11 Tips For Staying In Shape While Traveling

You know the type of holiday you’ve been dreaming about for years, THE trip. You are looking forward to the trip and all the fun, great food, and new experiences! You aren’t looking forward to sticking to your regular diet & training plan while travelling. You want a break! But you also want to stay in shape while traveling. Follow these 11 tips to stay in shape during your next holiday.

Staying Fit While Traveling

This is me before and after a long 6 week European holiday vacation. I didn’t starve or spend every waking moment training. I let my hair down and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

staying in shape while traveling Alex Fergus

Spot the difference? It’s amazing how a few diet & training tricks can keep you in shape while on a long holiday.

Here are the 11 tips and tricks you can use on your next holiday that will keep you in great shape.

 1. Limit Carbs Until the Evening

I won’t get into the science behind all of this, as you can read about it in this detailed ebook Carb Backloading. In a nutshell, limit your carb intake to the evening, ideally post training. The majority of your daytime meals should be ultra low carb, with PLENTY of fats.  Even Tim Ferriss uses Carb Backloading to keep him lean and focused in times of stress (and when he’s expected to party!).

Following the Carb Backloading protocol keeps you in a state of ketosis during the day. In very simple terms, this means the body is running efficiently off of fat – whether its from the food you eat or the fat stored on the body.  A great advantage of this while travelling is that you can easily go hours between meals, without the energy peaks and troughs from a high carb diet.

While you are on holiday, your training volume will probably be only a fraction of what it usually is. Restricting your carbs until the evening ensures you’re only eating around 100-200g of carbs a day. The beauty of eating this way is that you can still eat local treats without the worry of blowing up like a marshmallow.

Staying In Shape While Traveling

My Carb of Choice – Gelato!

2. Limit Gluten Intake

A lot of people, myself included, feel and perform better without gluten in their diet. If you’re trying to lower inflammation, fix gut issues, or eliminate low nutrient value foods from your diet, cutting gluten is highly recommended. Chris Kresser’s article, 50 Shades of Gluten Intolerance, is a great article on the subject.

Now, I’m sure you’re all thinking, “I’m going to Italy and I WILL eat pizza!” Fear not, you will find many gluten-free offerings in restaurants throughout the world.  Notice I used the word ‘limit’ not ‘avoid’. You may order a meal that contains some gluten, such as a lovely roast lamb dish with a small amount of bread based stuffing. Unless you’re celiac, focus on avoiding large servings of gluten, such as pasta, bread, cake, pastry, etc.

Staying In Shape While Traveling

When In Rome – Gluten Free Pizza

3. Consume a High Fat Diet

Keep eating plenty of fats, healthy saturated fats. This may require some effort to ensure that 50-70% of your total calories are coming from fats. However, be wary of excess protein, due to the excess ammonia and urea build up, by ensuring most of your fuel comes from saturated fat. Following the Superhuman Food Pyramid as much as possible will help you achieve optimal health.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep your fat intake high while travelling:

  • Always ask for extra butter or olive oil with meals, because everything goes well with butter, even chocolate
  • Ask for sides of avocado when eating breakfast or lunch
  • Carry around high-fat snacks such as macadamia nuts or dark chocolate
  • Choose the fattier, and often cheaper, cuts of meat, and avoid lean cuts such as chicken breast or eye fillet
  • Choose fattier dishes such as beef stroganoff or pork knuckle in gravy
  • Start every day with my famous high-fat smoothie (The Ultimate Breakfast Energy Smoothie For All Day Vigour)
Staying In Shape While Traveling

Going high fat was easy in Germany!

