7 Ways to Stay on Track With Your Nutrition Goals When Travelling
By Emily Mukalazi | @emilyeatsandtreats
I count myself lucky that in my mid-thirties, I can say that I have an infinitely better relationship with food and with my body than I ever did in my teens and twenties. I prioritise my heath, train regularly at the gym and employ a flexible dieting approach.
On the flip side, I also travel regularly and I understand that being away from home presents an interesting challenge when trying to stay on track with your nutrition goals. These are some of the tips and hacks I use, which I hope may be helpful to you too.
Context is king
The extent to which I employ these strategies depends on which type of travelling I’m doing. On business trips, while I want to enjoy socialising with my awesome colleagues, I will operate at the more “sensible” end of the scale. Ultimately it’s still a working week and if I were in the office, I wouldn’t be ordering a three course meal and necking a bottle of vino every day.
On the flip side, if I’m going on holiday with my husband I’m not about to compromise on making special memories due to fearing a couple of pounds of fat gain I can easily shake off when normality resumes. I will take a more relaxed approach, but still employ some trade-offs to avoid descending into complete “fu*k it” mode.
Relaxed vs. fu*k it mode
You know what I’m talking about. There is a difference between enjoying a few more calories and drinkies (relaxed approach), or eating ALL THE FOOD just because Tom and Susan at the table next to you are loading up their third plate at the buffet (fu*k it mode).
7 Ways To Stay On Track
1. Pack the essentials
Pretty obvious. Pack some essentials that will save time and help you out. Hitting protein is often the biggest challenge when travelling (hello breakfast pastries, you unhelpful-yet-delicious friend). I always pack protein supplements, including powders, bars and MyMuscleMug oat pouches. These oats are my saviour! On business trips I just add boiling water and enjoy having them in my room while I’m getting ready for the day ahead. They contain a minimum of 25g protein per serving, which is perfect for making sure I hit my overall goal by the end of the day. Plus, I gain some precious extra minutes in bed because they are so efficient. Win-win.
Pro tip: pack a plastic travel spoon. I’ve been in a situation where I didn’t have one before and it was interesting, to say the least!
2. Hack the buffet
The main thing to remember when handling a buffet situation is not to freak out. You can usually find some high protein options, such as eggs, fish, and lean meats like chicken. If you’re going for eggs at breakfast and want to avoid too many fats, opt for boiled or poached so you don’t get the added oil/butter. If you go for hard-boiled eggs you can even remove the yolk and have egg whites with toast. Adding plenty of veggies and some fruit is also a good option, as it will keep you fuller for longer and help hit your fibre quota for the day.
3. Employ intermittent fasting (eat fewer, bigger meals)
I tend to use this approach more when travelling for leisure. I enjoy a cheeky lie-in and some black coffee (which staves off initial hunger), then I eat my first meal as late as possible. A late brunch will easily see me through until the afternoon, when I’ll have a protein bar to help hit my daily intake (and ensure I’m not ready to rip someone’s head off by dinner time). It’s a simple energy balance calculation: By having x2 meals and x1 snack instead of my usual x3 meals and x2-3 snacks, I’m freeing up calories to enjoy fewer, bigger meals. Yum.
4. Keep moving
I cannot stress enough how much I rely on this basic tool to stay on track when I’m away. I try to hit 10k steps per day on average and while it can be challenging to keep this up on business trips, I always try to prioritise it. Strategies include getting up 30 minutes earlier and going for a brisk walk before showering, walking to the office instead of taking a taxi with everyone else, and using the treadmill in the hotel gym. On personal holidays the world in your oyster… go and see all those wonderful sights by foot and you’ll have clocked up far more than 10k steps before you even realise!
A note on training:
I do try to fit in training while I’m away, but I have become less and less stressed about this over the past year. If you enjoy training and have time to do it, go for it. I have done so on many occasions and I even invested in a set of resistance bands and a heavy duty door anchor for hotel room workouts where there is no gym available. However, there are only so many hours in the day and if your work agenda is savage or you just want to soak up all the local experiences on holiday, don’t punish yourself in the gym because you feel you should. It’s waiting for you when you get home. Having an active recovery week off training could actually do you a world of good and enable you to see improved performance when you hop back on it a few days later.
In this Belgian hotel room I took great satisfaction in realising my resistance bands matched the national flag colours!
5. Don’t be afraid to be different
This one is crucial. If you want to stay on track with your personal goals, then you have to get comfortable being the “odd one out” at times. If you buy your own tuna salad from the local supermarket instead of grazing on the lunchtime sandwich platter and crisps, that’s ok. If you skip ordering a starter from the set party menu, that’s ok. If you have a couple of nights off booze, that’s ok. People will notice and ask questions… but that’s ok too. Keep your explanation brief and breezy and don’t apologise for doing YOU. It doesn’t mean you are any less fun to spend time with and over time, you may even notice other people opting to join you in a few of those choices.
There’s nothing worse than death by repetitive sandwich platters. I try to pop to the local supermarket in the morning and buy a salad so I know I will have a high-protein, filling lunch.
6. Buddy up
This brings me nicely onto the concept of buddying up. There will often be someone else with you on your travels that doesn’t want to enter fu*k it mode and they will be grateful to be able to join you in some of your endeavours. My family is generally quite active, which makes personal holidays easy. On business trips I have a couple of teammates who are always up for walking instead of taking taxis, and I take it in turns with a colleague to do supermarket runs in the morning and get our own lunches/snacks.
7. Identify the special moments… and FFS enjoy them
This is the most important point I want to share and it applies to all travel – whether for work or pleasure. Life is for living and particularly when you are abroad, you will find yourself with unique “once in a lifetime” opportunities to sample new foods and try new things. Do not miss making these memories. Just account for them. If you know you’re attending a cookery class or going to a Michelin star restaurant, reign things in a bit on the days before and after. None of us want to be on our deathbed thinking, “I wish I ate that specialist local waffle/sushi/pasta when I had the opportunity”.
Bottom line – if you’re lucky enough to be able to travel and see the world, make sure you completely and utterly enjoy it. And take some photos for the ‘gram, naturally.
My husband and I enjoying a nightcap after a three course meal on a Brighton mini-break, to celebrate his birthday.
It’s important to clarify that while I have completed a nutrition coaching course, I am not a practicing coach and this blog post is based on my own personal experiences. If you are looking for individual support with your nutrition goals I can point you in the direction of some great experts. Just send me a message via Instagram and I’ll be happy to help.