NOTE: This is the written form of the #17: Being A Road Warrior – Managing Your Health & Body Goals AdapNation Podcast. If you prefer to hear vs read, or like to get info both ways to cement new information, then feel free to take a listen and Subscribe.
Been There, Done That & Have The Air Miles To Prove It!
If you’re in an external sales role, for example, you’ll know why this article needed to be written. Especially if your role covers a large geographic patch and you are expected to regularly engage with customers face to face, wherever they are. That’s been my life for the last eleven years. Check out the vid below – probably only 60% of the flight tickets over the last five years!
The hardest thing about being a ‘roaming’ sales guy/gal or customer-centric leader, is that you can’t build a consistent routine around your home and office, as you’re often away from both for every week.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some incredible perks too. No two days feeling the same, seeing great countries, cities and buildings, all expenses paid entertainment, dining and travel, connecting with so many great people, and for a while… the excitement of airports and flying.
But, you always pay a price for a benefit… and the roaming businessmen pays it with his wellbeing, weight and time with family.
What Makes Regular Business Travel So Difficult?
At it’s most basic level, being away from home, or even just travelling all day and getting home in the evening is a massive disrupter to any routine diet or training programme will expect from you. You can’t go to your regular gym, have the same breakfast, grab that salad from your local salad bar, prepare your own healthy dinner, get to bed at your regular time or even easily control your alcohol intake.
And if you can’t keep to a rigid plan, it’s likely you won’t even bother sign up to one, as you’ll assume you are destined to fail.
That’s what happened to me. Check out the photo’s below – one of which was in the British Airways Lounge waiting fro my next business flight.
But it’s more than that. I found the issues to be:
A. Sleep Deprivation – When you’re sleep deprived you crave sugary and carby foods. You’re ability to make sound food choices is impaired. It’s scientific fact that people with sleeping problems are more prone to having weight management issues. You’re sleep deprived because of jet lag, bedroom heat and discomfort, being over stimulated, alcohol, staying up too late with colleagues and working too late before hitting the sack.
B. Out of Your Routine & Habits – Being away from home is a surefire way to mess with a plan. The regularity of eating times, meal types, portion sizes, ingredient control, sleep times, getting to the gym is thrown out of whack. Plus, the novelty of being away from home with colleagues and clients leads to justification to get into ‘holiday-mode’.
C. Foreign & Unfamiliar Location – You might not speak the language. You don’t know your immediate surroundings for toffee. It’s effort to try and source a healthy restaurant, a supermarket or well-equipped gym. And when you’re already slammed from travel, work prep and business meetings, the extra ‘work’ to make smart choices is often a step too far.
D. Lots of Time on Planes, Trains, Taxis and Airports – This is a killer. It’s exhausting travelling, even though physically you are not clocking much in terms of movement. So you are fatigued and for quite often bored. So you do emails, or you eat – sometimes mindlessly doing both at the same time.
E. Inability to Make Good Food Choices – There are NEVER low-carb high-protein options on trains or airplanes. It’s always a bread-based thing, even in small convenience stores and many hotels. so what are you to do? You’re low on energy – so you end up succumbing to the sweets, sandwiches and high carb fare.
F. Travelling With Others – You may be trying to watch your weight, but it doesn’t mean you colleagues are, even if they really should! It’s not malicious – eating and drinking establishes social connection, and when you’re time poor, as a group you need to go with the flow or be seen as antisocial or awkward.
G. Team and/or Client Entertainment & Dining – You may have a plan to have a light dinner – but you’re colleagues have other plans! ‘Just one more for the road Steve’ – how many time have I heard that?! Lets face it, we plan our lives around our meals, and your colleagues will want a satisfying meal to reward them for a hard days work/travel. Plus, more often than not, you’re client meeting is an rapport-building expenses-paid dinner.
I’m No Saint – Epic Fails Were The Status Quo
I was that guy who always packed his gym gear, but seldom got to use it. I’d not commit to a diet at home, because I couldn’t control the situation when I travelled.
For all of the above reasons, it was really tough on me physically and mentally. Sleep was the biggest factor, as I was a night owl with work prep, which would start the night before said travel. So, when you start your trip having only got four hours sleep the night before, you know things are going to go down hill.
