Road Rules: 9 Tips For Clean Eating On The Road
Working full-time, training, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life can be exhausting. Still, it's a path many of us choose to stay happy, healthy, and fit. We slave over the stove to make macro friendly meals and hit the gym most days of the week, all while holding down the fort at home. In short, we prep.
My regular schedule goes something like this: I pick two nights each week to prep my food for the next 3-4 days. I bulk-cook my chicken—either by baking it in the oven or tossing it on the George Forman grill—divide it into 4-5-ounce portions, steam my veggies, and put together my salads, each of which includes half an avocado and a side dressing. Sure, it's a lot of work, but this way, when I get up at 6 a.m. to hit the gym, I don't have to worry about what I'm going to eat throughout the day. It's packed and ready to go.
Add to all that the turmoil that comes with travel, and the three Ps—plan, prepare, and produce—become more essential than ever. No wonder so many fitness plans unravel on the road. You're tempted by fast food, lured by quick and easy pre-packaged meals, and you can practically hear the double chocolate chip frap at the airport Starbucks calling your name.
Sound familiar? Don't let a few miles traveled stand between you and your fitness goals. Follow my air travel routine to help bypass any nutritional away-from-home hurdles.
9 Road Rules
1 Pack Smart
There are six little things I always bring with me just in case. Since none of these items need to be refrigerated, all can be easily stowed away in your checked luggage.
Keep some complex carbs on hand. It's better to bring along the right carbs than have to resort to scarfing down something unnecessarily unhealthy.
I typically pack enough for 3/4 cup every day as well as an emergency stash of a few additional cups just in case I need to use oats for my evening carb source.
Heart-healthy unsaturated fats are essential to a well-rounded diet. Pack a source of healthy fats so you know exactly where yours come from.
Quest bars are all natural, low in carbs and sugar, and high in protein. Double-check the nutritional information on your go-to protein bar to make sure it's not just candy in disguise.
This is a must. Scoop out enough for 1-2 servings per day, and store them in plastic baggies for easy access.
If you're anything like me, measuring cups will be handy for meting out your almond butter and morning berries.
Looking to take things even further? Pack an individual-sized blender to make super food smoothie.
2 Request Kitchen Staples
Call the hotel and request a room with a microwave and refrigerator.
3 Prioritize Produce
4 Seek Out A Gym
Find out if the hotel has a gym, or where to find the gym closest to where you are staying. If there is no gym, go for a morning run or do a bodyweight workout in your room.
5 Go A La Carte
Customize the hotel menu to meet your macros. Most hotels have a restaurant, and you should be able to order a la carte items. My go-to breakfast at the hotel is a six-egg-white and veggie omelet with 3/4 cup oats and berries.
If you find yourself even more limited, mix a scoop of protein into your oatmeal and add some berries for a delicious concoction. All of these options are high in protein and offer up the right amount of complex carbs and morning sugars.
6 Think Portable
When ordering at restaurants, stick to lean fish, veggies, and complex carbs. Ask the chef to hold the butter and oils and get sauces on the side. Skip the wine and order an extra glass of water. If it's a special occasion, or you have a real hankering to indulge, stick to a glass of red wine or a vodka soda—just make sure it's not a regular occurrence.
7 Customize The Menu
When working long hours, I often have to cut my workouts short. Instead of being able to leisurely take my time, I'm often limited to one hour from start to finish. I make the most of my time by pushing hard, doing supersets, and sticking to a short 45-60 second rest period between sets.
8 Have Forethought
I can't stress this enough: Plan in advance. Think about your trip, anticipate your environment, and bring what you need so you're not stuck without any healthy options.
9 Drink Up
Stay hydrated, and make sure you take in enough fluids. The stale air circulating in airports makes me super dehydrated, so I always bring an empty shaker bottle with me through security to fill up at the drinking fountain before boarding my flight. I pack all my travel day meals in my carry-on so I'm set in case of any delays.
An extra scoop of protein or a Quest bar is also a great, easy grab-and-go option. Also, make sure to pack supplements ahead of time and store vitamins in baggies so you know what to take and when to take it.
Clean Eating On Car Trips
While the distance might be shorter, road trips come with their own set of nutritional hurdles. But prepping food in advance, having easily portable snacks on hand, and choosing healthy fast food alternatives when necessary can help you avoid gas-station temptation.
Hug the curves of the road without packing unnecessary weight onto your curves with these road trip tips.
1 Bring a cooler full of goodies
Packing plenty of water and healthy snacks like your favorite sliced fruits and veggies, yogurt, almonds, Quest bars, and hummus is the best option. You'll be able to stick to your macros and have a strong line of defense against temptation when hunger strikes.
