As someone who has traveled for business for over 20 years, I have always found that even the best fitness regimens can be easily upset by business travel. Just like your sleep habits suffer when you travel, so do your eating habits. Even a short trip that includes daily workouts can set back a diet and training program by weeks and pounds. “You can’t exercise your way out of a bad or wrong diet,” says Dr. Stephen Gullo Ph.D., diet counselor and nutritional engineer based in New York. In order to avoid setbacks, you need to be diligent when traveling. Staying on a plan, and minimizing deviation makes all the difference. Over hundreds of thousands of miles and give or take a few pounds, I have developed a three-pronged strategy that keeps me in check.
The first step in what I call my “program of adherence” starts in my kitchen before the flight. I pack a “go bag” with enough healthy alternatives to cover any flight delays and be able to avoid the food on the plane. Some of the things I include are Scandinavian Bran Crispbread (2g net carbs), Laughing Cow cheese (less than 50 calories per individually wrapped serving), tuna packs, a low-calorie protein bar (less than 100cal), and a few vegetables. When I first started this with Dr. Gullo, I thought it was crazy to be so specific but I can’t deny that sticking to a regime works, otherwise when you have no plan you tend to eat whatever is around.
If I leave home without my “go bag” I always look for protein and avoid processed carbs at the airport. On the plane, I always pass on the nuts and choose the fish or a protein when the meal comes. One of the benefits of flying in Business or First Class is that you can make the flight attendant aware of your regimen and avoid the temptation of having to deny snacks. On longer flights, I only drink water, tea, tomato juice (which serves as an appetite suppressant and has as much potassium as a banana and half the carbs), and walk around every hour as this helps with water retention. My motto when I travel is “water, water, water.” I am never without a bottle of water.
The second phase begins when you arrive at the hotel. Ask the front desk for a scale to be put in the room. It sounds weird but it is a great reminder to stick with the plan. Even if you don’t get on it, you have to see the scale every day of your trip. I also leave the key for the minibar at the desk and give the welcome basket away, as well as passing on the chocolates at turndown. The biggest trick for me is to hit the gym as soon as possible and do some high-intensity interval training, or some quick cardio to boost my energy and get rid of the plane ride feeling. I end my workout with a lot of water and a good steam. This always makes feel better and leaves me ready to get to work.
The client dinner is the third and often hardest step in adhering to my travel program. These dinners tend to be the most social aspect of business travel and are often the only time you get to unwind on the trip. I have a few tips that keep me in check. I always review the menus of the restaurants beforehand and have a “protein plan” when ordering. I also eat something from my go bag before dinner so I don’t arrive starving and dive immediately into the breadbasket (ideally stay away from the bread altogether). I also always try to fill up on water before dinner. Most importantly, when the wine comes my way I make sure it’s a small glass and not a goblet.
My next food tip is probably the hardest. When breakfast rolls around, skip the buffet bar. I find it’s best to DIY. Always ask for egg whites (as many as you want) and vegetables and order tomato juice. All those baked goods are no good for you.
Lastly, don’t slack on the flight home. You made it through the trip, the finish line is in sight, don’t be lax in the final stretch. According to Dr. Gullo, this is when most of us cave and cheat our regimens. Stick to water, tomato juice or tea, make sure to get your protein and avoid any processed carbs.
These simple steps can ensure program adherence, ultimate nutrition, and diet program success. Just like with shampoo: do it once, repeat, and do it again.
Dr. Stephen Gullo, Ph.D. pioneered the field of behavioral nutrition and is an accomplished nutritionist, diet counselor, and author. His books include, “The Thin Commandments” and “Thin Tastes Better”. Dr. Gullo is the Founder and President of the Center for Health and Weight Sciences and was featured in the NY Times’ prestigious T-List.
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Donald Dye runs Institutional Equity Derivatives Sales and Structuring for Royal Bank of Canada in New York. Donald is also a founding partner of Sky Lake Partners, real estate private equity fund based in New York. He recently returned from a 9-day business trip to Brazil 2 pounds lighter following Dr. Gullo’s advice. You can follow him Donald R. Dye on LinkedIn and Twitter.
How do you stay healthy on the road?