Plus, I am a sucker for Room Service! 🙈 Having a three course meal or big breakfast in your bedroom, perhaps in your pyjamas with some TV and a glass of something was my reward for turning my schedule upside down for the benefit of my employer.
With the best intentions, I’d have to pick up the convenience carby food on the go and take advantage of the all-you-can-eat business lounge buffets. And that would set me on a path of hungriness and blood sugar level management issues, meaning I was hungry all the time.
I’d often travel to European or International meeting the night before to be safe and avoid the inevitable travel issues. What would that mean? Dinner with your colleagues, as you talk through tomorrows important meetings, often with laptop on hand to make presentations changes.
And of course, when it came to client entertainment, only the best would do right? You’re trying to make an impression – to wine and dine. Especially if you’re doing big ticket deals. So, a salad was NOT an option. Three courses, rich and indulgent flavours, expensive wine, cheeky desserts. And if you’re client wanted was up for a few more drinks afterwards… d’oh!
That Said, You CAN Make It Work!
It’s not all doom and gloom. You absolutely can make it work, as I have done on both business trips and even holidays in 2017 and 2018.
I’m not gonna lie, it does require you to come off auto-pilot and make some decisions ahead of time, but nothing that I feel is over taxing.
And lets face it – the alternative is not something you can accept doing forever. Weight issues, lacking a physique, feeling beaten up and constantly fatigued and even illness comes from beating your body up and ignoring health and calories whilst travelling through the length of your career. There are many examples of all of this in the colleagues (and myself) that I’ve worked with over the last eleven years.
It has to start with you wanting to change. With you reaching a point where the current situation has to stop. And no, it doesn’t mean you quitting your job! It does however mean that you need to remind yourself of your WHY when faced with many obstacles and temptations.
Business Travel AND Managing your Body Composition & Health – Here’s How…
The below guidance from the wisdom of my 10+ years of business travel and the decades of experience from those around me who too have managed to make business travel work for them.
#1 – Anticipate The Failure Paths & Prep For Them
You know these obstacles and failure paths are coming. So lets not get tripped up knowingly.
- 🍫 SNACKS – Don’t get caught out. Bring your own snacks, such as protein bars and nuts from home. Maybe even a small 70% dark chocolate bar.
- 🕦 TIME – Anticipate that you will be time-poor. Think ahead on how you will manage breakfast or what to eat in between meetings. Don’t succumb to convenience, when you could have anticipated it.
- 🍔 EATING OUT & PEERS LOWER STANDARDS – It’s going to happen. Be prepared to stand your ground on where to eat, when to eat, your healthier meal choices, or how you will be skipping the beers. Remind yourself of how good you will feel if you can get through this trip on plan. And when you do know a big dinner is on the cards, save your calories for that meal. Check out the Dieting & Eating Out Article for more guidance.
- 😴 LITTLE SLEEP = BAD FOOD CHOICES – If you know you are more likely to make bad choices when you are sleep deprived, then at least you can be aware of this tendency, and prepare yourself to dig deeper and have higher willpower. But, as this is a very real thing, your best option is prioritising a good sleep. See below for more info as well as the Top 10 Sleeping Hacks Article. You’ll be better at controlling your cravings, plus you will perform better too!
- ✈ JET LAG – It’s going to happen, especially on the long haul trips. Linked to the above, sleep will be harder to nail down. Again, if you know this, you can take proactive steps to get your circadian rhythm into the local timezone by using some of the tools listed in Point 3.
#2 – Prioritise Getting to the Gym
- 👟 TAKE YOUR GYM GEAR! – Don’t stumble at the first hurdle of assuming failure upfront, and therefore not even bothering to pack a pair of trainers and shorts. When ou pack your gym gear, you are sending a message to yourself that you should go.
- 💪🏻 MAKE GYM HOTEL A MUST-HAVE CRITERIA – This is easy, especially when many busiensses have online travel portals that make this a hotel tick-box selection. The challenge is, many hotels claim to have a gym, but many times you can be disappointed by a hotel room converted to a ‘fitness centre’ with an old bike, treadmill and swiss ball. So, scroll through the pics. If they don’t show the gym or it’s just one naff picture – it’s probably going to be uninspiring.
