CAN YOU REALLY STAY IN SHAPE WHILE TRAVELLING THE WORLD?
Attending a gym or fitness class is a great way to keep in shape. Cardiovascular exercise keeps you healthy and manages your weight. But what happens when you have no access to these facilities?
In 2014 we left the UK to embark on an around the world trip. With a gym no longer available to us, we learned other ways to keep healthy on the road, adapting our fitness routine to each new environment. While exercise plays an essential role in managing your weight, maintaining a balanced diet is key to overall good health. Throughout our journey, we gained a deep knowledge of nutritional facts of the food we experienced around the world.
So, whether you travel for business, holiday or an around the world trip, you will find everything you need to know in our ultimate guide to keeping in shape while travelling.
3 KEY PRINCIPLES TO STAYING HEALTHY WHEN YOU TRAVEL
KEY PRINCIPLE 1: PREPERATION / MOTIVATION
Keeping in shape is hard - even before you hit the gym! Sometimes the best intentions, like setting an early alarm or packing your workout gear, isn't enough. A lack of motivation is the biggest barrier to exercise.
While anyone can have a hard time making exercise part of their routine, throw in a constantly changing enviroment and you are faced with a bigger challenge. This is why its important to consider your goals and mentally prepare yourself for the trip ahead.
THINK ABOUT THE WHY
Why do you want to keep in shape? Everything we want has an emotion attached to it. Whether it’s to feel confident, to feel healthy or to lose weight, the key to lasting motivation is to find a strong enough emotional reason to take action.
DON'T GIVE UP BEFORE YOU START
Why do we so often derail our plans before they begin? We find all the reasons not to exercise, why our diet will fail and why we should leave everything until we return.
Instead, think of travel as an opportunity to change your routine, to experience new healthy cuisine or discover a new hobby, like surfing, dancing, tennis or Muay Thai. You might not give up so easily on something you enjoy.
Once you have established your own personal motivation for keeping in shape, it is time to start planning.
Here are 12 Preparation Tips for any Destination
1 - Set Realistic Goals
What do you want to achieve? Is it to manage your weight? Maintain or increase your fitness? Whatever it is, set yourself a realistic goal to work towards.
2 - Plan your Workouts
Start to plan the type of exercise you are going to do according to your environment and goals.
3 - Write a Workout Schedule
While your goals are fresh in your mind, write down a quick schedule that will help you to achieve them. Put the schedule in your phone and set reminders.
4 - Book a Hotel with Exercise Facilities
Whether you choose a hotel with a gym, swimming pool or tennis court, having accessible facilities will help with your fitness routine.
5 - Choose an Exercise Friendly Environment
If you’re planning a city break, choose a hotel near a park. This will provide a safe area to run to with access to fitness facilities (monkey bars are great for pull ups). Or stay near a beach; for swimming, running, beach exercise or water activities. Whatever your preferred fitness activity, stay within close proximity.
6 - Book a Room with Cooking Facilities
Use AirBnB to rent an entire home or apartment with a stocked kitchen. Or choose a holiday with self- catering facilities. This will allow you to prepare healthy meals. While it’s great to experience new cuisine, there is no need to dine out for every meal. If you’re travelling for a long period, book a hostel with shared kitchen facilities.
7 - Stay near a Supermarket / Fresh Food Market
Having a market nearby allows you to pick up fresh, healthy produce. Fresh fruit, nuts and seeds are a healthy mid-day snack.
8 - Research Healthy Restaurants in your Chosen Area
Use Tripadvisor or guidebooks to research restaurants in the area which cater to your diet. This will save you resorting to a fast food restaurant because you didn't find anything else nearby.
9 - Pack the Right Gear
Avoid arriving at your holiday destination underprepared, read our travel fitness packlist list.
10 - Download a Fitness App
A fitness app will help you track your goals and assess your performance. Or prepare a running schedule.
11 - Exercise to Great Music
Download a personal ‘workout’ playlist before you travel to keep you motivated. Don’t forget your headphones, running belt or sports armband.
