Once you’ve set a fitness goal and determined a plan of attack on how to get there, you may find yourself in a situation where you will need to travel WHILE you are on that fitness plan. Now what? Do you throw your hands up in the air and convince yourself you can’t possibly stay on track with your fitness goals while traveling? Or, do you figure out how to make traveling and staying on track with your fitness goals work together synergistically?
As a Pro Bikini Competitor, I’ve traveled the country for expos, training, coaching, and to compete multiple times in a season during competition prep. This requires the next level of preparation when it comes to traveling and staying on track with my goals.
Perhaps you aren’t a competitor and are traveling for work or pleasure? It’s still nice to have some tips and tricks up your sleeve on how to stay on track so you don’t completely derail your fitness progress the next time you decide to travel. These tips could be helpful for you too!
Depending on where you are at in your fitness program and what your goals are, you may or may not implement the level of adherence laid out below. The goal of this article is to give you resources to be as strict as you’d like and know that it’s possible to stay on track while you travel with knowledge, resourcefulness, and some preparation and planning ahead.
Know where you are going to be staying before you leave town and pack accordingly. If the hotel you are staying at offers a mini fridge or a microwave, ask to have one reserved and delivered to your room. If the hotel does not offer a fridge or microwave, you will want to change up what you pack or figure out an alternative so that you aren’t stuck with frozen meals or raw ingredients. Some hotels will have a community microwave available vs a microwave available in the room. On multiple occasions, I have purchased a $40 microwave at a local Best Buy or Walmart and set it up in the room for extended stays where no microwave was available in the hotel.
A great way to travel with food is using 6 Pack Bags. 6 Pack Bags offer many different meal prep transportation options and sizes. You can check a 6 Pack Bag or take it with you through security at an airport. TSA will usually inspect the bag if you have ice packs in it. Ensure that the ice packs are frozen if you are carrying your meals on the plane or TSA will confiscate the packs because they are holding liquid. You can also freeze the actual prepped meals for carrying with you on the plan. Just make sure to not freeze the meals you intend to eat while you are on the go.
The side carrying cases in the traditional 6 Pack Bags are a great place to store protein bars and easy to eat items and most of the bags come with a pill carrying case for all your vitamin supplements.
I will pack my bag with the things I want to eat while I’m traveling on top so I don’t have to unpack everything to get at things I’d like to eat in the middle of an airport or in the car.
Another option if you prefer to travel light and can ensure your room will have the appropriate storage is to order your food via an online meal prep service to be delivered to the location you are staying at. You may have to talk to the hotel to coordinate delivery dates and storage until you arrive but most meal prep services will keep food refrigerated up to a certain number of hours upon delivery depending on shipping or delivery packaging provided. You can also order food to your home from a local meal prep company and take it with you. I use Alpha Meals at www.eatalpha.com local to Portland, OR. You can use code kerrin20 and get 20% off your first order!
Some meal prep companies you can order from that I know ship across the United States are www.iconmeals.com and www.bitemeals.com. You can also research a meal prep company local to where you are staying to purchase meals from and you might be able to pay for a lower shipping and delivery fee.
You will also want to plan ahead with where you are going to train. If there isn’t a gym in the hotel, see if there is something nearby. If not, pack accordingly and prepare to have a hotel room workout with resistance bands and bodyweight exercises to perform or plan your split accordingly.
You will want to pack foods based on what will be at the destination or multiple destinations to accommodate you. If there is a kitchenette in the room and a grocery store close by, it may not be a bad idea to purchase some basic food items or items difficult to transport via travel at the grocery upon arrival depending on the length of your stay (i.e. eggs, cooking spray, vegetables, fruit, lunch meat).
This also goes for exercise equipment and gear. Don’t forget to pack your sneakers or split specific training shoes and socks so you don’t end up with nothing to train in while you are away. Bring enough workout clothes with you to have zero excuses not to train if you stay is for multiple days. Bring bands for hotel room workouts (it’s better than nothing) if you don’t have a gym to train at while you are away.
Use bags like 6 pack bags (see Plan Ahead section) to package food efficiently and effectively so you don’t get sick from food poisoning or stuck eating whatever is available once you’re already hangry.
