Nutrition and training are two sides of the same coin of health. I have a feeling that the overwhelming majority (myself included) struggle far more with the nutrition side than the training side.
I travel a lot for my job up and down the entire east coast, often times with very little advance notice (I consider a week generous). I am gone anywhere from 2-4 days per week lately. Being a creature of routine and habit, this can be pretty frustrating for me.
However, regardless of what my travel schedule looks like, I ALWAYS find time for training. I will make sure I work out on the days I am not on the road, even if that means getting up at 5 AM so I can make the early morning CrossFit class. I bring my workout clothes and shoes with me, along with my trusty speed rope, and will hit the hotel gym (regardless of how crappy it is) and find a way to train, even if that means throwing together a quick workout with body weight movements (i.e. burpees, push-ups, lunges, jump squats). I don’t use travel as an excuse to skip training. The main reason being…I love training! It makes me feel strong and empowered and bad-ass. Every workout makes me a little better, physically and mentally. One of the great things I’ve learned from CrossFit is that I don’t need to spend 45 minutes lifting weights and an hour on the elliptical to get a good workout in on the road. A 15 minute AMRAP (as many reps/rounds as possible) with some compound exercises will give me an intense full-body workout in a fraction of the time my old workouts would have taken. No excuses, even after a long day of travel and meetings.
Nutrition, on the other hand, is a different story. I have been working with Allison Moyer of Predator Diet for a few months now. She has been providing me with primal nutrition coaching to help me reach my goals with regard to both body composition and athletic performance. I am on my second 12 week stint with her, and although it is slightly embarrassing to admit, I am on my SECOND stint primarily because I failed to make any appreciable progress during the first one! The biggest culprit – going off the rails when it comes to food while I am on the road.
For me, a business trip usually means flying out in the afternoon, checking into the hotel, and then going to dinner with my colleagues in the evening to prep for the meeting the next day. We meet for breakfast the next morning, go to the meeting, then have another meal together or head straight to the airport, and I get home some time that evening. All of us have corporate cards, so every part of our trip is expensed and paid for by the company, from food to booze to hotel. I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself back in my hotel room after dinner with a stomach ache and aura of guilt wondering, “What happened?”
In hindsight, I am always perplexed by my poor choices. No one forced me to drink three glasses of wine or held a gun to my head when I ordered that flourless chocolate cake, but I frequently seem to find a way to justify my poor choices. Some of them include:
“It’s only one glass of wine, it can’t hurt. And we are at a winery…I can’t not drink wine at a winery!”
“This will probably be my last meal tonight, but I still have 3 meals left on my meal plan for today, so I don’t need to watch portion size that closely.”
“I woke up at 4:45 AM and have been traveling all day. I’m exhausted. I deserve a glass of wine/piece of chocolate deliciousness/big juicy burger.”
“My colleagues are giving me a hard time about not drinking/everybody else is getting dessert. I don’t want to be the weirdo.”
“Oh crap, I forgot to ask them to prepare my steak and veggies without butter or oil. Oh well, I don’t want to be a pain in the ass and send it back. I am supposed to have some fat with this meal anyway…”
“Isn’t all expenses paid food and booze part of the perks of this job? I’m entitled to these things. It would be silly not to take advantage.”
“[Slightly intoxicated] Do I want another (third) glass of wine? Well…okay!”
Those all sound pretty ridiculous, right? But in the moment, they seem valid. I am determined to be just as committed to nutrition as I am to training when I am on the road though. I am still mastering the art of staying on track while traveling, but some of the tips I’ve implemented below seem to be helping:
- On the days I am en route to or from home, eat as many meals as possible on my meal plan. This usually means bringing 1-2 meals with me in my carry-on to eat at the airport or on the plane. I make sure I am fully stocked at home so when I get back from my trip, I can finish out that day eating what’s on my meal plan.
- Bring healthy, pre-portioned snacks with me and try to book hotels with a mini-fridge in the room. My travel staples are: apples, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, protein powder, and packets of Justin’s Almond Butter. I will buy salads and raw veggies in the hotel or airport too if available.
- Make the smartest choice from the available options and don’t obsess about trying to follow my exact meal plan when eating out. Be willing to be picky about how my food is cooked (i.e. no butter/oil, dressing on the side, egg whites instead of whole eggs). Watch portion sizes. Before I start eating, set aside the portion on my plate (4 oz of the 10 oz steak) that I will eat and stop eating once that portion is gone.
- Avoid booze and dessert. This never ends well, just avoid them completely. I rarely drink or eat dessert anyway, so why should a business trip be any different?
- Set a precedent with my peers. They will eventually catch on if I always pass on the drinks and dessert and stop giving me a hard time about it. It’s okay to be weird, and there is nothing wrong with having goals and doing what’s necessary to achieve them!
That said, I anticipate that I won’t have to travel for the next couple of weeks, so I am looking forward to an uninterrupted period of complete meal plan compliance!