12 - Consider a Fitness Holiday
If you are serious about keeping in shape then consider a fitness holiday. This will allow you to unwind, get fit and tone up under stress-free conditions. Not only will you be surrounded by like-minded people, you will have the chance to see the sights, discover a new culture and get in shape all in one holiday.
Learn to surf in Sri Lanka, become a Yoga Guru in India or complete a 10 day trek around the snow capped mountains of Nepal.
KEY PRINCIPLE 2 - NUTRITION
Experiencing the local cuisine can be the highlight of any trip. But indulging in just one unhealthy holiday meal, rich in salt, sugar, white flour and/or animal protein increases a person's risk of a heart attack. Exercise alone will not erase all of your unhealthy eating habits. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is key to overall good health.
Here are 11 Tips to a Healthy Travel Diet
1 – Know your Limit
Balance your total calorie intake per day. Weight gain is a major effect of eating too many calories.
Average Male: 2000 - 2,500kcal a day to maintain his weight.
Average Female: 1500 - 2,000kcal a day to maintain her weight.
2 - Balance your Meals
To maintain a balanced diet, break down your daily meals into carbs (includes vegetables), protein, and fat.
Typical Daily Meal Example
Breakfast – 2 poached eggs on toast (Protein / fat / carbs)
Lunch - Beans on jacket potato (Protein / carbs)
Evening Meal – Salmon and vegetables (Protein / healthy fat / good carbs)
For healthy travel meal ideas, check out these healthy dishes from around the world.
3 - Consider How Your Food is Prepared
The way your food is cooked has a major effect on your calorie intake. Although certain oils are good for you, such as olive oil and flaxseed oil, the saturated fat and trans fat in deep-fried foods should be avoided. Grilling, steaming, roasting and baking are healthier cooking methods. Consider this when ordering your meal.
1g of Fat contains - 9 calories (All fats contain the same amount)
10-30% of your daily calories should come from Fat
- Monounsaturated: Olive Oil
Olive oil is most commonly used in cooking in Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal. Olive oil is rich in cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats, making it a healthy addition to your diet.
- Polyunsaturated: Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is used extensively in Europe as a cooking oil and is popular in many Western countries. Most of the fat in sunflower oil is unsaturated. In moderation, sunflower oil may provide certain health benefits as part of an overall balanced diet.
- Saturated: Palm Oil (WARNING)
Palm oil is the most common oil used in cooking in Asia, with Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and China being the highest consumers. While palm oil has no trans fats, it does contain high levels of saturated fats, which can be a significant threat to cardiovascular health.
4 – Protein is Essential for Both Men and Women
The worlds male population seems protein obsessed, and rightly so. Protein is an important nutrient for sustaining muscle. Unlike fats or carbohydrates, our body does not have a back-up supply of protein, so we need to make sure our body gets enough of it.
1g of Protein contains - 4 calories
10-20% of your daily calories should come from Protein
Here are some examples of protein rich foods to experience while travelling:
- Peanuts (1 cup) – 38 grams
- Chicken (100 grams) – 34 grams of protein
- Tuna (100 grams) – 30 grams
- Tofu (1 cup) – 20 grams of protein
- Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans & Chickpeas (1 cup) - 15 grams
5 - Quality Carbohydrates Matter
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy.
1g of Carbohydrates contains - 4 calories
50 – 60% of your daily calorie should come from carbohydrates
Reduce 'bad' carbs by eating fewer refined and processed carbohydrates that strip away beneficial fiber.
Good Carbs: Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes
Bad Carbs: Refined “white” grains like white bread, white rice
Carbs to AVOID: Sugars and Added sugar substitutes (Sweeteners) which can spike your blood sugar to dangerous levels and can lead to diabetes.
6 - Eat Healthy Travel Snacks
Travel days can be a set back when it comes to your diet and fitness routine. Processed foods are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. Replace Oreos and Pringles for these healthy travel snacks:
- Nuts – Nuts are packed with protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids and essential nutrients.
