Wouldn’t it be incredible to be able to travel without worrying about gaining a metric shit-ton of weight? Well…
I don’t write about my personal experiences; it’s not my style. But traveling and staying in shape while doing it is my thing so I think I can help you with that.
I spent two delightful months in Sri Lanka (google it, it’s seriously a delightful place):
Around two months in The Philippines:
A month in Vietnam:
Another month in Bali:
Multiple weeks in Italy:
And all around Europe, in general:
Here are 5 strategies I used to stay in shape while traveling:
1. I walk and hike a lot
I ate an ice cream cone the size of a baby’s head. I ate pizzas the size of bus wheels. I ate so much that food began to leak from my ears. Almost. And yet, I haven’t gained much weight.
Yes, I have a fast metabolism. I’m not an undereducated douchebag — I know it helps. But you know what also helps? Staying active.
You might have a different understanding of what traveling is. But for me, it’s about being active. Walking. Experiencing things without getting shitfaced drinking Shpritz until it starts leaking through the nostrils.
During my last trip to Italy, my two weeks’ daily average step count was over 24,000:
Lotta those steps weren’t just “steps.” I did a helluva lot of hiking:
And whaddeya know, it balanced out all the food that I chewed up like a Pac-Man.
Make physical recreation part of your travel plans. Don’t take an 8-hour flight to Rome and rent one of those stupid stand-up scooters.
2. I stick to my day-to-day dietary structure
My usual day-to-day meal pattern looks like so (don’t google that, I’m not lying):
I try to stick to this meal frequency and meal timing as closely as possible when traveling too. Obviously, if it’s 1 pm and I spot sugar-laden gelatos, I’ll have a scoop of it (which translates to “more than one”) on the streets of San Gimignano, Italy, with my gorgeous girlfriend. Cuz why not? Reasons?
This totally justifiable deviation aside I stick to my meal pattern because the less snacking outside of my regular meals the fewer calories consumed [insert a duh noise].
Now, I make sticking to my day-to-day eating structure possible because…
3. I get a guesthouse/Airbnb/hotel with a kitchen
Many hotel chains offer rooms with a kitchen. So get one. Even better, get a guesthouse or Airbnb.
This cute guesthouse I rented in Siargao Island, The Philippines, holds many memories for me to this day and it had everything I needed to prepare simple meals for my day trips:
And since I have a kitchen available to me, I can easily stick to my day-to-day meal pattern:
I’ll have oatmeal with fruits and cottage cheese/Greek yogurt for breakfast and head out to do touristy things (like haggling over 100 Sri Lankan rupees for something you don’t even need). I’ll also prepare high protein sandwiches and have them for lunch somewhere in the city or mountains:
I’ll then eat one or two protein bars along with a few fruits for supper. And lastly, I’ll enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
So get a place that has a microwave, mini-fridge, kitchenette. What’s available to you will dictate what you can keep on hand. This will limit random eating out.
4. I pack portable foods and snacks
“A protein bar is a healthy option” — said someone promoting protein bars.
Haha. A protein bar is just another kind of chocolate bar covered in chocolate goo. But with more protein. And I love protein. So fuck it. I’ll have a few fruits with it and I’ll take it. All of a sudden I have a pretty nutritious, high-protein, calorie-friendly, meal.
Traveling should never be an excuse for poor eating. So pack physique-friendly portable meals and snacks such as protein bars, high-protein sandwiches, trail mix, fruits, and so on.
Plan as much ahead of time as you can so that you don’t end up eating out too often. It’s easy to get caught up in local restaurants so having a few snacks will help you stay on track.
5. I pick my training location in advance
If I travel for less than two weeks, I don’t train. It takes about 3 weeks for muscle and strength loss to occur when you stop training completely so I just enjoy the time off from the gym. Hiking and walking are good enough.
If, however, I travel for longer than two weeks, I then train 1-2 times per week so that my muscles don’t turn to feces. Yup, you heard me right — I train only 1-2 times per week because people don’t realize how little training is needed to maintain your current physique.
Since I hate bodyweight training, I pick a place to stay near the gym. Which is why I often find myself training in the gym which smells like a wet dog in a steam room. That sorta gym I found myself in was in Hanoi, Vietnam (and I enjoyed doing every set and rep surrounded by the locals!):
If you prefer the smell of the Yves Saint Laurent perfume over the smell of human sweat, you can do bodyweight exercises right in your hotel room. Let good enough be good enough.
If you’re going on vacation that’s shorter than one week, I don’t think it’s worth being a stickler to your diet and training. Allow yourself to indulge in “fun” foods and alcohol a little more than you usually would.
Yes, you’ll probably come back a few pounds heavier (it’s mostly water weight anyway) but I’m of the belief that if you didn’t gain weight during vacation, you didn’t enjoy it.
But if you’re on the road for longer than one week, keep the above strategies in mind. They will help you to stay in shape without carrying the food scale in your backpack in the middle of movingly beautiful Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Italy, and what have you.
Originally published by me on Medium on February 25, 2022