A Complete Fitness & Meal Plan for Travelers: The Wanderlust Workout

Diet and exercise are very important to me. Actually, you could say that I am obsessed with it. I almost thought better of spending a year on the road because I knew my beloved gym would not fit into my suitcase. So, in the honor of wanderlust, I searched high and low, finally arriving to what I think is the best and simplest method for staying fit on the road.

Here’s my guide to getting a gym-quality training program, some solid cardio action, and a squeaky-clean meal plan – all while you travel!

Meal Plan for Travelers

I am convinced that the best way to stay lean and increase your metabolism is to eat smaller meals, low in fat and carbs, more often throughout the day. Note that I say lower in fat and carbs; I am not suggesting that you cut them out entirely!

Please note that this meal plan is for traveling only. It’s a short-term travel-only diet that I have geared so you can avoid the vacation weight gain, increase your energy level, and actually manage this on the road. I have also structured the meals earlier in the day to be lower in calories, so you can go out and party at night – you are on vacation after all.

These are foods that you can either bring with you or readily find on the road.

Proteins

  • Powder: Don’t bring the entire 2lb protein container! Dump enough in a good zip-top freezer bag and store in your suitcase (either bring a small funnel or plan to use a rolled-up piece of paper). Make sure it is a powder that you really like, because on the road you don’t have a fancy blender and extra stuff to add. You will add one serving to a bottle of water, shake well, and – bon appetit!
  • Bars: Make sure these are under 200 calories and as low in carbs as possible. I am not a huge fan of the protein bars because I think most of them are glorified Snickers or Milky Ways, but if you can’t stomach the protein powder, these are ok.
  • Tuna: Now you can get a ton of different flavors of tuna, or the standby plain option, in easy to travel and open foil pouches. Don’t forget to bring a plastic fork or spoon for those times when you don’t have silverware available.

Fruits:

Eat what you find locally, but especially good daily are:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pears

Keep in mind that if you are in a developing country where the water is not safe to drink, then be careful with fruit.  A good rule of thumb is only eat fruit that you can peel (like the above).  You want to eat healthy, but you also want to avoid being sick for a few days.

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Restaurants:

These are things that you can usually get in a typical restaurant. By all means, enjoy the local foods and don’t be hesitant to have one great “cheat” meal per day, just don’t go overboard.

  • Egg white and veggie omelet: order without cheese!
  • Salad with Chicken: Be sure to order the dressing on the side, and skip any cheeses (goat and feta are ok) or added carbs like croutons.
  • Grilled chicken breast with green veggies: I have almost never had a difficult time getting chicken and broccoli in a restaurant – especially if you say this: “I am so sorry, but I am about to be a huge pain in the ass. I have a very restricted diet, would it be alright for the chef to just cook me a piece of grilled chicken and add some steamed veggies on the side?” It works every time!

The Meal Plan:

  • Protein – This is before your workout. This gives your body something to build muscle with, and an energy source that is not fast-burning sugar – we want to burn the sugar you already have in your body before it turns to fat! If you are feeling really sluggish, have half a banana if you are a girl – guys you can have the whole thing (sorry ladies). I also suggest having a nice strong cup of coffee pre-workout. This will give you an energy boost!
  • Egg white omelet with veggies – This is after your workout – within the hour please! Find yourself a nice breakfast spot and order the vegetarian omelet with no cheese and no yolks. Also, if you want the toast, make sure it is whole grain and dry.
  • Salad with chicken (or other lean protein) – If you can score some dark leafy greens here, all the better. The best is a spinach salad with the dressing on the side and add chicken.
  • Protein – If you are feeling sluggish in the afternoon, its okay to add an apple or pear to this snack – just be sure to take the protein in too! You don’t want to eat the carb all by its lonesome.
  • Grilled chicken and steamed veggies – When ordering this, use the “pain in the ass” technique I mention earlier. This could also be the time where you party and have a small cheat meal experience.
  • Protein – This is optional – for those of you really training hard, and if you are feeling hungry. Nothing but protein though, no fruit or carbs – and it is okay to have this before bed. Keeps your metabolism going all night!