- Seeds – Seeds are high in fibre, vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.
- Fruit – Peeled fruits make a great travel snack which is high in vitamins and minerals
- Bars (protein bars, fruit/nut bars, natural fruit bars or granola bars)
- Rice Cakes
6 – Vitamins and Supplements
A balanced diet should include all the vitamins and minerals your body needs throughout the day. However, if you are exerting yourself during exercise then extra supplements may be required to correct specific deficiencies.
Even mild deficiencies can result in fatigue, reduced resistance to infections, confusion and impaired physical performance. Consider packing extra shop bought vitamins and supplements to help your body achieve a desired fitness goal (weight loss, muscle gain, improved endurance). However, synthetic versions of vitamins contain chemical compounds that were not meant for human consumption and do not occur in nature.
Alternatively, there are many naturally occurring vitamin rich fruits and vegetables available across the world.
5 FRUITS YOU SHOULD EAT EVERYDAY
Grapefruit is one of the healthiest citrus fruits. Besides being a good source of vitamins and minerals, it also aids weight loss and reduces insulin resistance.
Vitamins & Minerals: vitamin A, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, copper, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, vitamin B1.
Among the tropical fruits, pineapple shines above the rest in terms of nutritional value. It is a good source of bromelain, a mixture of enzymes known for its ability to digest protein and anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamins & Minerals: vitamin C, manganese, copper, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, pantothenic acid.
Blueberries have powerful effects on the immune system. They are also believed to have the highest antioxidant content of the most common fruits, which may reduce the risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Vitamins & Minerals: vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, fibre, copper.
Compared to other fruits, strawberries have a relatively low glycemic index. Eating them shouldn’t cause a big blood sugar spike.
Vitamins & Minerals: iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin E. vitamin C, manganese, folate (B9) and potassium
Bananas are easily come across when you travel and provide several nutrients including potassium, resistant starch and pectin. Bananas can have benefits for exercise, blood sugar control and digestive health.
Vitamins & Minerals: vitamin B6 and a good source of manganese, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, and copper
5 VEGETABLES YOU SHOULD EAT EVERYDAY
Raw onions are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. The phytochemicals in onions along with their vitamin C help improve immunity and contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar.
The longer corn is cooked, the higher the level of antioxidants like lutein, which combats blindness in older adults. For this reason, moderate consumption of whole-grain corn, such as popcorn or sweet corn, may well fit into a healthy diet.
Broccoli is full of cancer-fighting antioxidants and is a good course of protein. Eating one bunch of broccoli contains 17 grams of protein.
Low in fat and even lower in cholesterol, spinach is high in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
Kale leaves are chock full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of bad cholesterol.
8 – Stay Hydrated
Food may provide the nutrients your body needs but water is important to help transport them. Keeping hydrated will help you to perform at your highest level and prevent fatigue, muscle cramps or headaches.
When you do not drink enough water, your body receives mixed signal on hunger. You will eat less when you have adequate hydration.
Women: 1.5 – 2 Litres
Men: 2 – 2.5 Lites
Remember to drink more water when you drink alcohol. Alcohol causes cause you to excrete more water which can lead to dehydration.
9 – Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
Many alcoholic drinks are calorically very dense and packed with sugar. Not only does alcohol cause dehydration, studies have discovered drinking alcohol before exercise can inhibit the circulation of glucose, which the body uses for energy.
