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I love to travel. The further more out of the way destinations, the better. I enjoy losing myself in the culture and getting that uncomfortable feeling that just wakes you up from regular life. There is one thing I hate about travel though...the way I look when I return. I know it's going to happen every time I leave. The body I have will not look the same. But as I travel more and more, I have learned a few things to help reduce the way I look dramatically.
The biggest issues with traveling are either gaining too much weight or losing too much weight (which is what happens to me the most). Depending on where and how you are traveling, either can happen to you.
Over the years I have implemented some strategies to help me stay fit when I travel for extended amounts of time. Whether it be a beach vacation (the easiest to remain fit), a city vacation, backpacking or a tour through numerous countries, I want to help you stay fit during your trip!
Types of International Travel
Beach/The Islands – This is the easiest way to stay fit. Usually beach results whether in the Caribbean, Asia or Europe…all have good facilities for working out, eating healthy…and you are at the beach!...that’s an added incentive for staying lean and keeping on your diet.
City Travel – I have traveled to major cities of different countries and find it pretty easy to find a hotel with a gym, or a gym in general. More populated areas mean more facilities. Also, finding healthy food while in major cities is not too difficult.
Jungle/Mountain Travel – This type of traveling tends to mean more remote locations. When you are cut off from most of the rest of the population, the options for working out, staying lean and finding healthy food are much more difficult. This is probably the most difficult type of travel if you are a fitness enthusiast, but the most fun!
Backpacking –While this type of travel will lead you through many different territories, it can still be tough to eat healthy. Staying fit shouldn’t be a challenge, given that you’re constantly moving from one place to the other. You don’t have that much packed (healthy foods, workout gear, etc…) and you probably are on a budget, which means no hotels with fancy gyms and expensive healthy restaurants. There are still ways to travel fit though!
Planning & Packing
Just like packing your clothes, shoes, accessories etc… you need to figure out what you are going to need to keep that body you have been working so hard for. That's why I make sure to pack something for lifting and certain supplements/food.
First there are some supplements/vitamins I recommend bringing for health:
1) Probiotics – You are going to eat a lot of different things. Don’t let an upset stomach from a bad meal or water ruin your trip. I recommend Garden of Life Primal Defense (doesn’t need to stay cold).
2) Melatonin – I talk about this later as well, but this is great for helping you get restful sleep on the plane, setting your circadian rhythm with new hours, especially if you’re traveling overseas. 3mg should do the trick.
Back to Planning
- Is there going to be a gym where you are at? If not, then I recommend bringing some resistance straps. They are easy to pack and let you do a ton of different exercises wherever you are. Click Here for More Info. You can do curls, squats, back exercises etc... And don’t forget, push-ups, lunges, and dips are easy to do almost anywhere. Also, I recommend looking for hotels with gyms (middle east has the some of the best gyms I have come across), or if you are going to some remote areas, there may be a town gym you can workout in (I was once invited to a gym in a chicken shack), or just run around the local streets for a few miles. Not only is it a good workout, but you can see some really interesting things during early morning runs. Plus it feels like you’re earning the food you’re inevitably going to splurge on later (without the guilt, I mean you’re on vacation).
