One question I get asked constantly regarding nutrition is how to stay “on plan” while traveling. While it can definitely be harder to stay on track with your nutrition while you are away from home…have no fear, it can be done! It just requires a little extra planning and preparation. In fact, I spent 3 days on the road and in a hotel last week and had absolutely no issues following my plan.
I personally feel best and have the most energy on a low carb, moderate to high protein, high fat diet, with occasional carb-ups or re-feeds, and it’s no different when I am on the road. I stick to high protein and high fat foods to keep me full and give me energy and to prevent any major diet disasters. However, I often plan to indulge while I am away, but that’s a different story (read more about deciding whether or not to indulge here).
Below are 3 simple tips to avoid packing on dreaded body fat while traveling. They all require a little planning ahead, but it’s totally worth it if you don’t want to stress about your nutrition while you’re away.
1. Pack Food with you! Packing food with you on a trip can be as simple as throwing a couple of Lara Bars into your bag, or as complicated as preparing, portioning, and packing an entire week’s worth of meals ahead of time to tote along with you on your trip. I’ve done both, and I will admit, I like to find a nice middle ground somewhere in there. Unless you are in the middle of contest prep or following a very extreme nutrition protocol, packing all of your food with you for 3+ days probably isn’t necessary.
Of course if it makes you feel less stressed and more in control, then by all means, go for it! But if the thought of having to lug a cooler (or two) of food around with you and keep it cool for days on end sounds like a pain in the arse, then don’t do it! Like I said above, I appreciate the middle ground.
I like to bring a few simple things like protein powder or nuts to snack on or tide me over during the day (since I don’t eat breakfast anyway) and then I usually plan on grabbing dinner out at a restaurant somewhere. And remember, eating at a restaurant is no excuse for making poor choices. Just about every sit-down restaurant in America offers a lean protein source and vegetables as a dinner option. You can always choose chicken, steak, or fish, and pair it with some sort of green vegetable and a salad.
If you’re really concerned about this meal you can always ask your server how it’s prepared and request that they use real butter, less butter, (or no butter if that’s what your plan calls for) and ask for a side of olive oil to drizzle it on yourself and control how much you are eating. Most places will be more than happy to comply with your requests as long as you are polite and gracious in your requests.
2. Scout out restaurants before you go! If you’re not the type to bring food with you or it’s not really a feasible option (i.e. you are on a business trip and you’re expected to eat every meal out at restaurants with clients and colleagues), then just do a little investigative work ahead of time and figure out what restaurants are nearby. Not only will your colleagues be grateful that you familiarized yourself with the local fare so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute trying to figure out where to eat, but you will likely have a little more say and control over where the group goes since you are the one that did the research.
Like I mentioned above, just about every restaurant has some sort of meat and vegetable that you can order, so there is no excuse for eating poorly at a restaurant. Of course, like I also mentioned above, if you choose to indulge and eat something off-plan, that’s fine. Just don’t use the, “They didn’t have anything healthy to eat,” excuse. It’s crap.
Oh, and if you are forced to stop at a fast food restaurant, that’s still no excuse. Some good fast food options are as follows: a burrito bowl from Chipotle/Qdoba/Moe’s, chili and/or a bun-less grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s, chicken caesar salad (hold the croutons) from McDonald’s, or a burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun which can be found at several places including Hardee’s, Five Guys, and In-n-Out burger.
3. Choose your indulgences wisely and alter your nutrition plan accordingly! So I’ve mentioned it a couple of times by now, but indulging while you are on the road is totally fine if that’s what you choose to do. There are definitely ways to minimize the damage done to your physique if you plan ahead. Below are several options to choose from:
A). Stick to a ketogenic diet for the majority of your of your meals. A ketogenic diet is ultra-low carb, high fat, and high protein. This will deplete glycogen stores and when you do indulge; your body will replenish glycogen stores before storing body fat.
B). Plan an intense weight training workout that falls right before an indulgent meal. Again, your glycogen stores should be somewhat depleted and your muscle cells are very sensitive and your fat cells are very insensitive following a weight training session, so the food you eat should go towards repairing muscle instead of storing fat.
C). Follow a Modified Warrior Diet approach. This would include fasting for a few hours in the morning, eating a couple of small meals containing protein, fat, and minimal carbs in the afternoon, and indulging more at night. You don’t have to indulge on the Modified Warrior Diet plan, (which is what I have followed for the last two years) but you can if you’d like. I have absolutely found that I can get away with eating more junk and still staying pretty lean on this type of program.
D). Relax and don’t worry about training or nutrition one bit. Eat what you want, when you want and don’t stress. If you follow a sound nutrition and training plan 90% of the time, a couple of days of eating off-plan won’t do any long-term damage. Just make sure you get right back on the wagon when you get home.
So there you have it! Several strategies and tactics that can be used when traveling to make eating healthfully a cinch! Oh and one more thing…
Below is a short list of foods that can be relatively convenient to pack when traveling. Some of the foods *require refrigeration, while others do not. Obviously this isn’t even close to an exhaustive list of portable foods, but hopefully it will give you a place to start when thinking of foods you can travel with easily.
Let me also add that the “healthfulness” of some of these foods can be debated (i.e. the amount of sugar in dried fruit, or the fact that rice cakes are processed, etc). By mentioning a food on this list, I am not saying that I necessarily recommend that food as being a good choice for everyone, I am simply trying to list viable options that fit many nutrition programs and goals.
Portable Protein Sources
Cans/Pouches of meat/fish (chicken, tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, etc)
Portable Fat Sources
Homemade Trail Mix (mixed nuts, shredded coconut, cacao nibs, etc)
*Heavy Whipping Cream
Portable Carb Sources
Dried Fruit (raisins, cherries, prunes, dates)