Here is the calorie intake of some common alcoholic drinks:
- Beer (1 pint) – 208 Calories
- Red wine (small glass) – 125 Calories
- White wine (small glass) – 120 Calories
- Gin & Tonic – 97 Calories
- Vodka & diet coke – 60 Calories
10 – Avoid Unnecessary Liquid Calories
Avoid liquid calories which are high in sugar and low in nutritional value. Here are 5 examples of drinks to avoid when travelling:
- Starbucks Salted Caramel Frappuccino – 550 Calories
- McDonalds Strawberry Milkshake – 380 Calories
- Beer (1 pint) – 208 Calories
- Coca-Cola (1 can) – 140 Calories
- Cappuccino (1 small cup) = 80 Calories
11 - Eat a Great Breakfast
A healthy breakfast is important for health and weight management. Skipping this morning meal can lead to over eating later in the day. Here are 5 healthy breakfasts to eat while travelling:
Oats are among the healthiest grain on earth. Health benefits include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and reduced risk of heart disease.
Eggs are a good source of quality protein and contain a list of essential nutrients. Although they are high in cholesterol, they do not raise cholesterol levels in most people.
- Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is more concentrated in protein than other yogurts therefore can reduce the feeling of hunger. Certain types of Greek yogurt are good sources of probiotics which help your gut stay healthy.
All types of fruit contain vitamins, potassium, fibre and are relatively low in calories. Pair fruit with eggs, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a well-balanced breakfast that will sustain you for hours.
Nuts are a great addition to breakfast because they are filling and help prevent weight gain. Although nuts are high in calories, they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well essential nutrients.
Our Current 2 Day Travel Diet
If we exercise in the morning and eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, we allow ourselves to enjoy the evening a little more. Remember we are not robots, find a balance that best suits you and your environment.
This is an example of our current diet while based in South Asia.
- Breakfast – 2 poached eggs on 2 pieces of brown toast and one small fruit salad bowl. Black tea or Milk Coffee no sugar
- Lunch – Vegetable noodle soup (Stuart adds chicken to veg noodle soup)
- Snack – Raw almonds (one handful)
- Dinner – Fresh fish, steamed white rice (portion the size of your hand) and salad.
White rice is a controversial food in nutrition circles. It is a simple carbohydrate which you can enjoy on occasion, you just don't want them to be your primary source of carbs. Avoiding white rice in Asia is close to impossible.
- Breakfast - Porridge (made with water not milk), half of a banana and 1 tablespoon of honey to sweeten. Black tea no sugar
- Lunch – Tofu salad with dressing
- Snack – 1 apple/4 slices of pineapple or watermelon
- Dinner – Tandoori chicken / grilled chicken, 1 small jacket potato (no butter or cheese) and steamed vegetables
- 2 small beers or 1 glass of white wine
Lets be realistic, are you really going to avoid alcohol everyday while travelling? Just remember to balance your overall calorie intake, exercise and follow a balanced diet.
PRINCIPLE 3 - EXERCISE
The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. In addition to a balanced diet, exercise plays an essential role in managing your weight and reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Exercise is not only about how many calories you can burn, it can be a great way to socialise, discover a new hobby, challenge yourself or lift your mood. Some of our personal travel highlights include playing volleyball with the locals on Copacabana beach, trekking the Himalayas in Nepal, surfing in Sri Lanka and HIIT workouts on secluded paradise islands.
Everything you can achieve in a gym can also be achieved on your next trip.
Here are 5 Tips to Exercising Anywhere
Tip 1 – Know Which Exercise Best Meets Your Personal Fitness Goals
Flexibility & Balance Exercises
- Exercises: Yoga Poses, Tai Chi Moves, stretching
- Workout: Abs, Posture, Core, Stability
Endurance & Aerobic (cardio)
- Exercises: Fast walking, jogging, running, stair steppers, swimming, cycling
- Workout: Endurance, Co-ordination, Fat Burning, Toning
Martial Arts / Boxing
- Exercises: Kicks, Punches, Elbows, Knees, Rolls
- Workout: Abs, Posture, Endurance, Co-ordination, Toning, Fat Burning
- Exercises: Push ups, Pull ups, Sit Ups, Rows
- Workout: Strength, Muscle Growth, Core, Power, Definition
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) & Circuits
- Exercises: Lunges, Burpees, Side Planks, Squats, Jumping Jacks, Climbers
- Workout: Lean Muscle, Strength, Core, Stability, Endurance, Cardio, Fat burning, Conditioning
Tip 2 – Do Not Use Time as an Excuse
We no longer need to spend hours gruelling at the gym to keep in shape. By increasing the intensity of your workout, you will reduce the time you need to exercise and burn more calories. You will continue to burn more calories throughout the day. High intensity interval workouts are perfect for short trips away or when time is limited.