- 🏢 BETTER STILL – ACCESS TO COMMERCIAL GYM – Previously, it used to wind me up when a hotel claimed to have a gym, only to find out when onsite that you need to get a pass, work down the road and check into a commercial gym. Inconvenient! However, think about it – this is a great option. Tons of equipment, good energy, good facilities and the best chance to have the workout you expect.
- ↘ LOWER WORKOUT EXPECTATIONS – Don’t try to commit to your exact workout plan. Due to the uncertainty of the gym setup, time restrictions, workout complexity and other factors, matching intensity, format and exercise selection is a tall order – you probably know that. Another reason to not bother right? NO! Instead, think about merely maintaining momentum, so you feel good and don’t fall off the wagon. That way, motivation is high when you return to crack on as your plan suggests. Maybe a 20min Cross Trainer is enough for this goal.
- 🔙 WORK BACKWARDS TO FIT IT IN – When do you arrive at your hotel? When is your first meeting? How much prep do you need to do? Are you planning to have breakfast? Quickly grasp your optimal agenda, and then make it a priority to fit in a little time in the gym, or some other physical exercise. We’re not talking about a two hour session. You can have a good workout in 30mins, plus account for the 15mins either side for getting dressed and showering. You can find one hour for something that’s a must-have…
#3 – Travel Tools & Supplements
Batman is never caught on the hop – he’s got an equipped utility belt. I say you should do the same, just skip the BAT-A-RANG maybe to avoid airport security issues. 😉
The biggest challenge to manage is your circadian rhythm – your natural body clock. It can be so disruptive to your life when it gets out of sync. So, the below tools mostly support that objective.
- 👓 BLUE LIGHT BLOCKING GLASSES – Bright light stimulates cortisol, that makes you alert and awake. At night, you don’t want that – whether travelling or not. So, to help make you tired and ready for a restful sleep, you want to drop the blue light out a couple hours before you hope to get to bed. The way I do this is wearing Blue Blocking glasses. A little funky with their yellow lenses – but they work wonders on up regulating melatonin and getting you sleepy.
- 💊 MAGNESIUM – Magnesium, especially when combined with zinc, is a known for its restorative benefits. When you are travelling lots and working hard it’s exhausting. Plus, Magnesium is a mild sleeping aid. So, an hour before bed, pop some magnesium tablets or better still spray some Magnesium topical spray on your skin. Check out this Magnesium Wellness Tip Blog for more info.
- ☀ VITAMIN D – As you can read in the Vitamin D – Vital ‘Sunshine’ Hormone Wellness Tip Article, Vitamin D is critical to good immune health, yet due to being fully clothed with less and less time outdoors, our bodies’ opportunity of producing Vitamin D is massively impaired. Most people are Vitamin D deficient, and there is no overdosing consequence. So, I would highly recommend a daily dose of 5000 IU Vitamin D when you are home, and especially when you are travelling.
- 🍡 GOOD MULTI-VITAMIN – By being specific with Magnesium and Vitamin D, you are addressing the most likely holes when travelling. But, to feel your best, I would ensure all your nutritional holes are plugged by supplementing with a good multi vitamin. As mentioned, your food choices will be limited and sub optimal, so this will help make sure you are nourished.
- 🎧 VALKEE HUMAN CHARGER – As mentioned above, blue light rises Cortisol which is the natural means by which the sun wakes us up and gets us alert and ready for the day. You may not have the luxury of time and weather to go for a morning stroll in the sunshine. If not, these Valkee earbuds are pretty cool. They emit blue light into your ear canals, where you brain has light receptors similar to that found in the eyes. It wakes you up and has a similar impact to staring at a SAD Lightbox or being outside in the sunshine. Plus, this tool comes with an app, that accounts for timezone differences, to help you ‘hack’ your circadian rhythm to the local timezone – great for addressing Jet Lag in both directions.
