TRAVEL 101 WITH MIKE D.: STICKING WITH YOUR NUTRITION ON THE GO

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During this challenge, there's no doubt that you have had to adjust your eating habits, which is kind of the point! Even if you are a past challenge participant, more than likely you have slipped a little bit since then and this challenge is a great way to get back on track.

One of the hardest aspects of staying 'compliant' in your nutrition is when you are traveling and away from home. On your home field, you're always more comfortable, more confident and can anticipate the day ahead of you. You know where the grocery stores are, you know what's in your pantry and you know the closest restaurant that has good options in a pinch.

In 2014, I was on over 70 flights and traveled over 75,000 miles. Trust me, those are not 'badges of honor' but it did give me the opportunity to learn a few tricks about maintaining proper nutrition while on the road. This was no more critical than during The Standard (a 60-day challenge during this past fall at the LAB). The Standard is a great way to change your perspective on nutrition and performance, as is this challenge you are in currently.

Without question, the most important tool in staying compliant while traveling is PLANNING. 

'By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.' - Benjamin Franklin

If you can plan ahead and think through your trip, you have a very good chance of feeling great when you get home and seeing continued results in your nutrition and performance...instead of feeling like you just took 10 steps backward. And once you get the hang of it, it can become the norm instead of a burden; it just takes some extra thought and preparation. 

Here are a few thoughts, broke into a few categories:

SNACKS/BARS

More than likely, these are going to be your 'best friends', as they are all really portable, convenient and quick to eat. The times that these are most important will probably be the times that you are most tempted to just grab something you know isn't in your nutrition plan. Like the times in the airport when you are wandering through the terminal with time to kill, or the times on that road trip that you stop for gas and are wandering through Buc-ee's wonderland in a trance looking at all the pretty sugar (if you don't know Buc-ee's, you're missing out!). 

Make sure to PLAN ahead and have them with you when you leave; do not count on being able to purchase them when you arrive somewhere. About 99% (ok, maybe 100%) of the bars that you'll find in store, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc, are not compliant. Below are few suggestions that are all easy to carry, contain compliant ingredients, and provide some variety in flavor.

Compliant Choices:

  • Primal Pacs - available at the LAB
  • Epic Bars  
  • AMRAP Bars - available at the LAB (contain Honey)
  • Steve's PaleoGoods - available at the LAB (some contain Honey)
  • LARABAR - (NOT ALL FLAVORS are compliant; also, while compliant, they are something I would recommend using in moderation)
  • Baby food pouches (even organic are easily found in grocery stores but be careful about packing these as carry-ons. Sometimes I've gotten them through security, and sometimes they call them 'liquids')
  • Trail Mix – homemade – take a few minutes in the bulk section at Central Market/Whole Foods prior to your trip and put together a mix that contains some nuts and dried fruit. Be sure to look at the ingredients so that there is not any added sugar or ingredients in there, i.e., the raisins ingredients should only be ‘raisins’. This is a great option to have handy, but use it in moderation, like LARABARs)

When I travel, I try to make sure I have plenty of these on me, PLANNING ahead to anticipate the times of day that I'll be getting hungry, on a plane, or tied up. Prior to your trip, sit down for a minute and think about your itinerary, where you're going, timing of flights, etc. Try to anticipate all the factors that may be thrown at you that could possibly throw you off on your nutrition.

RESTAURANTS

When you're out of your element and on the road, you can't count on having access to your favorite local restaurant and being familiar with their menu and how to modify it to meet your guidelines. Make sure that you take into consideration what the dish and ingredients are cooked in, i.e. heavy butter or oil, and make the needed changes. For instance, a great meal at a steakhouse would be an 8-12 oz steak (no butter topping or other 'sauces'), a dry baked sweet potato, a side of steamed vegetables (make sure they are steamed, no butter or oil), and/or a side salad (no cheese, no croutons, and ask for oil & vinegar on the side - mix that with some lemon and salt and pepper for the dressing). 

A few restaurants that have some great options and that are pretty accessible in most areas are:

  • Jason's Deli *Organic meat and vegetables throughout their menu
    • Good Menu Options:
      • Salad bar, also can add a serving of grilled chicken
      • 'Nutty Mixed-up Salad' - no feta, dressing on the side
  • Chipotle *Meat with no antibiotics, some locally sourced ingredients
    • Good Menu Options:
      • Salad or Bowl; meat, veggies (double up on these), pico de gallo, salsa (not the corn salsa), guacamole. No rice, no beans.
  • Freebirds *Free-range steak
    • Good Menu Options:
      • Salad or Bowl; meat, veggies, pico, salsa, avocado, roasted garlic
  • Season's 52 *Local, fresh, organic ingredients; they aren't everywhere, so look in advance to see if they are where you're going. It's a little pricier, but is a great option for a nice dinner in place of a traditional heavy steakhouse or italian dinner. 
    • Lots of good menu options, and the menu changes occasionally depending on availability and seasonality of ingredients. 

GROCERY STORES

While this wouldn't be my first choice when on the road, there are plenty of times that I have dropped into a Whole Foods (WF) to grab lunch in their cafe area. This can be a great way to avoid a typical fast food lunch that's going to have you in a sluggish coma in an hour. They aren't everywhere or even in every city, but they are probably the most wide-spread brand that is a good choice in this category. In the cafe/deli area, WF lists all the ingredients. This is key, since there are many dishes that have ingredients like soy, wheat, corn, etc. that are not really detectable by looking at it or even tasting it.

Also at grocery stores, if you are in bind and need a meal, if you can find Applegate or Boar's Head deli meat. These are both compliant and are a good option for getting some whole food protein. Add to this a baby pouch or two of vegetables and a piece of fresh fruit from the produce section, and you're good to go.

ADDITIONAL POINTERS:

*These don't fit into a category above, but are worth mentioning:

  • Hydration: make sure to increase your normal water intake, especially when flying. The changes in cabin pressure dehydrate you faster than normal without you feeling it until it's too late
  • Pills: Don't forget to pack enough Omega 3s, Magnesium, and Vitamin D for your trip. If traveling internationally, it is just a suggestion to take them in the original bottle in case your bag is searched entering a country. You don't want to give anyone a reason to escort you to a back room while they figure out if that little black pill really is Omega-3!

All of this may seem like a lot of extra work and time, but if you can stick to these choices, it will become second nature; remember, it is always work to break old habits and create new ones.

- Mike D.