Ten ways to handle diet and nutrition when you’re on the road.
In part one of this article series, I used the story of Lance Armstrong to illustrate the fact that sometimes, good nutrition is more about preparation and displaying adaptability than it is about the food.
In that article I gave a series of nutritional back-up strategies for the daily grind, strategies that included the Sunday Ritual, the Breakfast Ritual, and the "Have Others Cook For You."
In this article, we'll talk about Lance again. This time, I'll recount my brush with him during this past year's Tour de France. I'll use this example to discuss how you can learn how to prepare and display adaptability even when you're on the road.
Olympic Caliber Road Warriors
A few years back, I began working with a number of Canadian and US Olympic sports teams, helping to integrate my nutrition and supplement ideas with their training and travel schedules. Eager and optimistic to help perfect their meal plans, I rushed in with calorie calculations and special meal suggestions.
Wow, was I in for a rude awakening!
When I found out about the nutritional challenges Olympic (and Professional) athletes face during their competitive seasons, I had to revise my plan. Get this–while half their year is spent training at home, the other half is spent traveling the world competing. Now, if all accommodations offered the same creature comforts of the Olympic village, there'd no problem. But the Olympic village is only available once every 4 years. For the remainder of the time (or most of it), these athletes are sleeping and eating in accommodations that can only be described as abysmal–considering their status as the athletic elite.
One day they're in France sleeping on cots and waking up to strong European coffee and plain or chocolate filled croissants (no eggs, oats or fruit available at that hour in France). They spend the entire next day in a van driving to Germany, arriving to find pork dinner (and not lean pork either) with a side of kraut. And they repeat this over and over for 3-5 months at a time.
And how about living in a tent on a glacier? That's right, one team is taken to a remote glacier in a helicopter, dropped off at a base camp of tents, and spends 2 weeks at a time sleeping, eating and training in this remote locale. It's hard to hit a Subway for a low fat sandwich up there.
Think your nutritional challenges are too big to overcome? Think again.
Amateur Road Warriors
Compared to these Olympic caliber road warriors, most of us are just rank amateurs in the travel department; even myself. Sure, I've done my fair share of traveling and nowadays I'm away for at least a week of every month. But even I can't begin to imagine all the personal challenges that would arise from being on the road, parading through foreign countries for months at a time.
However, this summer I did get a taste of the real road warrior lifestyle. For 2 weeks in June and 3 weeks in July/August, I took to the road for some combined business and personal travel. I spent the first 2 weeks on the back of a Harley Davidson Fat Boy rumbling through the American Southwest, looking much more like a bonified road warrior than usual.
In addition to demonstrating my rugged good looks, this picture below shows my Fat Boy loaded down with 2 weeks worth of clothing and rations. Tucked in those saddlebags and backpacks were pounds of protein and veggie powders, homemade protein bars, and other nutritional tricks that I'll teach you today.
Dr. JB at The Grand Canyon
After my trip through the southwest, I spent a month back in Toronto before heading off for another adventure, this time a 3 week trip through France, Austria and Italy. During this second trip, my first to Europe, I got to spend about a week with the Tour de France. These two pictures below show just how close to the Tour I was.
US Postal Team (Blue) Clearly In Control
Leading Lance (Yellow) To Victory
Now, Europe presents a series of interesting challenges to the health conscious eater. Not only do you have the usual challenges associated with travel but you're also contending with cultural differences, language barriers and other unique situations. And these are just the challenges that a Tour de France spectator must face. Imagine what the athletes are going through. In fact, here's a list of the food that one of the top cycling teams brings to the Tour with them:
- 2200 bottles
- 1500 litres (3300 lbs) water
- 18 kg (40 lbs) sports drink A (400-450 L)
- 36 kg (80 lbs) sports drink B (500-600L)
- 6 kg (13 lbs) maltodextrins
- 450 concentrated carbohydrate drinks (450 x 100 ml)
- 630 gels
- 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) recovery drink (80 L)
- 1200 energy bars
- 1600 cans of soft drinks
- 100 packets of biscuits
- 40 boxes breakfast cereals
- 9 kg (20 lbs) wine gums
- 440 bread rolls
- 900 cakes
- 100 kg (220 lbs) fruit
And remember, in addition to these foods, the things like milk and meat are bought while on the road. That's a heck of a lot of energy. And a heck of a lot of planning.