- Will there be healthy food available? Will there be food? Might sound funny, but I have been to places where there is nothing but street food, or really nothing at all! The nights that I have gone to bed hungry are numerous. This is the best way to lose a lot of weight and possibly muscle (this is what happens to me the most). The former is not an endorsement of a weight loss plan, as you’ll gain it back and then some. You want to make sure you’re getting enough calories (especially protein as it’s not as always easy to get protein rich food on exotic vacations) throughout the day. This is why I recommend packing a few types of foods. I usually pack Quest Bars (don't get anything chocolate if you are traveling where it's hot, which means stay away from Chocolate Chip, Cookies n Cream etc…), some P28 peanut butter for fats (if you have room in your pack/suitcase, otherwise you can purchase peanut butter samples from any grocery store (I know Target has them), and some protein sample packs (available from manufactures or from Best Price Nutrition when you place an order with us!) for protein when you need it since you can almost always find places to buy bottled water. Or if you have a jug of protein, just pack little baggies with a scoop in each baggie. This way you know exactly how much you are getting each time. Another thing I pack for snacks while away is Ostrich Jerky, which is tasty, just don't eat them on the plane, they tend to smell…but are a great snack for traveling. If you plan on bringing vitamins or supplements in capsule form (again, review customs), use a vitamin pill box. Easily sort and keep them safe. I recommend this one. Lastly, if you have room, bring a shaker bottle. This is the easiest way to mix up stuff. Make sure to wash it daily, otherwise you will be have a petri dish of anaerobic bacteria, talk about smelly.
- Before bringing any supplement to a new country, make sure to obey all customs. I have never ran into an issue, but it’s always good to check.
- If you plan on using supplements in water bottles during your trip, I recommend picking up a funnel so you can easily pour that protein or other powder into the water bottles. You can get one here for $4.95. It sounds silly, but the last thing you want to do is waste powder and make a mess (remember you’re on vacation, throwing your shirt in the wash is not an option).
- If you are bringing a blender bottle on your trip, make sure the water from the sink is drinkable…otherwise only wash it out with bottled water. You don’t want to end up with diarrhea or some nasty pathogen (ice cubes count too, make sure they are OK before drinking)!
On the Plane
Now when you travel you might be on a plane for 15 hours if flying internationally. This means you will have to drink and eat the food/snacks given to you. This is the first hurdle. It's really easy to get start eating bad right on the flight. Sometimes I will choose the vegetarian option when I book a flight. This way I know it's going to be 'healthier'. Then I tie that in with a protein pack and some water, and then I am good to go. The other option is grabbing something at the airport or before you get to the airport. Your options will be healthier, and many times the flight attendants will keep your meal cold for you in their station (just ask). This can help you get through the flight without hindering your diet.
As for fitness, it's tough to do on a flight. I just recommend getting up and walking around every few hours (assuming you are on a long flight, >4 hours). It feels good to stretch.
- Try to get a flight where you will land at night in your destination if flying 15+ hours. This will help you transition to those hours.
- Use Melatonin to help sleep on the plane or when you arrive at your destination. 2-3mg should do the trick. Make sure to check the local customs as some countries do not allow it. I also like Noxitropin to help me sleep and relax.
When You Land
You might be starving, I usually am. There is no shortage of things to do when you arrive. Will your hotel have food? Is there good food at the airport? Are you arriving late and is anything open? Does anyone speak English that can help you find something to eat? This for me is probably one of the toughest times to try to stay healthy and stay on your diet. You’re excited about being in another country, you’re hungry, tired, and the last thing on your mind is your diet.
I usually look for something healthy at the airport when I land (if they are open). Usually they have more ‘Americanized’ food and some healthy options. Not always, but sometimes. If that is not the case and you are in a new country, the next best thing is the hotel. You can almost always get room service or find a restaurant that is open. And they almost always have healthy options these days. Now if you are staying at hotel that is really out of the way (like I have done in countries, such as Cambodia), you might just be out of luck. What did I do? I find a local restaurant or street vendor and choose the healthiest meal I can find. Remember though, you should have some peanut butter, protein and jerky in your pack (plus it helps you save money for other activities)!
- Before you leave, check for local restaurants recommended that are close to your hotel. TripAdvisor is great for this.
- If you do your research beforehand, you might find grocery stores on the way to the hotel that your cab could take you to (you can always find this in city or island trips). So best to be in a hotel that has a fridge for you, then you can stock it up with healthier foods and snacks when you are not eating out.
