So You're Traveling While Flex Dieting...Now What?
With the CrossFit Games upon us (and isn’t it summer after all?), it’s a good opportunity to talk about flex dieting while traveling. So many of you ask me the multiple versions of the same question: how do I keep up with my macros while traveling on (insert fun event: vacation/wedding weekend/staycation/bachelorette party/etc). The answers never really change so I’ve opted to put together a cheat sheet of sorts for those of you looking for some coaching. You’re welcome. There’s absolutely NO reason why you can’t still maintain your flexible diet AND enjoy a healthy social life. You only live once after all (YOLO!). Sorry. Don’t hate me for the overused phrase. While not every single one of these tips will apply to you, some will. I encourage you to find the right fit for your upcoming trip and make it happen. The extra 20 mins of prep or planning will go a long way.
1. Prepare Food in Advance
When I’m traveling domestically (or for shorter car rides lasting 2-6 hours), I prepare 75% of my meals. For our family, that means plenty of protein and veggies. Have you ever noticed that the airports are the WORST place to find healthy foods? There are always a selection of processed and packaged foods and a ton of gluten, but really a low variety of fresh veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I always love a good garden salad or yogurt parfait, but that really seems to be it for options from the deli case. Even traveling at the airport, you can bring your own food and purchase liquids (aka giant water) after security. If in a car, a small cooler is usually plenty for a road trip. I pack as many protein options as possible: sliced rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken breasts, thinly sliced nitrate-free deli meats, string cheese, jerky, etc. You can even bring a shaker bottle with pre-measured protein powders and add water later on. Seems easy enough right? You’d be surprised on travel days how much of our routine goes out of the window. Think about your travel and stop times and prepare yourself with protein-rich snacks and plenty of water. Personally, I prefer snacking more often on travel days vs. 3 “bigger” meals so packing plenty of fiber-rich options may be the way to go. You can easily supplement the other 25% with a dining out meal or fun treat (it is vacation after all) or beverage.
2. Track Macros AND Calories
Normally I tell my clients to track macros only and ignore the calories during their weekly routines. When you are traveling or on vacation and trying to stay with a set of cutting macros for example, it’s a good idea to hit your protein requirement, and then let carbs and fat fall where there do so long as you stay within your calorie goal. Vacation is the only time I ask folks to look at calories so we can stay within our limits and not gain weight. Since our bodies typically use carbs and fat as the same source of fuel, these few days won’t be detrimental to your overall success assuming we aren’t binging and exceeding our goal (aka calorie surplus). Hitting your protein goal on vacation is quite difficult so I see this as a major win in itself if you can accomplish this while eating out and supplementing with your own protein snacks. It’s possible, but a challenge for sure. Keep in mind, we want to ensure we are maintaining our lean muscle tissue. We also want to keep our insulin levels at a healthy state and avoid any insulin resistance. Besides, protein intake helps to keep us feel full (just like fat does) so that satisfying feeling on vacation may help you avoid the bingies.
3. Have Some Dranks!
Don’t drink at all. Just kidding! That’s not real life and I fully expect if you are going on vacation, you’ll likely be enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two. Go ahead, live a little! If you’ve been on the flex dieting train for a little while now, this shouldn’t be tough for you. Stay away from shitty mixers and sugary drinks. Sorry pina colada and daiquiri people! Don’t worry though because chances are you won’t need 5 drinks to get you tipsy if you’ve been dieting. Although alcohol is empty calories (wouldn’t you rather eat your calories?), it’s ok to count the alcohol as carbs and include it in your intake that day. Do your best not to spill over and don’t forgo protein for something like alcohol. NOT worth it! Your best choices are clear hard alcohols with calorie free mixers (i.e. vodka with club soda and lime) but wine is okay too. You may also want to think about what happens “after” you start drinking. Do you tend to get a case of the munchies? Perhaps you plan to stay away from the 2am pizza order or you prepare with some small snacks (trail mix or 1 slice) instead of the munchies. I know that nobody ever eats protein shakes after they get drunk. It’s always street tacos or pizza. Try your best.
4. Get Sweaty
I know stepping outside of your routine can be intimidating but you’d be surprised just how many places you can exercise without the need for a gym and weights. Try to get in a few workouts to get your heart rate up and sweat in the early parts of the day. Chances are if you wait until the afternoon, you’ll likely skip it due to the 3pm nap or shopping trip you’d rather take. Even just 2 workouts all count towards your goal! If you are lucky enough to have a hotel gym, that’s easy. For those of you without, look at your surroundings and adapt. Pick between bike rides, beach workouts, runs, or even body weight workouts that can be done in your winter log cabin (yes, i’ve even done this with a friend in a 10×10 room).
5. What Happens if I Eff Up?
If you a fudge a day, don’t sweat it. Move on the to next try and try again. Don’t just give up! All too often we mess up a day and just decide to give up until we get home. No need to throw all of your hard work out of the window? Ask for what you need. If you are staying with family and they eat different than you do, sometimes asking can make the world of a difference. That way you aren’t trapped by their dietary preferences. Most of the time your host will be happy to help or make a suggestion to the nearest grocery store for you to get what you need. If you are staying in a hotel, don’t be afraid to ask the buffet managers or restaurant waiters for certain meals or ingredients. Most will cater to your needs, even the smalller hotels. I’ve even been able to store gluten free pancakes in a fridge at a hotel during my stay or had the hotel chef make me GF items so I could still enjoy some carbs for breakfast. You don’t know if you don’t ask right? If you mess up the day prior, start over the next day. Therein lies the beauty of the morning. It’s a new day!
Remember, many of these tips are given to help you maintain your weight during vacation and not for you to come back with any necessary weight gain (and the emotions that come along with it). This isn’t a way to lose more weight or gain muscle. It’s just to prevent any damage and negative affects from a trip that may affect or alter all of your hard work. The idea is to enjoy yourself on vacation without over-eating or gaining any weight.
For me, during the Games weekend, will I enjoy a donut or dessert? Hell yeh. Will I drink? Yup, that too! That being said, I will come back to my regular diet routine as if nothing changed. A little indulgence is good for my sanity and it’s how I enjoy life. It’s all about balance and aren’t we being flexible after all?