Staying In Shape While Traveling

A typical shop in Croatia – cheese, smoked ham, pickles, nuts & butter

4. Prepare for Food Emergencies

Be prepared for times when quality food is hard to come by while traveling. Keep healthy, high fat snack options with you. Here are snack ideas to have close at hand:

  • Quest bars & Lara Bars – A pretty decent snack to have when stuck for real food. Eat quest bars with dark chocolate, butter or macadamia nuts for extra fat and flavour!
  • Dark chocolate –  85% or higher to ensure sugar content is low. Eat the chocolate with some nuts for a great snack. Lindt is a great brand thats widely available.
  • Nuts – Readily available, high in fat. Macadamia nuts are the best option.
  • Cans of coconut cream – ideally from BPA-free cans. Use the cream in smoothies.
Staying In Shape While Traveling

Not the prettiest photo – but my favourite snack, a Quest bar & butter!

5. Train Only When You Desire 

Your training load will probably be greatly reduced while travelling. Don’t feel guilty about this – you’re on holiday and likely need a break. If you feel the urge to train, then go do it.  Train for the love of training. Never ‘force yourself’ to go to the gym. If you don’t want to lift, then don’t.

6. Train Efficiently

If you must, devise a very conservative training goal before your trip. If you’re doing 7 cities in 6 weeks, as I did, you may decide that you will do one training session in every city. Anything extra is a bonus.  This really is one time in life where “aiming low” is a good policy!

Your training program should be very simple. Trying to follow an advanced training protocol with so many variables, such as gym resources, weather, time difference, opening hours, etc, will do nothing but add stress your holiday.

If size and strength are your goals, aim to work every muscle group and focus on big compound lifts each session.

If endurance and fitness are your goals, use HIIT sprints, and, when you have a bit more time, do a Zone 2 recovery run.

If fat loss is your goal, include full body strength days and finish with some short HIIT sessions. Then your next session may be a dedicated interval day. Alternate between the two workouts.

The following is a sample workout routine that I used on my holiday. Notice that I only trained 9 times in 6 weeks. That’s on average 1.5 sessions a week – and you saw the 6 week before and after pictures.

Sample Workout – Size, Strength, & Fat Loss

Design your gym routines around the following ‘rules’

  • Complete supersets for time efficiency
  • Hit every muscle group
  • Use compound/free weights for most of your lifts
  • Focus on strength to begin, mirror muscles and the pump reps can be done at the end
  • Finish with a few High Intensity Intervals for fitness and conditioning, if time allows

Here’s what a typical workout may look like:
A) Front Squat superset with Weighted Chin-ups – 4 sets of 8. Long rest
B) Reverse BB Lunge superset with Incline BB Press – 4 sets of 10 – 90second rest
C) BB Row superset Seated Fly – 3 sets of 12 – 60second rest
D) Optional – Bicep/Tri/Ab circuit – 3 sets of 15, 30sec rest
E) Optional – HIIT or Tabata workout
And that was it. The funny thing is that this workout is very similar to what I use with a lot of my training clients. 

Staying In Shape While Traveling

My favourite gym of the trip – Spartan Gym in Split, Croatia.

7.  Walk as Often as Possible

Walking, combined with your cyclical low carb/high fat diet will be two big factors helping to keep your body fat levels down. Walk everywhere you can. Walking is a great way to see new places, keeps you slim without the excessive stress on your body, and is a free mode of transportation!

8. Priotize Sleep

A lot of people have poor sleep habits and are chronically sleep deprived. This often becomes worse on holiday as you attempt to do a million different things. However, don’t sacrifice sleep. Don’t come home from your holiday feeling like you need another holiday!

Make sleep a priority. Avoid booking any early morning flights and activities. Although travels and some sightseeing options are more expensive later in the day, travelling shouldn’t be a high stress experience. Sleep in, you’re on holiday! I also recommend the following ‘sleep tricks’:

  • Wear an eye mask. I recommend a contoured eye mask.
  • Wear ear plugs.
  • Maintain a  pitch black room (read – how light is wrecking your sleep). Pack black duck tape to put over any sources of artificial light, and also unplug any electrical appliances at night.