In the end, as a result of my trip to Europe, I think I'm better equipped to understand exactly what my athletes are going through on the road. Sure, there's no question that I'm still an amateur road warrior. But pile my own road experiences on top of those of my individual clients who travel at least 50% of each week for business and my Olympians who travel for months on end without a trip home, and you get a lot of interesting tips for coping on the road. As a result, I've compiled a list of my top 10 favorite strategies for maintaining your nutritional discipline when traveling.
Strategy 1 – Location, Location, Location
If you're planning to take to the road for sport or for business, your first item of business is this–ensure that everything you need is in close proximity to where you'll be working or playing. Location is key. So let's say you're going to a week long conference at the Indiana Convention Centre and RCA Dome. Well first, get on the internet and find all the hotels nearest the Convention Centre.
Next, give these hotels a call to find out where the nearest grocery stores, restaurants and gyms are located. Pick the hotel with the best combination of nearby resources. This way, even if you don't get a rental car, you can easily walk or cab to your fitness and nutritional havens. Skip this strategy and you're giving yourself big excuses to skip workouts, miss meals, and make poor food selections while on the road.
Now, I can already hear some of you griping about how you don't plan your own business travel–you either use a travel agent or a corporate travel coordinator. So what? Either give your travel coordinator your preferred specifications, tell them you'll do the leg work yourself and then they can book it, or just book it yourself and get reimbursed later. Sure it might be a bigger hassle than you're accustomed to, but what ever gave you the idea this process would be easy? To rise above the masses, you've gotta invest more of yourself than the masses do.
Strategy 2 – The Penthouse Suite?
While you don't necessarily have to stay at a 5 star hotel or choose the penthouse suite, one great strategy for you road warriors is to choose a hotel chain that offers rooms/suites with kitchens or kitchenettes. If you know a nice kitchen set-up is waiting for you, you won't have much difficulty sticking to your meal plan. Just have your cabbie drop you at the grocery store on your way from the airport. Once you get to your hotel room you can rest assured that you'll be able to eat as well as when you're at home.
If you're looking for a good hotel chain, Marriott Residence Inns are a nice choice. You can find other hotels that meet your needs as well. I recommend Marriott because my clients have always had great experiences with them.
Now, what about price objections? Well, although it's more expensive to stay in one of these hotels, if you consider the fact that you'll be saving money by eating in your room instead of eating all your meals at restaurants, it often balances out in the end. Use this argument to sell the idea to your boss since he/she might not see the logic of it immediately.
Now, if you absolutely can't find or afford a hotel that has a kitchen or kitchenette, make sure that your hotel room has, at the very least, a refrigerator (most do). As long as you've got a refrigerator, you can stock your hotel room with good snacks. My athletes and I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, bottled water, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, regular cheese, natural peanut butter, whole grain breads and mixed nuts on our way into town and snack on these during our weeks on the road.
Strategy 3 – Can You Ship Egg Whites Next Day?
Here's a great strategy I picked up former client and current good friend, Austin. This guy is a bona fide road warrior himself and has a ton of great strategies for eating on the road.
Instead of going shopping when he gets to town, Austin actually ships his food and supplements via UPS or FedEx. He gets a medium sized cold shipping box, loads it up with ice, protein powders, fruits and veggies, mixed nuts, legumes, meat, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, cooking pans, utensils, shaker bottles and non-stick cooking spray and ships it to his hotel before leaving home.
By doing this, Austin doesn't need to worry about where grocery stores and restaurants are located. As soon as he arrives in town, he's good to go–nutritionally, at least. All he needs to find is a gym and he's set.
