This information is likely to help a number of you deal with the challenges of travel and maintaining a great healthy diet whilst not in the controlled environment of your own home. And it’s not about the kangaroo you saw on the side of the road on your last road trip either!
This may be American but who better to give advice around improving nutrition than those who are just as challenged as our own country when it comes to this critical part of our lives?
Eating on the Road: Nutritional Travel Strategies
by Dr John M Berardi, CSCS
More and more the biggest challenge my clients face is sticking to their nutritional plan while on the road. Therefore in this article, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 favorite strategies for maintaining your nutritional discipline when traveling.
Strategy #1 — Location, Location, Location
If you’re planning to take to the road for sport or for business, your first item of business is this—ensure that everything you need is in close proximity to where you’ll be working or playing. Location is key.
So let’s say you’re going to a week long conference at the Indiana Convention Centre and RCA Dome. Well first, get on the internet and find all the hotels nearest the Convention Centre. Next, give these hotels a call to find out where the nearest grocery stores, restaurants and gyms are located. Pick the hotel with the best combination of nearby resources. This way, even if you don’t get a rental car, you can easily walk or cab to your fitness and nutritional havens.
Skip this strategy and you’re giving yourself big excuses to skip workouts, miss meals, and make poor food selections while on the road.
Strategy #2 — The Penthouse Suite?
While you don’t necessarily have to stay at a 5 star hotel or choose the penthouse suite, one great strategy for you road warriors is to choose a hotel chain that offers rooms/suites with kitchens or kitchenettes. If you know a nice kitchen set-up is waiting for you, you won’t have much difficulty sticking to your meal plan.
Just have your cabbie drop you at the grocery store on your way from the airport. Once you get to your hotel room you can rest assured that you’ll be able to eat as well as when you’re at home.
If you’re looking for a good hotel chain, Marriott Residence Inns are a nice
choice. You can find other hotels that meet your needs as well. I recommend Marriott because my clients have always had great experiences with them.
Now, if you absolutely can’t find or afford a hotel that has a kitchen or kitchenette, make sure that your hotel room has, at the very least, a refrigerator (most do). As long as you’ve got a refrigerator, you can stock your hotel room with good snacks. My athletes and I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, bottled water, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, regular cheese, natural peanut butter, whole grain breads and mixed nuts on our way into town and snack on these during our weeks on the road.
Strategy #3 — Can You Ship Egg Whites Next Day?
Here’s a great strategy I picked up former client and current good friend, Austin. This guy is a bona fide road warrior himself and has a ton of great strategies for eating on the road. Instead of going shopping when he gets to town, Austin actually ships his food and supplements via UPS or Fed Ex.
He gets a medium sized cold shipping box, loads it up with ice, protein powders, fruits and veggies, mixed nuts, legumes, meat, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, cooking pans, utensils, shaker bottles and non-stick cooking spray and ships it to his hotel before leaving home.
By doing this, Austin doesn’t need to worry about where grocery stores and restaurants are located. As soon as he arrives in town, he’s good to go—nutritionally, at least. All he needs to find is a gym and he’s set. Again, although the shipping option may seem a bit pricey, you’ll end up saving money on restaurants and the price may work out in the end.
Strategy #4 — The Big Cooler
Here’s another strategy I picked up from my buddy Austin that helps ya’ transport both luggage and groceries simultaneously for shorter trips that might last only a day or two.
Pick up a big cooler with an extendible handle and wheels (much like the wheeled luggage so popular nowadays), put a little partition down the middle, and you’ve got a ready made combined cooler/suitcase that can act as a carry-on. Put your cottage cheese on one side and your drawers on the other!
Strategy #5 — What’s On The Menu?
If you decide to have others prepare your meals for you when on the road, make sure you use Strategy #1 above to find out where the restaurants nearest your hotel are located. Next, visit them on the web for downloadable menus. If they don’t have downloadable menus, call them and ask them to send a menu over to your hotel for when you arrive.
By having the restaurant menus, you’ll know exactly what types of food you can have access to at all times. Also, when dining with a group, you’ll be able to suggest places that conform to your nutritional requirements.
Strategy #6 — You Don’t Have To Order From The Menu
Here’s a hot tip that most people fail to realize. Most restaurants can easily provide a meal custom to your specifications even if it’s not on the menu. So don’t become a slave to the menu offerings. Ordering a specific number from the menu is almost always a recipe for disaster unless the menu is designed for “healthy eating” or whatever the restaurant is calling it. Most normal dishes have too much fat and too many processed carbohydrates for most body-conscious individuals.
Instead of ordering an item directly from the menu, either ask for an item that you like prepared without the sauces or high carbohydrate portions or simply ask for a portion of protein and a few servings of vegetables and fruit on the side. Remember, you’re paying top dollar for your meal and you’re about to tip your waitress. So don’t feel bad asking them to meet your needs, uh, nutritionally, that is.
Strategy #7 —Protein and Energy Supplements
Using some combination of the strategies above, you should be able to ensure that good meal options are always around the corner. But sometimes when you’re on the road it’s impossible to slip back to your room or to get to a restaurant.
For times like this, you’ll need to consider a few supplement options.
ypically, when at home I only use 1-2 scoops of protein powder per day, but when on the road, I may use up to 6 scoops if necessary. Protein choices are both hard to come by and more expensive than other options. So increasing your dietary energy with protein powders is a good fall-back option.
Strategy #8 — Powdered Veggies
Normally, at home, I get about 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day. But when I’m on the road that amount is usually reduced to somewhere around 2-4 servings unless I’m very conscious of my intake. A great way to make up for this reduction in my micronutrient intake is to use a powdered vegetable supplement such as Greens+.
If I’m on the road, these products help make up for the deficit I may be experiencing. An added bonus is that I seem to better digest my protein supplements when adding some greens+ to my protein shakes.
Strategy #9 — Homemade Bars
If you’re not into drinking numerous protein shakes per day, another great option is to bring some homemade snacks with you. In fact, homemade protein/energy bars are a fantastic alternative to the mostly crappy, store bought, sugar laden, artificial ingredient containin’, protein bars.
Strategy #10 — Sleep Pills
Jet lag, time zone changes, unfamiliar sleeping environments, poor nutrition, altered exercise habits, and the stress associated with big business meetings or competitions can all really impair your ability to get adequate rest when on the road.
Following the previous nine steps will help you take care of your nutritional intake. Making sure not to skip workouts will also help. So will the addition of a ZMA supplement. While research hasn’t provided direct evidence to support a relationship between zinc and/or magnesium status and sleep quality, most ZMA users find dramatically improved sleep quality when taking this supplement. Three capsules before bed should do the trick.
If you’re going to be successful in maintaining a good nutritional plan, no matter what the circumstances, you’re going to have to plan for the unplanned and display adaptability to all circumstances. The guidelines included in this article should help get you thinking about how to become a successful road warrior.
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