Pretty simple, right? I eat like this every day – but with some changes when I actually have my own kitchen and grocery store. Also, if you are traveling light, the protein can be very hard to come by, just remember to do your best and follow these guidelines:

  • Eat whole foods
  • Eat fresh foods
  • Eat slowly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t eat carbs without protein
  • Stop eating when you are full!

Fitness Plan for Travelers

What you will need for your workouts:

  • Yoga mat or towel
  • Good quality tension bands
  • Jump rope
  • Heart rate monitor (optional)
  • An insatiable appetite for energy

Cardio:

>> Twice per week: 30–50 minutes of cardio

I am a cardio junkie. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts me just as much as it hurts you, but there is nothing like the feeling you have when you finish! I prefer to workout in the morning because cardio gives me energy to keep going all day – and I feel less guilty about my evening wine intake.

I love the stair climber, treadmill, and spin bike. Truthfully, they are my preferred methods of cardio injection, but while traveling they are not an option. With cardio it’s good to mix it up – don’t stick to the same thing all the time, so you keep your body guessing, but choose the methods that suit you best. Here are some ways to raise your heart rate on the road.

  • Jump Rope: If you are a master jump roper and can hop for 30 minutes straight – good for you. If you are like the rest of us, try my way. I jump for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, jump for 30 seconds – and so on. This is a great way to get your pre-strength training warm-up in. As your condition improves, you can increase your intervals to 45 and 60 seconds.
  • Jog: This you can do anywhere. I love a good run through the park, but I have even jogged through the Center of Athens and Times Square – yes, I was that guy. (The only place I will not jog is on the Las Vegas Strip. That is just too cruel to do to the people still awake from the night before.) When I travel, this is my main source of cardio because all you need is a good pair of shoes and an iPod. I like to get a good one-hour jog in every week.
  • Intervals: If you are not a great jogger, don’t fear; try doing some interval training instead. Get yourself a heart rate monitor and jog until you reach a high zone 3, walk until you reach a low zone 2, jog to a zone 4, walk to a low zone 2, and repeat. You need a heart rate monitor to know your zones and properly check them, but if you really don’t want to buy one, just work out a walk, jog combo that gets your heart beating fast enough so talking to the guy next to you is a little difficult, and then bring it back down to just a slightly increased breathing pace – over and over and over.
  • Stairs: Yes, you can create your own stair climber! Just look around the town you have traveled to, or use the stairwell in your hotel. There is a great set of stairs in Central Park, I have used an old winery staircase in Santorini – and while the set up to the Athens Acropolis is a little crowded, I have found several good places around town. This workout is simple, walk up, and run down. This is also great interval training, fat burning, and butt shaping. If you get good – start running up too!
  • Hike, walk, run: Take advantage of the local trails and geological features to not only get a good view, but also a good workout. You can jog with your camera!

Strength Training Workout:

>> Three times per week, but be sure to allow a full day of rest between. Do 3 sets, 10–15 reps each.

This is a good total body-toning program that can be done in a fairly short period of time. Whether you haven’t worked out in a while or you want to maintain your current physique and like a little exercise pick-me-up in the morning, this will work well for you.