#4 – Rooms With Aircon All Year Round
🛌 INSOMNIA & HOT BEDROOMS LINKED – Studies have shown that simply placing a cooling cap on insomniacs improved their sleep duration and quality. You know how restless you can feel in summer or in a warm stuffy bedroom. Ideally, you want your bedroom at 16-18 degrees celsius to allow the body to stay at a comfortable evening temperature. So, it’s critically important to select hotels that have air conditioning. Most importantly – air conditioning that runs all year round. Many European hotels only turn on their air con in the summer months, which is ridiculous in my opinion!
#5 – Food Choice Principles
- 🥜 PLAN YOUR SNAKCS – Whilst snacks are not essential, meal timing might well be off and boredom leads to feeling peckish. Think about healthy snack options you can bring from home or buy at the airport. For me, that’s quality protein bars and nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios etc). This way, when you need a little something, you don’t need to go grab the Snickers bar off the trolley.
- 🥪 AVOID CRAPPY SANDWICHES – This is difficult when on the road, as much of the convenience food is bread or pastry-based. Gluten and the high GI in bread will mess with your blood sugar levels and hunger management, plus it’s universally inflammatory to the human gut. Again, this comes down to anticipating the failure paths. You know this is going to be the dominant food choice available. What can you do to have alternatives or abstain?
- ⛔ JUST SAY NO – YOU WON’T STARVE TO DEATH! – It’s liberating to have a longer term view – if there is no good options, just say no! Humans can go 20-40 days without food, so your ‘hunger’ is most likely just a craving and habit. Say no, and plan to have a good meal when there are better choices at the hotel or nearby restaurants
- 🍳 GOOD PROTEIN-RICH BREAKFAST – This is usually a meal you CAN control. Whilst when at home it’s a good tactic to avoid breakfast for morning cognitive improvements and calorie/hunger control, when travelling I’d much rather get a good high quality breakfast in before the day gets out of my hands, and perhaps skip lunch whilst I am onsite at a client’s office. Think Protein & Healthy Fats – Eggs, Cooked Meats, Avocado etc. Avoid the Pastries and Breads, and instead if you need carbs go for a hash or some potato-based option.
- 📱 DON’T EXPECT TO CALORIE COUNT – I am a big fan of calorie counting, as calories matter most when trying to manage your weight. If you don’t measure, you can’t deliberately manage. However, when travelling it’s just too difficult. Hopefully if you have been calorie counting at home, you have a sense and intuition for daily food volume, portion sizes and rough calorie levels of certain foods. Even if not, aim to have a good breakfast and dinner, choosing whole foods over processed stuff, having the snacks above as needed, and avoiding the calorie dense treats if you can. You won’t be perfect, but when you return home you can return to your tracking habits.
- 🍺 SKIP THE BEERS – Beers just happen naturally when travelling with your work colleagues. Beers are dangerous just because one often leads to 3+, you’ll have a worse sleep, you may be less effective in the morning with a heavy head, and you are more likely to make worse food choices. Plus, they are empty calories – 180-200 calories per pint. Instead, keep your evening meal to say one good glass of red wine. Full of antioxidants, tastes great, you drink wine slower and you’ll consume less calories.
- 🍞 SWERVE THE TABLE BREAD – Again, it’s the social aspect. Pretty much every restaurant serves up a plate of table bread. For all the above reasons on bread and gluten, anticipate the bread being served, and just say no. Focus instead on the conversation, and perhaps ask for some crudités or olives if you need a little something to not feel left out.
If You Care Enough, Plan Ahead
This really is the essence of this article. It’s not heard to institute some or all of the above ideas and guidance, but too often you will be lured in falling off plan for the chance of immediate gratification.
Anticipate your innate need for immediate satisfaction, especially when you feel you need a pick-me-up, and think about what is more important. The transient moment of pleasure, or the amazing feeling of having the body you desire and feeling fit and healthy. Thriving!
I know what I would choose in a calm and clear moment. And that is what I remind myself when confronted with choice to make a bad decision. That said – I WILL enjoy myself. I DO let my hair down and do not follow my rules all the time. But that’s ok, if you have the discipline to make it a rare one-off, versus it being the instigator of you completely falling off the wagon.
Is getting in shape and thriving important to you? If so, decide. You got this.
Follow this and other topic areas in our longer-form Articles series as they unfold, as well as the Wellness Tips for ways to improve your quality of life and health. Comment if you have questions or ideas.