Eat Out with a Purpose
Know where you are planning to eat out at ahead of time and track those specific meals in your daily caloric intake ahead of time to ensure you hit your macros for the day. Research restaurants in advance and take a look at the menu to ensure that you can eat at the restaurant if you plan to track the meal. If nothing seems to work, plan to eat something else ahead of time that aligns better with your goals and order something specifically or nothing at all while you’re at the restaurant. There have been times I’ve gone out to eat on prep and only ordered a sparkling water with lime so I could stay on track but still be social with friends and family or coworkers.
Have some convenient and easy to travel calories with you while you are away. If you are lacking in a macronutrient based on what’s on the restaurant menu or on the hotel room service menu, consume a protein shake, bar, or whatever fits ahead of time or afterwards to supplement your diet to better fit your goals.
Learn to order specifically for your fitness goals at restaurants to be more accurate with tracking. If you ask for vegetables steamed, no butter, dressing on the side, etc… you don’t have to take a wild stab at what you’re eating. You can also utilize a Portable Scale when you are eating out if it is necessary that you be exact in your portion sizes.
In MFP (my fitness pal), some restaurant menus are available in macros for easy tracking but the margin of error in the macros calculated based on variables like different locations, portion sizes, and what was ordered can vary significantly, so be aware of that.
Train with a Purpose
Know what gym you are going to and for what split and train accordingly. If the gym you go to doesn’t have the equipment that you need for your workout, you may have to improvise or switch things up. If you switch up exercises, try to at least hit the intended muscle group so that you don’t set yourself back as far as progress and strength.
Don’t let the new gym throw you off. If you are a competitor, you need to continue to be training hard while you are traveling. I’ve actually set personal bests on lifts post shows while I’ve been traveling.
I personally love to lift and explore new gyms while I’m traveling. However, be aware of the drinking water of the city you are in. I’ve known clients to take a drink out of a water fountain at the gym in countries like Brazil, Peru, or Mexico and spend the next 48 hours on the toilet.
You’d be surprised how many calories you can burn just by walking around and exploring wherever you’re at. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, or walk instead of taking transportation. If you are traveling to a location with some great hiking trails, bring some hiking shoes or trail runners and explore!
Prioritize your fitness while you are on the road. Especially if it’s something that makes you feel more productive or helps bring some routine to an otherwise unorganized endeavor such as traveling.
Enjoy the culture
No travel is fun without a little exploration and relaxation. If you are traveling as a competitive bodybuilder, you obviously can enjoy the food in the location before your show, but perhaps you are planning for a relaxed meal post show. Know where you are going and make sure it’s what you want to enjoy while you are traveling! If you are traveling for work or pleasure, save some room in your plan for a meal at your destination to enjoy if that’s something you want to do!
From traveling while competing over the years, I’ve found there are some basic meals that are easy to fit into anyone’s macros that you can take with you to make staying on track easier. You can use these meals or snacks for your daily macros when you aren’t traveling as well!
Proats (Protein Oatmeal)
This is a staple for me as I travel and customizable based on how many macros you want to consume. I typically use ¾ cups oatmeal or (~40g of carbs) and add ½ scoop of Pescience Select Protein powder in Peanut Butter Cookie flavor.
It’s easy to pack your oatmeal and protein powder in separate individual baggies before you travel and transport them with you. If your hotel has a microwave and cups, you can put oatmeal and water in the microwave and heat it up that way, then stir the protein powder in.
You can also go to a Starbucks and use their oatmeal, hot water, and cups for ease. Some hotels will also offer oatmeal in the morning for room service. I recommend being very specific when ordering room service oats because it can come with milk, nuts, sugar, and berries in it.
I like my oats with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 2 ounces of blueberries. This might be difficult to travel with. If you can find prepackaged PB, that works great. I will also sometimes travel with a small container of cinnamon to add to my oats as well.
Pescience also makes a protein powder to specifically stir into your oats. While this isn’t necessary, the flavors definitely compliment oats and can be convenient.
These are easy to put anything on (deli slices, avocado, PB, etc…) and the texture is crunchy without it needing to be toasted like bread or a bagel.
Sliced Deli Meat
Individual Mustard and Salt Packages
With all of these options, it’s so much easier if you portion out serving sizes or buy the supplements already portioned in travel or sample packs to save room while traveling and ensure that you stick to your macros vs. overeating by eating out a larger bag.