Traveling Through the Country
So this is where I am a little more lax on my diet. Why? Because one thing that is fun about traveling to another country is trying the food. So what do I do? I try to eat healthy at least one of the meals each day. You can get eggs or some sort of lean meat in almost any country (I have gotten food poisoning plenty of times, so make sure to do your research on what to eat and where to eat beforehand). The other meals I am more open to whatever...be it duck egg, fried scorpions, or squid on a stick...whatever. You still want to experience the food from other cultures (and some of it is actually healthy!).
Another way to be able to splurge on the local delicacies is to work out in the morning. If you did a little research before like I mentioned, you either have a gym at your hotel, know where a local gym is or you can do a run through the local streets. Many countries will have workout groups, or CrossFit gyms (don’t get hurt trying to outdo the local star), or better yet, though not the healthiest, are Hash House Harriers. Fun times there! Basically a pub crawl and a 5-10k all in one. The harder you work out in the morning, the more calories you have to spare to eat the day away.
Other than food, drinking can be an issue too. I love beer, especially beers from other countries. You can find their national beers and more and more, breweries are opening up in the most remote places. The only issue with both of these is that you probably aren't going to find anything 'light'. Not that a real beer connoisseur wants a light beer, but if you are one of those people looking for one, many times you won't find it. And those calories can add up (alcohol yields 7 calories/gram. So remember to try to take it easy on the beers and local drinks! And if you are traveling to a place that is at a high altitude (say Machu Picchu in Peru), then make sure to drink lots of water, because that alcohol can take a toll on you!
Tip: One thing I realize during each trip is that my muscles are never as full looking. I believe this usually happens due to me not drinking enough water. You really don't realize how much water you lose from loss of sleep, hiking, and walking around. Much more than your usual day at the office. Try to stay hydrated...you will feel and look better!
Things Only Fitness Enthusiasts Would Enjoy Doing during Traveling
Gyms – One of my favorite things to do is going to gyms while in other countries. You meet some of the most amazing people. Even though they don’t usually speak English, they still try to especially seeing that you are also into fitness and lifting. They will talk to you about the supplements you are taking…and most people in the middle east and Asia love to talk about weight gainers…seems to be all the rage, probably because protein rich foods are hard to come by. Then the gyms themselves, a lot of times you may be working out outside, on the beach, in a basement, or in a gym with some really different machines. If you are American, expect lots of questions about supplements and lifting, especially in Asia.
Visiting Vitamin & Supplement Stores – I really enjoy this. You get to see what is popular in that country supplement-wise. And you find out how REALLY expensive supplements are outside of the USA. I have seen prices triple what we pay here in that states. Shows you why many countries are willing to pay the expensive shipping rates to get supplements from the USA, it still ends up being cheaper and you know you are getting what you pay for (counterfeit supplements is a real issue in some countries)!
CrossFit – Now I am not a big CrossFit guy, but one thing I enjoy doing is looking for CrossFit gyms while in other countries. Usually they speak English, plus the trainers and members are always happy to see foreigners or out of towners come to their gym. It’s a really cool experience. Just do your research beforehand and contact them about dropping in. Usually there is a small fee, but it’s worth it as the new environment is motivating.
Running/Biking – Now I am not really an avid runner, but I enjoy running and biking in other countries. It allows you to really see the country outside the touristy areas. Especially in the morning is fun. Even if you’re not a runner, do it as you will enjoy it and you will find that you have more endurance from the cool sights alone.
By the End of the Trip...
You may have ran out of your jerky, and the Quest Bars were probably gone the first few days, maybe you have a few protein packs left. Your body has probably changed a little depending upon how well you stuck to your diet and/or how much you trained. Don't give up though. For the long flight back, I would recommend picking up some healthy snacks and having a meal from the airport or a local restaurant or grocery store that you found during your trip. Do the same thing as you did when you left for your trip.
I hope this has helped give you some ideas on how you can try to keep as healthy and fit as possible during your international travels! If you have any recommendations, please make sure to contact me about them at email@example.com