You know the type of holiday you’ve been saving for, dreaming about and planning for months.
It's going to be the perfect trip - all the fun, the great food and new experiences!
It will be a time to switch off, unleash, disconnect. You want a break from your diet, from the gym and your usual limitations
But there is a problem, you don't want to ruin the health and body you sacrificed so much for!
So how do you have both? How do you stay in shape while travelling on holiday?
Follow these 11 tips to stay in shape during your next trip
This is me before and after a long 6 week European holiday vacation. I didn’t starve or spend every waking moment training. I let my hair down and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
I simply followed a few key 'guidelines' that I'm going to share with you below
Spot the difference? It’s amazing how a few diet & training tricks can keep you in shape while on a long holiday.
Here are the 11 tips and tricks you can use on your next holiday that will keep you in great shape.
I won’t get into the science behind all of this, as you can read about it in this detailed ebook Carb Backloading. In a nutshell, limit your carb intake to the evening, ideally post training. The majority of your daytime meals should be ultra low carb, with PLENTY of fats. Even famous Bio-Hacker & Experimenter Tim Ferriss uses Carb Backloading to keep him lean and focused in times of stress (and when he’s expected to party!).
Following the Carb Backloading protocol keeps you in a state of ketosis during the day. In very simple terms, this means the body is running efficiently off of fat – whether its from the food you eat or the fat stored on the body. A great advantage of this while travelling is that you can easily go hours between meals, without the energy peaks and troughs from a high carb diet.
While you are on holiday, your training volume will probably be only a fraction of what it usually is. Restricting your carbs until the evening ensures you’re only eating around 100-200g of carbs a day. The beauty of eating this way is that you can still eat local treats without the worry of blowing up like a marshmallow.
My Carb of Choice – Gelato!
A lot of people, myself included, feel and perform better without gluten in their diet. If you’re trying to lower inflammation, fix gut issues, or eliminate low nutrient value foods from your diet, cutting gluten is highly recommended. Chris Kresser’s article, 50 Shades of Gluten Intolerance, is a great article on the subject.
Now, I’m sure you’re all thinking, “I’m going to Italy and I WILL eat pizza!” Fear not, you will find many gluten-free offerings in restaurants throughout the world. Notice I used the word ‘limit’ not ‘avoid’. You may order a meal that contains some gluten, such as a lovely roast lamb dish with a small amount of bread based stuffing. Unless you’re celiac, focus on avoiding large servings of gluten, such as pasta, bread, cake, pastry, etc.
When In Rome – Gluten Free Pizza
Keep eating plenty of fats, healthy saturated fats. This may require some effort to ensure that 50-70% of your total calories are coming from fats. However, be wary of excess protein, due to the excess ammonia and urea build up, by ensuring most of your fuel comes from saturated fat. If you're still worried about consuming fat in your diet, or if you thin 'Fat will make you Fat', then you need to read my article - 9 Reasons Why Your Doctor Is Wrong About Fat.
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your fat intake high while travelling:
Going high fat was easy in Germany!
Be prepared for times when quality food is hard to come by while traveling. Keep healthy, high fat snack options with you. Here are snack ideas to have close at hand:
My favourite 'on the road' snack - Quest bar and butter!
Your training load will probably be greatly reduced while travelling. Don’t feel guilty about this – you’re on holiday and likely need a break. If you feel the urge to train, then train. Train for the love of training. Never ‘force yourself’ to go to the gym. If you don’t want to lift, then don’t.
If you must, devise a very conservative training goal before your trip. If you’re doing 7 cities in 6 weeks, as I did, you may decide that you will do one training session in every city. Anything extra is a bonus. This really is one time in life where “aiming low” is a good policy!
Your training program should be very simple. Trying to follow an advanced training protocol with so many variables, such as gym resources, weather, time difference, opening hours, etc, will do nothing but add stress your holiday.
If size and strength are your goals, aim to work every muscle group and focus on big compound lifts each session.
If endurance and fitness are your goals, use HIIT sprints, and, when you have a bit more time, do a Zone 2 recovery run.
If fat loss is your goal, include full body strength days and finish with some short HIIT sessions. Then your next session may be a dedicated interval day. Alternate between the two workouts.
The following is a sample workout routine that I used on my holiday. Notice that I only trained 9 times in 6 weeks. That’s on average 1.5 sessions a week – and you saw the 6 week before and after pictures.
Design your gym routines around the following ‘rules’
Here’s what a typical workout may look like:
A) Front Squat superset with Weighted Chin-ups – 4 sets of 8. Long rest
B) Reverse BB Lunge superset with Incline BB Press – 4 sets of 10 – 90second rest
C) BB Row superset Seated Fly – 3 sets of 12 – 60second rest
D) Optional – Bicep/Tri/Ab circuit – 3 sets of 15, 30sec rest
E) Optional – HIIT or Tabata workout
And that was it. The funny thing is that this workout is very similar to what I use with a lot of my training clients.
My favourite gym of the trip – Spartan Gym in Split, Croatia.
Walking, combined with your cyclical low carb/high fat diet will be two big factors helping to keep your body fat levels down. Walk everywhere you can. Walking is a great way to see new places, keeps you slim without the excessive stress on your body, and is a free mode of transportation!
A lot of people have poor sleep habits and are chronically sleep deprived. This often becomes worse on holiday as you attempt to do a million different things. However, don’t sacrifice sleep. Don’t come home from your holiday feeling like you need another holiday!
Make sleep a priority. Avoid booking any early morning flights and activities. Although travels and some sightseeing options are more expensive later in the day, travelling shouldn’t be a high stress experience. Sleep in, you’re on holiday! I also recommend the following ‘sleep tricks’:
Note - for more on how to sleep on planes/while travelling, be sure to have a read of my article How to Sleep On Planes & Beat Jet Lag
Supplements help optimize health and performance. Obviously they are just that, a ‘supplement’ to a solid diet. Achieving a well rounded, healthy diet when travelling can be difficult. That’s where supplements can be a great help! A basic travelling supplement stack that I use includes:
My travel stack that I use and that I recommend to my clients.
Every night is a weekend night when travelling right? You’ll probably end up drinking larger amounts and more frequently than you would back home. Expect this to happen and prepare accordingly. When it comes to ‘health & body friendly’ drinking choices, refer to the below:
Before wrapping this up, I do want to touch on mindset. Mindset impacts everything. If you spend the whole trip worrying about every speck of gluten, or if the meat you ate was grass fed or not, you will have a horrible experience, as will your traveling partner. Go into the holiday knowing that you won’t be able to maintain your usual standard of eating and training.
Accept this fact. Take a break and relax on your holiday. You can return to your routine once you are back home.
All these tips are well in great once you reach your destination, but how to minimise jet lag and maximise your time on holiday? I have 15 Tips To Cure Jet Lag Fast which you can read by clicking here.
I know some people reading this are thinking ‘what a nut case, I’m going on a trip of a lifetime and I don’t want to worry about food or supplements!’ I understand that, however, I’ve found a pretty good sweet spot with the perfect mix of performance, relationship, pleasures and sacrifice.
It works for me.
If you’re looking at staying in shape while traveling, hopefully, this article has helped. I’d love to hear what strategies you use to stay in shape on your travels.
How do you eat? What about training? Perhaps you have a killer ‘hotel’ workout that you use?
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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