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4 Ways to Stay Fit While Traveling

Don't ditch your diet and training when you're on a business trip or vacation. These four "Road Rules" will keep you lean no matter where (and for how long) your travels take you.

Road rules for for staying fit while traveling

One question I get constantly from people on social media is:

“I have a hard time sticking with my workouts and diet because I’m constantly travelling – what can I do to stay on track when I’m on the road?”

I know how it is. I’m on the road almost as many days as I’m home due to public appearances, lectures, business meetings, R&D, and the occasional vacation with my family. But for me, being away from home NEVER means taking a break from my workouts or abandoning healthy eating. It just means being more resourceful, planning ahead, and taking every opportunity I can to stay active when it would be very easy to sit around in my hotel room or in an airport terminal.

When I’m traveling, I have a handful of “tricks” I use to stay in shape and stay lean so that I don’t fall behind in whatever training program I’m following at the time. Below, I cover four common “road worries” and offer simple solutions – “road rules” – for each so that after your next business trip or family vacation you can return home just as fit and lean as when you left.

Getting in your workouts and eating well is a lifestyle – whether you’re at home or on the road.

Road Rule #1: Keep the bad weight off with intermittent fasting.

Hey, I get it: Your eating schedule is thrown off when you’re traveling, making it all too easy to go off the rails, eat crappy food, and pack on bad weight (fat) on your trip.

What I found works best for me is intermittent fasting (IF). In fact, while serving as a postdoctoral research scientist at Yale School of Medicine, my lab investigated how intermittent fasting works to burn more fat. We discovered that the cycle of fasting and feeding actually speeds up your metabolism and makes you burn more fat and carbs to fuel daily activities.

What I love best about IF is that it allows you to be looser on your food choices. Because the fasting speeds up your metabolic rate so well, you can enjoy almost any food you like, in moderation of course. I often enjoy burgers, ice cream, and alcohol despite having to stay in photo-shoot shape year-round. And that makes it much easier to find food in restaurants on the road.

I recommend that most people ease into IF. Since we sleep somewhere around 6-8 hours every day, we already do IF. Most people typically follow a 12/12 fasting/feeding day; that means they eat within a 12-hour window most days. For example, if someone wakes up at 7:00 am and goes to sleep around 11:00 pm, they likely eat from 8:00 am - 8:00 pm.

So, start by ensuring that you’re doing a 12/12 fasting/feeding schedule at the very least. Once you see how easy this is, gradually increase the fasting hours while decreasing the feeding hours, starting with fasting for 13 hours and eating for 11 hours.

Ideally, you want to get to a 16/8 fasting/feeding schedule – fasting 16 hours, then eating in an 8-hour window. The time of day doesn’t matter much. Choose your feeding window based off when you crave food the most, when you work out (because it’s ideal to exercise in a fed state), and/or when you typically eat with a group (like your family).

An added benefit to IF for the traveler is that research shows it can help fight jet lag. All you have to do is eat at the same time you normally eat in your new time zone. If you live in New York and eat from 4:00 pm to 12:00 am, you would eat at those same times (between 4pm and midnight West Coast time) in LA despite it being 3 hours later.

Here's a video further explaining how to structure your intermittent fasting schedule to combat jet lag:

Road Rule #2: Go for jerky, but choose wisely.

When you're traveling, running from one meeting to another (or rushing to catch your next flight!), and food choices are mostly limited to junk food and sugar drinks, focus on high-protein snacks like beef jerky. The protein not only provides building blocks for your muscles and other tissues in the body, but it will also provide a longer-lasting energy source than that high-carb energy bar you may be eyeing as an easy snack or meal on the go.

My biggest warning when it comes to buying beef jerky is to read the Nutrition Facts panel before you buy. With the benefits of a higher-protein diet being well established, more people are opting for them, so the beef jerky market is busting at the moment. And in an effort to outdo each other in creating the softest jerky, companies have been adding a lot of carbs, namely sugar, to the jerky to soften the texture. Many jerkies on the market today have more carbs per serving than protein! As a rule, your jerky of choice should have at least twice as much protein as carbohydrates per serving.

I touch on this beef jerky "road rule" here:

Road Rule #3: Stick to your training with bodyweight workouts.

If you can’t get to a gym – maybe meetings run late or you’re in a rural area that doesn’t even have a gym – you can simply use your body as your workout equipment. Break the body down into three basic areas: (1) legs (ie, squats, lunges); (2) upper body pushing (ie, a chest exercise); and (3) upper body pulling (a back exercise). If you do at least one exercise for each of those areas, you’ve activated the genes in the muscles of the majority of muscle fibers in your body. This will activate the metabolic genes so that the majority of your muscles are burning fuel in the form of fat and carbs. It will also activate genes in the muscle cells that instigate muscle growth. Doing reverse lunges (legs), push-ups (push), and doorway rows (pull) hits all three areas of the body.

To do the doorway row, stand with your left shoulder and foot adjacent to the right side of a door jam. Hold onto the inside of the door jam with your left arm, and slide both feet up tight to the bottom of the jam where it meets the floor. Extend your left arm so your body leans to the right at about a 45-degree angle. Use your lats to pull your body up so that your left shoulder comes close to the door jam. Contract the lats for a count or two before you slowly lower your body back to the 45-degree angle. Repeat for as many reps as you can.

Here's a video demonstration of the doorway row:

Road Rule #4: Find other opportunities to squeeze in exercise.

On days you’re traveling and may be on the road all day without a single chance to hit the gym or even do a bodyweight workout in a hotel room, use the road as your workout. Don’t use the escalator, elevator, or any of those "moving sidewalks" you see at airports. Always take the stairs, even if you’re carrying luggage.

In fact, be glad that you have a bag or two to lug around – it will make for that much better of a workout. Carry the luggage up and down the stairs; do multiple "sets" on the same staircase if you have a long layover and time to kill. Time to kill a workout, that is! There's actually a gym exercise called "suitcase carries." It's basically just a farmer's walk/carry with only one dumbbell or kettlebell instead of two to create an imbalanced load. At the aiport, you can literally do suitcase carries!

When in the plane, train, car, etc., follow my 30/60 rule. For every 30 consecutive minutes you’re sitting, get up and do some kind of exercise for at least 60 seconds (1 minute). This could be simply stretching or walking to the bathroom. Or, you can get more intense and do push-ups or jumping jacks, or even take out resistance bands and do a few sets. If you're afraid people will look at you weird for doing calisthenics in an airport, remind yourself that what you're doing is way better than spending that time at the airport bar or eating a Cinnabon at your gate!

This advice is based on research showing that after 30 minutes of consecutive sitting, metabolic genes that help regulate body fat, energy, and health outcomes are tuned off, which increases your risk for diabetes, obesity, and even cardiovascular disease.

Don't believe that I'm actually following the 30/60 rule when I'm out and about? Watch this video:

Travel safe, everyone. And travel smart and fit, too!


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