  • Lunges – Start with your feet together and then step forward into a lunge, then back to starting position. Keep the front knee and back knee at 90-degree angles and the weight in your heels.
  • Squats – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body like you are attempting to sit, until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Make sure you keep the weight in your heels and do not let your knees extend past your toes.
  • Overhead Back Pull – Secure the door anchor at the top of the door and attach each end of the band to a handle. Sit on the floor, about four feet away and facing the door. Keep your chest up and back straight as you pull each handle until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Standing Row – Secure the anchor in the door at chest height and each end of the bands to a handle. Stand four feet away and face the door. Keep your chest up and back straight as you use your band of choice and pull the handles to your chest. Keep your arms tight to your body and parallel to the floor.
  • Shoulder Press – Attach each end of the band to a handle and stand on the band with feet shoulder width apart. Bend your arms at right angles and raise the handles up until your arms are parallel to the floor – this is your starting position. Now, raise the handles above your head, straightening your arms, and repeat. Be sure to keep your knees bent slightly, head and back straight.
  • Standing Lateral Raise – Attach each end of the band to a handle and stand on the band with feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms out to your sides leading with your elbows. Be sure to keep your knees bent slightly, head and back straight.
  • Push-ups – (Yes, I am explaining how to do a push-up.) Lie facing the floor, balancing on your toes (or knees) and hands. Keep your hands wider than your shoulders and your body in a straight line – don’t stick your butt in the air. I also like to do these on the seat of a chair from a standing position. Slowly lower your body as far to the chair/floor as you can, and slowly rise back up.
  • Standing Bicep Curl – Attach each end of the band to a handle and stand on the band with feet shoulder width apart. With your palms up and arms tight to your body, bend your arms at the elbows and raise the handles to chest height.
  • Kneeling Triceps Extension – Secure the anchor to the top of the door with each end of the band attached to a handle. Kneel on the floor about a foot away from the door with your head and back straight. Keeping your elbows in start with your forearms parallel to the floor and pull the handles down until your arms are straight.
  • High Wood Chop – Secure the anchor at the top of the door and both ends of the band to one handle. Stand with the side of your body to the door, about two feet away. Gripping the handle with both hands pull it from over your head to the ground diagonally across your body. Lead with the arm furthest from the door. Try to keep your arms straight with elbows slightly bent.
  • Low Wood Chop – Secure the anchor at the bottom of the door and both ends of the band to one handle. Stand with the side of your body to the door, about two feet away. Gripping the handle with both hands pull it from knee level up to your chin, diagonally across your body. Lead with the arm furthest from the door. Try to keep your arms straight with elbows slightly bent.

Example of a Workout Schedule for Travelers:

  • Day One: Strength Train
  • Day Two: Cardio
  • Day Three: Strength Train
  • Day Four: Cardio
  • Day Five: Strength Train
  • Day Six: Off
  • Day Seven: Off

Following this advice while you travel will help deter that dreaded vacation weight, and the workout program is something that you can continue when you return from your trip. Don’t forget the basics when it comes to the meal plan portion of this article, but by all means, indulge yourself a little.

Don’t forget – you are on vacation!

For more on staying healthy on the road, read:

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photo credits: can of tuna by kennymatic, apples by JoelZimmer, chicken salad by avlxyz, yoga by lululemon athletica, running by Ed Yourdon, all others provided by Rachel Corrine and may not be used without permission

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Leave a Comment

  • Laurie Litwinson said at 2012-05-05T00:53:03+0000: I like the all gelato diet in Italy....
  • said at 2012-05-04T16:41:57+0000: This advice is fine if you are traveling in places like New York, London, Toronto, etc. But I've been to plenty of out-of-the way places where ordering an egg white and veggie omelet just would not fly. I am surprised to find an article like this on this web site. It seems better suited for the cruise crowd.
  • Claudia Leão Fracalanza said at 2012-05-05T17:14:19+0000: How can you order chicken breast with veggies on the side worldwide? I believe that experiencing new tastes is such an important part of the journey..
  • Frances Blackburn said at 2012-05-04T18:36:38+0000: Ask for an egg white omelette if you want to get a lot of blank looks in a restaurant in South America. Dressing here is olive oil and vinegar and is always "on the side". In some places a salad isn't a really good idea.
  • Stacey Luman Geddie said at 2012-05-04T14:21:14+0000: Great article and one I will keep for the future.

Older comments on A Complete Fitness & Meal Plan for Travelers: The Wanderlust Workout

crazyspingirl
27 January 2010

Two of my favorite things! Working out & traveling. Good tips to KIR (keep it real) on the road.

whygo
27 January 2010

And what do you suggest we do with the other 1/2 of the banana? :)

Metalchick
29 January 2010

This is an awesome post. I too find it a struggle to stay fit while on the road, especially in European countries where the food is soo yummy. Awesome! Thanks!

Most places I stay in have refrigerators somewhere on the property if not in the rooms. For out of control portions I will ask for the waiter to get me a take away bag before the meal begins and portion it correctly. The rest I will take back to my hotel or hostel and have leftovers. Works every time to keep those portions in control.