Let’s talk about eating on the road (or in the air, or on a boat). I have spent A LOT of time on the road. Whether it was the years spent on the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff, the period that I worked with schools around the country to implement fitness programs, the two moves up and down two states in one year, or just time spent adventuring for fun, I know a thing or two about making nutrition work on the road. And frankly, I enjoy it. When there’s no stability of having a set home base, keeping clean nutrition allows for a constant that helps avoid sickness, burnout, and additional stress. Through the past 4+ years, I have gained some insight into how to make it all work without going nuts. And this post will bring some of that insight to you.
Despite popular belief (or what seems to be popular belief based on the state of most people I see at the airport and in hotels these days), working out and eating right when you travel IS, in fact, possible.
First, let’s talk about working out…
and why traveling is NO excuse not to move. Here are some quick tips:
- ALWAYS take the stairs. Whether you are at the airport, your hotel, the mall, wherever – take the stairs. It’s a great way to get in extra movement, to avoid crowds, and to stretch out those legs and booty.
- Scope out the hotel gym right when you get in, and wake up even just 30 minutes early to get some movement in. I’ve list some good hotel gym and/or bodyweight workouts below.
- EXPLORE! Even when traveling for work, use any free time you have to take an opportunity to explore the new place you’re in. And do it on foot! Walk the downtown. I like to use yelp to find local favorite spots – coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes – within walking distance and then hit as many as I can between meetings/events.
- If you do CrossFit, another great option is to find a local affiliate wherever you are traveling too. In my opinion, one of the coolest things about this worldwide community is the fact that no matter where you go (seriously almost anywhere), you can find an affiliate, and the members will welcome you in with open arms. Check out this cool affiliate finder map to find a gym anywhere you go! You can check out websites of gyms in town, ask the coaches at your gym for recommendation, or post a comment below for suggestions. I have been to a lot of gyms over the past couple of years.
Here are a few hotel workouts you can try:
- 10 rounds for time: 30 second sprint on the treadmill + 8 dumbbell thrusters
- 2 rounds for time: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of walking lunges + mountain climbers + burpees
- AMRAP 12 minutes: 10 dumbbell goblet squats + 10 sit ups + 10 push ups
Quick, effective, and fun too! Enjoy
Now let’s talk FOOD on the road…
Let’s get this one out of the way first, fast food is NEVER your only option. I feel like giving into this one gives people the excuse to go get a quarter pounder with cheese and a large fries because it’s their “only option.”
I am not super empathetic with this stuff, so bare with me here.
Eating well on the road does require a little preparation and thought, but it is NOT hard. Set aside 15 minutes before the trip to do some research. Is there a good grocery store where you are going? I always look up the closest Whole Foods, co-op, or natural grocery store before leaving for any trip. If there is one near where you’ll be, you know you have options; if not, you might have to do some prep ahead of time. Here’s what I do when I’ve got this as an option.
First, I hit the salad bar, which has a ton of good organic options. It’s easy to get a bunch of high quality, nutrient dense carbs in a salad, so I’ll fill a container with mixed greens, roasted sweet potato or squash, shredded carrot, shredded beets, cucumber, cabbage, etc. If I’m going to be training on my trip, I’ll add some white rice or quinoa to my salad for extra starchy carbs. Then I’ll throw on some pumpkin seeds or almonds and olive oil for my healthy fats.
After that, it’s time for some protein. If the salad bar has hardboiled eggs or good quality meat to add on, score! If not, the deli counter or deli meat isle is great when they’ve got good options. You have to be careful with most deli meats because typical grocery deli meats are loaded with additives, sugar, and sometimes even gluten and soy. Read labels and ask questions. Whole Foods does a great job of preparing their own deli meats in-store with no additives. It’s also really easy to balance this because you get to ask for exactly how much you want, and they slice it right there for you. I always get 1/4 to 1/3 pound per meal because it comes out to 4-5 ounces. I also love canned or smoked fish, especially salmon; it’s full of flavor and omega 3s! Look for easy open cans to pop open and enjoy.
While at the store (or preferably ahead of time), also try to grab some snacks that travel well without refrigeration. I stock up ahead of time and keep these in my bag for EVERY trip. You never know when you might not have a good option for a while. Here are some recommendations:
- Epic Bars (and bites) – balanced, delicious, satiating. Other grass fed jerkys are a great option too!
- Rootz Nutrition protein powder – easy to simply add to water in a pinch for some high quality protein that also has greens! (use code: RADICALROOTS for 10% off your order)
- Vital Proteins collagen peptides – I NEVER go on a trip without this stuff. Not only is it easy, flavorless protein that packs and travels easily. It’s also super healing for the gut and body with all of the stress travel can cause. Add it to your morning coffee for healthy protein right off the bat.
- Nut butters or coconut butters – fat is hormonally balanced, meaning it won’t give you an insulin spike and then crash, making it a great snack in a pinch until you can get a balanced meal in. These are my favorites in that kind of situation.
- When looking for protein bars to travel with you, make sure you read the ingredient labels. Bars should be made from real food ingredients you can pronounce and they should be a last resort. Real food is always your best, most filling option. My go-to options in a pinch are Primal Kitchen bars and RX bars (chocolate sea salt is my all-time favorite).
When I am eating out (which is inevitable), I always tell the server I have allergies to certain foods. They will almost always be accommodating because you’re paying to eat there and should always leave happy with your whole experience – including ordering. Here are some great tricks for dining out:
- If you’re at a breakfast joint, go for scrambled or fried eggs, bacon, and fruit. If there’s an omelette bar, grab a pad of butter from the pastry table, and ask that they cook your omelet in butter instead of their crappy vegetable oil.
- Look up local high quality burger place or restaurant with a good burger on the menu. Order without a bun and ask for a bed of greens instead.
- Look for any veggie sides on other menu items and ask them to swap that in in place of pasta or fries. Even potatoes are a great real food option.
- Choose olive oil and vinegar as your dressing and ask for sauces on the side (these are often laden with sugar and sometimes flour too).
- I love sushi restaurants too! Order sashimi and seaweed salad. I always bring my own coconut aminos (even when traveling) to use as dressing and in place of soy sauce as sushi restaurants.
Meals don’t need to be fancy, but always shoot to keep them balanced. A few ounces of meat or a couple eggs (protein), a piece of fruit & a bit of veggie (carbohydrates), and a few nuts or 1/2 avocado (fat) will keep insulin levels balanced, energy up, and stress levels down. Having each of these things on hand in your bag on the road, helps to avoid crashes or hangry feelings that can lead to bad decisions. A little bit of prep can go a really long way in preventing a bit of travel from totally derailing your health. Remember, the point of all of this is to create a lifestyle – one that can continue even when you’re not at home. We have to be realistic, but also attentive to our bodies’ needs. Once these tricks become habits, you’ll never look back.
Quick note: when traveling for vacation, don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure you enjoy the time away and the local cuisine. These tricks will help you get back on track when you get home and life gets crazy. Life comes with ebbs and flows, and it’s important to learn when to treat and when to stay on track according to your needs at that time. Enjoy and prosper!
What are your go-to tricks when traveling? I’d love to hear your ideas. Happy travels, friends! Live rad – even on the go!