2 Choose smart
If you're gassing up and can't resist grabbing a snack from the attached mini mart, shop smart. Gas stations usually have pre-made protein drinks in the cooler. Buy one of those and a protein bar, if needed.
Plain (not movie theater butter) popcorn is another option to help satisfy that need to munch.
3 Redefine fast food
OK, so you're not going to make fast food healthy, but you can make healthier menu choices. Grilled chicken patties sans bun are a healthier option.
Also, salads with light dressing on the side—as opposed to salads doused in the creamy, full-fat alternative—are generally a safe option.
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Get a George Foreman from a walmart or wherever you can find one. Also pickup a decent amount of tupperware since most hotels should have a microwave for you to use somewhere in the building. Hit the grocery store after you eat so you are less likely to grab unhealthy stuff due to cravings. Stick to grilled chicken breasts, different types of fish, whole grains, and as many fruits and vegetables as you can stuff down your throat. I would also recommend spending an hour or so prepping the night before for the following day so you can wake up, grab the meals and go! Hope this helps and best of luck!
While it's a bit difficult to pull off while traveling (especially when it's air travel), I've successfully pulled off traveling with meals cooked at home on all of my work trips over the last 9 months or so (steak, chicken, sweet potatoes, veggies, etc). When I'm home, I cook all my food for the week on Sunday (breakfast, 2 lunches, dinner) for each day of the work week. On "travel weeks", I've taken the same approach with the only difference being freezing everything in zip lock bags the night before I travel and packing it all in a cooler bag before heading to the airport along with snacks (whole grain rice cakes, natural PB, Fat Free cottage cheese) and protein powder. I can't take all the credit for the idea--followed Kris Gethin's 12 week transformation earlier this year and there was a piece on sticking to the plan while traveling.
I use my food bag as my check bag (first bag free on most airlines) and then bring a carry-on for my clothes and stuff. Your co-workers will think your nuts at first but it's a great way to stay on track with your diet while traveling--and after investing all this time in the food prep and transport, it gives you that much more motivation to not give up on the training either. I've actually gotten some of my teams to start hitting up the grocery store for healthier items vs. going for fast food every day. It's also a big cost savings too.
Finding gyms that will let you train at a reduced rate (and sometimes they won't let you train at all) without a membership can be tough, but I've found by doing my research ahead of time, I've been able to work something out at a number of pretty good gyms. However, some places are a bit tough on this as they're trying to push full membership only.
I'm not that familiar with setting up forums or anything like that but I've had an interest in trying to set up something for people who travel a lot to post gym recommendations that allow weekly travelers to workout, travel nutrition tips, etc. Anyone good with that stuff that would be able to set it up (or tell me how I would do it)?
Hey man, yeah I'm all over this. I've lived in hotels for work for almost 2 years and you need twice the willpower! Any advice appreciated... preparation has worked for me. That and EFFORT!
Stick to your diet, the more you notice your hard efforts in the mirror when looking at yourself, the less you even want to consider wasting all the hard work by eating something bad! Good luck
Keep trying them. Their are so many different kinds. You'll eventually get to one you'll like if not, you'll just get use them like myself. :)
Be careful though Buddy , on some of the Protein bars,the sugar alcohols add up and act as a "Laxative" causing explosive gas and in some cases, Explosive diehrea lol.. Just FYI , learned that the hard way..
If the protein bars don't do it for you to pack with you, could pack a shaker bottle and whatever protein powder you like in zip lock bags so you can make shakes when you get there. I've never been big on protein bars either because of all the added sugars in most of them (apparently I need to try Quest though), so this is what I've been doing when traveling.
This is all sound advice and very doable. I just got back from a trip to Vegas and was so happy I went prepared. I divided my protein powder and oatmeal into little snack baggies. Had my quest bars and almonds too. I barely had to buy food while I was there for 4 days. I was able to hit the gym every day including my wedding day!
Great article. Well put together and has all the necessary information. Bringing your own empty shaker bottle for water from the drinking fountain at the airport! Why didn't I think of that!
Airport security has never been a problem for me, as long as my healthy snacks are zipped up and leak-proof. Still, it is still a mystery to me how I got through TSA and customs with all those little plastic bags of pink (protein!!!) powder. They never even batted an eye lash.....
Many of the hotels have an agreement with gyms in their area, and there is no extra fee when you show the key card. If all else fails, I pack TRX (like) straps.... Bob Harper offers his Gravity Straps at a reasonable price.
Awesome article and perfect timing as i will be leaving for vacation in a few weeks to Vegas (unfortunately after the Olympia :( .. And will be driving there ..
My biggest problem was prepping and just resorting to protein bars at Gas stations , but this article has helped me, now I'm gonna do a little more prepping this time,thanks again :)