5 Calorie Burning Exercises You Can Do Anywhere in 30 Minutes
Tip 3 – Find a Suitable Environment
Don’t use location as an excuse not to exercise. Your fitness routine can be carried out in any of these locations:
- Hotel room
- Hotel gym
- Roof top
- Sports clubs
- Path, quiet road or green area
- Swimming pool
Tip 4 - Use the Right Equipment
The tools which we use to exercise include a 2L plastic water bottle and a yoga mat. The yoga mat to exercise on and the water bottle to add weight to our fitness routine. Other great travel exercise tools include;
- Stretch & Flexibility: Yoga mat
- Cardio: Jump rope & gliding disks
- Core / Toning: Resistance bands and suspension trainers
- Strength / Definition: Push up handles and pull up bars
- Muscle: Sand bags & portable kettle bells
- Other: Backpacks and water bottles
Tip 5 – Join in with a Local Activity
Make exercise a part of the adventure! Join in with a local activity. Popular travel activities include rock climbing, yoga, martial arts, dance classes, beach games, water activities or even a game of golf.
Top 5 Calorie Burning Activities You Can Do Anywhere in 1 hour
800 – 1100 Calories – ROCK CLIMBING
700 – 1000 Calories – MARTIAL ARTS
700 – 900 Calories – STAND UP PADDLE (SUP)
600 – 700 Calories – RACKET SPORTS
550 – 800 Calories – MOUNTAIN BIKING
Here is an Example of our Weekly Exercise Routine
Adding variety to your workouts will prevent them from becoming ineffective. If you run at the same speed every day for 20 minutes, your body will eventually hit a plateau. Here is an example of our weekly travel exercise routine:
1 Hour Yoga workout (Download new asanas to practice or attend a class)
30 minute Run
15 Minute warm up run followed by 15 minutes of core HIIT
Samantha – Yoga
Stuart - Body weight or backpack workout
All over body HITT or circuit workout
WHY IS YOUR WELLBEING ALSO IMPORTANT?
Positive wellbeing is important because it helps us to function well and keeps us happy, content, engaged and contributes to our mental health. How often do we treat ourselves after a hard week of exercise? Rewarding ourselves is good for overall wellbeing.
Here are 6 Tips to Improve Your Personal Wellbeing
1 - Get Regular Sleep
Sleep deprivation increases hunger and slows down metabolism, making it more difficult to maintain or lose weight. Sleep also plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels.
2 - Wear High Factor Suncream
Applying a high factor sun cream reduces the risk of sunburn, skin cancer and premature ageing. Apply sun cream before exercising outside in a warm environment, including early morning workouts.
3 - Avoid Poor Sanitation
Sanitation and hygiene are lacking in some countries, and can be the cause of illness. Food poisoning will be a big set-back to your fitness routine. Read our tips on how to avoid getting sick while travelling.
4 - Enjoy Some Relaxation
Don’t burn yourself out, take some time to relax. Muscles can only repair when you rest, so include rest days in your fitness schedule.
5 - Make Time for Meditation
Those who practise meditation will benefit from reduced stress, as well as a number of other physical and mental health benefits. During meditation, the pituitary gland in our brain secretes endorphins that help lift our mood and create a positive effect on the whole body.
6 - Reward Yourself
Whether it’s a chocolate sundae or a few glasses of wine, make sure you reward yourself. Being able to eat some of those forbidden foods will help keep you motivated the rest of the week. Maybe consider treating yourself to another type of reward, such as a spa day or massage.
Did you like this post? Download our FREE Travel Fitness Guide for 133 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere!