Besides regular deployments, I get the opportunity to travel frequently. I enjoy it for the most part, and while remaining consistent with fitness & nutrition can sometimes be tricky, it’s surprisingly easy to stay in shape provided you implement a few strategies to assist.
It’s important to note that your strategies are largely dependent on your length of stay, facilities near you, and your ability to be consistent in both your nutrition and the daily exercises you employ. For example, if you’re only traveling for a few days or a weekend getaway, your hotel gym (or even just your hotel room) will be adequate for your exercise needs. If you plan on staying there for multiple weeks, however, it would be prudent to choose a hotel near a grocery store and/or a fitness gym. That being said, anything and everything can be modified! Keep a positive mindset and remember doing something is better than doing nothing.
Hotel Travel Nutrition Strategies
Purchase or bring powdered protein with you
Not only will keeping your protein count contribute to feeling more satiated and less hungry throughout the day, but it will also keep your body from going into a catabolic state, destroying the lean muscle that you’ve built. Additionally, depending on the lack of nutritious food you have during your travels, having a solid protein on hand will allow you to keep at least one of your macronutrients in check.
Drink caffeinated tea, coffee, or pre-workout to stave hunger and feel full
This is a huge benefit if you’re getting ready to partake in a large brunch or lunch. Caffeine can act as an appetite suppressant and desire to eat large amounts of food for a brief time. It also stimulates thermogenesis. This may help you make better decisions and eat less come meal time. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, drinking 10-12 ounces of water (or any fluid, really) will help you feel full for a short period of time without keeping you awake.
Choose a hotel with a breakfast offering
Eating a large breakfast before going out for the day will help keep you full and able to choose better decisions at restaurants. The hungrier you are, the less likely you’ll be able to stand against the good-smelling temptations of higher-processed foods. Stick to the eggs, Greek yogurts, whole-wheat toast options, bananas & natural fruits for best results. Additionally, if your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast, you can find these ready-to-eat items at a grocery store and stick them in your hotel mini-fridge.
Pre-plan restaurant meals with nutrition apps
Use an app, like MyFitnessPal, to look up restaurant meals before arrival. You’re more likely to stick to your decision if you pre-plan, and using the app will allow you to both track your macronutrients numbers and choose meals that won’t go over your goals. This is especially important if your current goal is to remain in a caloric deficit or in maintenance. It’s less important if you’re trying to bulk and don’t mind the extra calories. However, the caveat to that is that you should still know whether you’ve hit your macro goals or not.
Choose a few gas station or grocery store options
Easily enjoy your vacation and restaurant choices by eating healthier, ready-to-eat options, at other meals. You can find these choices at select gas stations and local grocery stores. Items such as Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese and fruit, rotisserie chicken, pre-packaged salads, hand-sliced low-sodium deli meats, and other such items can be easily obtained, keep your caloric intake low, and can be eaten without sacrificing your nutrition goals. You’ll enjoy your out-to-eat meals more knowing you’ve done the best you could while traveling.
Walk everywhere and utilize NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
Airports are great with this. Utilize the stairs and disregard the escalators and metro system if possible. Need to get a few items from the local grocery store? Walk if it’s within range of your hotel (during the daytime). Take every opportunity to keep standing (if you’re waiting for your flight) and to keep walking. The amount of steps you take can make a huge difference in relation to your caloric intake and metabolism.
Hotel Travel Fitness Strategies
Now, if you’ve implemented a few nutrition safeguards, it’s time to plan for how you’ll workout while you’re traveling. You have three options, all dependent on where you stay: hotel room, hotel gym, or local fitness gym.
If you’re able to plan on staying at a hotel near a local fitness center, you can either call ahead to arrange a trial pass, or more likely, pay a daily per-visit fee. This is all dependent on what kind of facility and gym it is. Some make it more work than others, some don’t allow it at all, and others are more than happy to take you provided you pay. If this is an option, continue with your regular fitness routine. If it’s not, and likely more often this is the case, we have to depend on the other two options.
Hotel Gyms Workouts
Let’s all agree that hotel gyms, for the most part, suck. They’re terrible, lack equipment, weights, and space. The more options you have, the more likely you’re paying a lot for your room. But they are better than nothing, and with some creativity, can be utilized effectively.
Most gyms will be some variation of the above, with slightly less equipment. If yours looks like this, consider yourself lucky. Personally, if my hotel has at least a cable machine (with pull-up bars being the most useful), a bench, and a rack of dumbbells that go up to 45 pounds, I am pleased. You can do a huge amount of exercises with just those pieces of equipment.
My recommendation? A full-body routine, with emphasis on the back, shoulders, and legs. You don’t have the weights to do bench presses, squats, or deadlifts, but you have all the options to target your shoulders and back via the pull-up bar and cables, while hitting your legs with goblet squats.
- Four sets of 25 pushups (4×25 with 45 second rest)
- Three sets of 10 wide grip pull-ups (3×10 with 90 second rest)
- Three sets of 10 neutral-grip pull-ups (3×10 with 90 second rest)
- Three sets of cable shoulder press (3×8 with 45 second rest)
- Three sets of cable chest fly (3×10 with 45 second rest)
- Goblet squats with the highest dumbbell you they have (4×25 with 90 second rest)
- Bench Leg raise (3×15 each side with 90 second rest)
- Hanging abdominal crunches (100 in however many sets it takes you)
Nothing but cardio machines? That’s fine, use the bodyweight only options below and then opt in for a HIIT-style workout using the treadmill. Jack up the incline to at least 3, put the speed at 10, and do sprint variations for 15-20 minutes. 30 second sprints, 30 second to 1 minute rests.
Hotel Room Workouts
If you’re only option is to use your hotel room, no worries. If you’re not used to using your bodyweight in workouts regularly, you’re in for a treat. Bodyweight exercises can absolutely break you in large amounts. Ask any boot camp in the U.S.
Find a relatively open spot, usually in the hallway, and bust out this variation:
- Four sets of 25 pushups (4×25 with 30 second rest)
- Four sets of 25 squats (4×25 with 30 second rest)
- Four sets of 25 burpees (4×25 with 30 second rest)
- Four sets of 25 crunches (4×25 with 30 second rest)
- 1 minute of mountain climbers (with 1 minute rest)
- Optional: Using the provided desk chair or bed, complete four sets of 15 bodyweight dips
If you undertake the above for 30 minutes, I guarantee you will be sweating, with or without the A/C on full blast. And for the most part, most people will barely get through two rounds of those. It’s hard, it works, and it will absolutely help you keep you within your fitness goals with no to minimal muscle loss. Bonus: Do this right before your meal (given enough time to shower and change) to help your body refill its glycogen stores. Until the glycogen is replenished from your workout, carbohydrates will not be stored as fat. Use this to your advantage before you go out to eat at the restaurant.
Want to maximize your success? Here’s a few options to utilize if you can. I’m not saying don’t enjoy your vacation. But what I am saying is that if you’re on an actual business trip or conference (i.e. it’s not for pleasure), then utilize these options to help you keep to your goal.
- Limit alcohol to none or one drink
- Limit desserts to none or at one meal
- Limit liquids to coffee, tea, or water
- Opt for larger protein meals (i.e. the steak versus the burger)
- Opt for the healthier carb (i.e. the sweet potato versus the loaded potato)
- Opt for the clear alcohol over the mixed drink (i.e. gin & tonic versus the rum & coke or Mai Tai)
All you need is a little creativity and you can modify anything to help increase your success and limit the lethargy of travel. Keep safe out there!