 9. Take Supplements

Supplements help optimize health and performance. Obviously they are just that, a ‘supplement’ to a solid diet. Achieving a well rounded, healthy diet when travelling can be difficult. That’s where supplements can be a great help! A basic travelling supplement stack that I use includes:

  • A quality Multivitamin – I’m not a fan of multivitamins for general daily use. I prefer individual vitamins over a shotgun approach. However, when traveling I use Thorne Basic Nutrients. Take daily.
  • A quality Probiotic – I don’t often take probiotics on a daily basis, preferring to include many fermented foods in my diet. I knew this would be hard to do while traveling, so I used Thorne Floramend. Take 1 a day.
  • A full spectrum digestive enzyme – I swear by digestive enzymes, for all new coaching clients, to assist with digestive health. While traveling, the enzymes help minimise any potential side effects of all the unfamiliar foods and ingredients of the local cuisine. Take 2 Thorne Bio-gest caps with meals.
  • Activated Charcoal – If this isn’t in your vitamin cupboard, you need to add it. Activated charcoal binds to toxins in the stomach. Take activated charcoal whenever you’ve eaten something with questionable ingredients, if you have stomach bloating, or if have had a few alcoholic beverages. Don’t take these with other vitamins as it can bind to the vitmins and negate their benefits.
  • Glutathione – This supplement is the body’s most potent antioxidant. Unfortunately most glutathione supplements out there are junk and don’t get absorbed. I recommend liposomal or acetyl-glutathione because they are shown to increase glutathione levels in the body. Gluathione helps prevent common illness, and is a great hangover prevention supplement.
  • Protein Powder. – Whey powder has a lot of health benefits, it also acts as a precursor to glutathione production. Avoid protein powders/drinks containing inferior proteins such as soy isolate. If you are a muscle bound traveller, you may even have days when your food intake is low – in which case, add a scoop of  DEEP 30 to some coconut cream for a great snack.
  • Essential Amino Acids – EAA’s can be handy to minimise muscle breakdown and help with nitrogen levels. EAA’s are used as a precursor to neurotransmitter formation, so if you are low on amino acids you can be low on serotonin and dopamine – which can lead to cravings & other health issues. I took 1 scoop of Throne Amino Complex daily.
Staying In Shape While Traveling

My travel stack that I use and that I recommend to my clients. You can purchase the stack in one bundle here.

 10. Make Smart Alcohol Choices

Every night is a weekend night when travelling right? You’ll probably end up drinking larger amounts and more frequently than you would back home. Expect this to happen and prepare accordingly. When it comes to ‘health & body friendly’ drinking choices, refer to the below:

  • Beer – Don’t drink it. Simple as that. Beer is very high in carbs and has been shown to lower Testosterone levels in men. Hops, used in beer, are widely known to contain potent estrogenic substances. If you are seeking optimal health & performance, you should seek to naturally maximise your testosterone levels while decreasing estrogen levels. For more tips on how to do this, follow the protocol outlined in my testosterone ebook.
  • Drink ‘Clean’ Low carb Alcohol – The ideal drink of choice would be a vodka soda or a dry white wine, such as Sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay. Avoid any sweetened mixers or low-quality spirits. If you prefer shots, stick to Tequila, Vodka or Whiskey.

 11. Adjust Your Mindset

Before wrapping this up, I do want to touch on mindset. Mindset impacts everything. If you spend the whole trip worrying about every speck of gluten, or if the meat you ate was grass fed or not, you will have a horrible experience, as will your traveling partner. Go into the holiday knowing that you won’t be able to maintain your usual standard of eating and training. Accept this fact. Take a break and relax on your holiday. You can return to your routine once you are back home.  

 

Closing Thoughts

I know some people reading this are thinking ‘what a nut case, I’m going on a trip of a lifetime and I don’t want to worry about food or supplements!’ I understand that, however, I’ve found a pretty good sweet spot with the perfect mix of performance, relationship, pleasures and sacrifice. It works for me. If you’re looking at staying in shape while traveling, hopefully, this article has helped. I’d love to hear what strategies you use to stay in shape on your travels. How do you eat? What about training? Perhaps you have a killer ‘hotel’ workout that you use?

 

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