The timing couldn’t be worse — after months of a strict diet and exercise regimen, your long-dormant upper abs have finally emerged… only for a work trip to upend your routine.
How are you supposed to eat right and work out away from your home gym and go-to meals?
Will your nascent abs disappear under an onslaught of fatty foods? This is a nightmare!
You could curse your boss for saddling you with jetlag, shitty hotel gyms, and fast food on your trip, or you could follow these 6 steps to surviving your trip with little to no fat gain.
1. Don’t Wave the White Flag
First things first: Your business trip is a challenge, not a vacation.
Vacations play an important role in your fitness journey, but this is not the time to kick back and relax. Instead, you need to gear up for the opportunity to test your mettle.
You’re on a business trip, which means you need to handle your business with fitness, too.
Don’t make the mistake of tossing in the towel early and writing off the trip as a vacation.
You’ll get the chance to celebrate your fitness progress, but this is not it.
2. Re-frame Your Mind
The most powerful strategy I’ve found for dealing with fitness during travel comes from one of my personal inspirations: natural bodybuilder Tom Venuto.
Venuto says that he approaches travel with an “counter defeatist” point of view.
So instead of worrying about how much fat he could possibly gain, Tom views his business trips as opportunities to get EVEN LEANER than he is before departing.
He challenges himself to push his discipline and determination to new levels.
I love this aggressive attitude because it sets you up for success as opposed to failure.
Worst case scenario — if you don’t get leaner, you’ll at least maintain your level of fitness.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s a victory!
3. Scout the Local Gyms
Planning ahead is a core tenant of Hack Your Fitness, and when you’re venturing out into the unknown, planning becomes even more important.
Take some time to research the hotels you’re staying at before you hit the road.
I’ve never seen a hotel gym with a proper squat rack, but that hasn’t stopped me from finding a CrossFit Box or Gold’s Gym nearby that offered day passes.
Unless your work trip is in the African jungle, there should be a viable gym option close to where you’re staying. You just have to make the effort to find it.
If you really are stranded, use the substitution matrix below to cobble together a workout in your hotel gym. I recommend this only if you insist on exercising without a proper gym nearby:
Free weights (barbells/dumbbells) are always preferred over machines.
Use machines only if there’s no other option, and as soon as your trip is over, get back to the gym and resume your compound lifts with barbells as soon as you can.
4. Find Healthy Eating Options
While you’re searching for gyms, look for grocery stores near your hotel where you can find some clean sources of protein and complex carbs.
Make sure the hotel has a mini fridge where you can store those foods once you find them.
If they don’t, you can always buy a styrofoam cooler and fill it up with ice from the hotel ice machine. Hey, nobody said hacking your fitness on the road would be glamorous!
When you go to buy foods, make sure to adhere to the next step religiously.
5. Mind Your Calorie Budget
Stay within your caloric budget no matter what.
Abiding by the law of energy balance has saved me time and again on the road when gyms are suboptimal and quality food choices are nowhere to be found.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a great tool for travel, and if you’ve done Hack Your Fitness for a while, you can easily adapt it for your travel needs.
Even if you’ve never done IF, it’s simple: if you don’t like your food options, just fast.
Don’t let months of progress go down the tubes because you feel like you need to eat the shitty airplane food they serve you during your flight.
A “Hacker Pack” can also save you when your food options are lacking.
On my last trip, I packed a handful of Quest bars and Epic meat bars for the flight.
Clean sources of protein are always the hardest to get your hands on while traveling, so do yourself a favor and have an emergency Hacker Pack of protein ready.
One Quest bar can tide you over until you find a source of lean protein.
6. Avoid Alcohol If Possible
This one is hard for me, too.
Whether I’m there for work or vacation, airport bars always tempt me to come and have a drink. (I also have a fear of flying that makes a cocktail even harder to resist.)
Nonetheless, as we’ve covered before, alcohol is detrimental to your fitness.
Try to drink sparingly and if you must, only do so after you’ve eaten so you don’t risk binging on late night room service or local food trucks on your walk back to the hotel.