Again, although the shipping option may seem a bit pricey, you'll end up saving money on restaurants and the price may work out in the end.
Strategy 4 – The Big Cooler
Here's another strategy I picked up from my buddy Austin that helps ya' transport both luggage and groceries simultaneously for shorter trips that might last only a day or two.
Pick up a big cooler with an extendible handle and wheels (much like the wheeled luggage so popular nowadays), put a little partition down the middle, and you've got a ready made combined cooler/suitcase that can act as a carry-on. Put your cottage cheese on one side and your drawers on the other!
Strategy 5 – What's On The Menu?
If you decide to have others prepare your meals for you when on the road, make sure you use Strategy #1 above to find out where the restaurants nearest your hotel are located. Next, visit them on the web for downloadable menus. If they don't have downloadable menus, call them and ask them to send a menu over to your hotel for when you arrive. By having the restaurant menus, you'll know exactly what types of food you can have access to at all times. Also, when dining with a group, you'll be able to suggest places that conform to your nutritional requirements.
Strategy 6 – You Don't Have To Order From The Menu
Here's a hot tip that most people fail to realize. Most restaurants can easily provide a meal custom to your specifications even if it's not on the menu. So don't become a slave to the menu offerings. Ordering a specific number from the menu is almost always a recipe for disaster unless the menu is designed for "healthy eating" or whatever the restaurant is calling it. Most normal dishes have too much fat and too many carbohydrates for most body-conscious individuals.
Instead of ordering an item directly from the menu, either ask for an item that you like prepared without the sauces or high carbohydrate portions or simply ask for a portion of protein and a few servings of vegetables and fruit on the side. Remember, you're paying top dollar for your meal and you're about to tip your waitress. So don't feel bad asking them to meet your needs, uh, nutritionally, that is.
Strategy 7 – Protein and Energy Supplements
Using some combination of the strategies above, you should be able to ensure that good meal options are always around the corner. But sometimes when you're on the road it's impossible to slip back to your room or to get to a restaurant. For times like this, you'll need to consider a few supplement options.
Typically, when at home I only use 1-2 scoops of protein powder (Low-Carb Grow!) per day, but when on the road, I may use up to 6 scoops if necessary. Protein choices are both hard to come by and more expensive than other options. So increasing your dietary energy with protein powders is a good fall-back option.
Strategy 8 – Powdered Veggies
Normally, at home, I get about 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day. But when I'm on the road that amount is usually reduced to somewhere around 2-4 servings unless I'm very conscious of my intake.
Now, I don't use these products while at home since I prefer to get my micronutrients and fiber from fresh fruits. But if I'm on the road, these products help make up for the deficit I may be experiencing. An added bonus is that I seem to better digest my protein supplements when adding some Vege Greens to my protein shakes.
Strategy 9 – Homemade Bars
If you're not into drinking numerous protein shakes per day, another great option is to bring some homemade snacks with you. As discussed in Part 1 of this article, my good friend Dr. John Williams came up with these great recipes and they're a fantastic alternative to the mostly crappy, store bought, sugar laden, artificial ingredient containin', protein bars.
- 2 cups raw oat bran
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup egg whites
- 1 cup nonfat milk
- 2 cups chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein
- 1/2 cup granulated Splenda
- 5-6 scoops maltodextrin (180 grams)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
Mix it all together in a big bowl, then spread it out on a large nonstick cooking tray. Add some cooking spray, or wipe a little olive oil on the pan with a paper towel. Bake for 25-30 minutes @ 350 degrees. Cut into 10 pieces.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar)
- K/cal: 344
- Fat: 5 g (1s, 2.5m, 1.5p)
- Carbs: 54 g (Fiber: 7 g)
- Protein: 28 g
Blueberry Bran Muffins
- 1 cup oat bran
- 1/2 cup flax meal
- 4 scoops Metabolic Drive® Protein, flavor of your choice (I like chocolate with this recipe).
