more water than normal. Keep your water intake high, really high! The low humidity in airplanes especially is known for causing dehydration. Not only will drinking lots of water help keep you hydrated, but it will also help flush out all the extra sodium that is typical of airplane and restaurant food.
TIP: Once through airport security, purchase a large bottle of water so you don’t have to wait for the stewardess to provide it, which can sometimes be an issue even when flying business or first class. You can also use this water for your protein drinks.
3. Pack your protein. It’s easy to get your fill of fat and carbs while traveling, but quality lean protein can be a little trickier, especially on an airplane. My go-to protein choices for travel are protein powders – both Whey and plant based. You can purchase travel size packets, or do what I do, which is scoop out servings into plastic bags or a shaker bottle. You’ll also need to pack one or two shaker bottles. When you’re ready to have your protein, simply scoop out a portion to add to your shaker, add water, shake it up, and drink it down.
Then just order your carbs and fat. I try to avoid adding fat to any meals since there are so many hidden fats when dining out. Even when you ask for no added oil or butter, most of the time the majority of foods are still cooked in oil or butter, so you’ll be getting plenty of fat already.
Additionally, you could pack your fats and proteins. This is especially helpful if you’ll be traveling for more than a day or two. This way you will have healthy snacks on hand. (see ideas below)
Dine out responsibly. If you have to dine out try to reserve it to one meal per day (lunch or dinner). Breakfast is always best prepared by yourself. If you’re trying to manage your weight, order a lean protein (avoid red meat) and then ask for a huge side serving of steamed vegetables or a large green salad without dressing. If ordering starchy carbs try to stick to plain rice or baked potatoes, as these will not be cooked in creams, butters, or oils. If you want to add a little healthy fat, ask for EVOO on the side.
Manage your sodium intake. Again, you will already getting more sodium than your body is accustomed to. So do your best to avoid prepackaged foods, sushi, table salt, or other foods typically cooked with a lot of sodium.
Pre-packed Snacks. You could even portion these out ahead of time
Quest Bars are great for those tracking macros
My Top 5 Exercise Tips for Healthy Travel
1. Move as often as you can. Even in the airport. Take every opportunity you have to walk around. If you’re early, take a 15-20 minute walk around the terminal. If you’re flight is delayed, walk more. When I know I won’t have time to get in a workout on my travel day I make sure I get to the airport extra early. Once I check all my luggage, I strap on my backpack, grab a bottle of water, and power walk the airport for 45 minutes or more.
2. Use the hotel gym. Most hotels have a gym, even if it only has a treadmill and a few hand weights. Get up 30 minutes early and begin your day by breaking a little sweat. Not only will this keep you on target with your fitness goals, but it will also help you make better food choices throughout the day.
3. Pack a workout program for the week that you can do in the hotel gym, or even in your hotel room. Need some ideas? Check out my Travel Workout playlist.
4. Pack any small portable exercise equipment you have, like workout bands or a jump rope. When you invest in a few of these items you can get in a great workout even in your hotel room.
5. Go to bed early! As often as you can, plan to sleep as many hours as possible. Traveling is stressful on the body. When you’re body is stressed your cortisol levels are raised. High cortisol levels leads to weight gain, particularly belly weight. That, coupled with eating out and flying, can easily pack on the pounds in a matter of a day or two.
So there you have it.
Everything you need to know about how NOT to gain weight while traveling.
If you travel often and have a tip you’d like to share, please post it in the comments section below.
And please share this post with a travel buddy.