- 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup granulated Splenda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 jumbo egg whites
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 2/3 cup water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the egg whites, extract, and water. Stir until mixed well. Scoop into a muffin pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes. Makes 6 large muffins.
Macronutrient Profile (each muffin)
- K/cal: 176
- Fat: 4 g (1s, 1m, 2p)
- Carbs: 20g (4 fiber)
- Protein: 21 g
Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
- 2 scoops chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein
- 2 scoops flax meal (ground flax seeds)
- 4 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
Mix these together in a bowl, adding 1/2 cup water (or less if you can manage) and Splenda, to taste. At first, it will seem like it's not enough water, but keep stirring, and it will eventually become a moldable blob of dough that looks like what you would imagine it would on the way out of your body. Divide the mixture in half, and put it into separate pieces of plastic wrap, shaping into a bar within the wrap. It's easier to shape them by laying plastic wrap in one side of a small casserole dish, pressing the dough into the natural shape of the dish. Put the bars into the fridge, or store them in the freezer. You can eat them chilled, or even frozen, or you can eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon if you're feeling impatient.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar)
- K/cal: 380
- Fat: 23 g (5s, 11m, 7p)
- Carbs: 15 g (6 g fiber)
- Protein: 33 g
- 1/2 cup flax seed meal
- 5 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (blanched and raw)
- 5 scoops chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein
- 1/2 cup granulated Splenda
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
Nuke the cream cheese just until it's soft enough to mix. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl, and then mix in the rest, until it becomes a big glob. Resist the temptation to add more water; just keep stirring and it will mix. Press into 8x8 brownie pan, sprayed with Pam. Chill and cut into 5 pieces. Put each piece in plastic wrap and store in fridge or freezer. Like the other bars, these melt very easily; so don't keep them in your back pocket. Makes 5 bars.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar)
- K/cal: 270
- Fat: 14 g (4 s, 5m, 5p)
- Carbs: 12 g (3 fiber)
- Protein: 27 g
Banana Flax Loaf
- 4 scoops vanilla or chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein
- 1/2 cup flax meal
- 1/2 cup granulated Splenda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 oz chopped walnuts
- 1 jumbo whole egg + 1 egg white, beaten 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 _ teaspoons banana extract
- 1/2 cup water
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Stir all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the oil, water, eggs, and banana extract and mix well. Coat a 4X8-inch casserole dish with cooking spray, and pour-in the mixture. Sprinkle some whole flax seeds over the top and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees (don't over bake or it will become dry). Makes 4 servings.
Macronutrient Profile (each serving)
- K/cal: 350
- Fat: 21 g (3s, 8.5m, 8.5p)
- Carbs: 13 g (4 fiber)
- Protein: 30g
Also, as mentioned in Part 1 of this article, if you like these recipes and are "hungry" for more, rumor has it that Dr. Williams is teaming up with a certain Dr. JB to release a butt kicking recipe book around January 2005. Be patient, though. If my sources are accurate, they're taking their time to make sure it's the best bodybuilding and health recipe book currently available on the market.
Strategy 10 – Sleep Pills
Jet lag, time zone changes, unfamiliar sleeping environments, poor nutrition, altered exercise habits, and the stress associated with big business meetings or competitions can all really impair your ability to get adequate rest when on the road.
Following the previous nine steps will help you take care of your nutritional intake. Making sure not to skip workouts will also help. So will the addition of Biotest's ZMA supplement. While research hasn't provided direct evidence to support a relationship between zinc and/or magnesium status and sleep quality, most ZMA users find dramatically improved sleep quality when taking this supplement. Three capsules before bed should do the trick.
As discussed in part 1 of this article series, if you're going to be successful in maintaining a good nutritional plan, no matter what the circumstances, you're going to have to plan for the unplanned and display adaptability to all circumstances. The guidelines included in this article should help get you thinking about how to become a successful road warrior. But I can't forecast all of your unique challenges. Either you'll have to adapt to them on your own or, if you need some guidance, you can enroll in my fully supported monthly coaching program.