Coming off of a super rough and challenging week leading up to my weightlifting meet a few weekends ago (read the recap here), one of the things that I had to REALLY strict about while I was on the road was my diet and keeping up with IIFYM. As much as I love exploring new places to eat, trying new things, staying out late, drinking pretty drinks, and stuffing my face with pizza late at night, keeping to IIFYM and my proscribed macros on the road was essential since being significantly overweight coming home would have put me in an even worse place than where I was the day before my meet. The amount of effort I went through to make sure I had everything I needed to be successful to stay on track with my macros was sort of intense. While my goal wasn’t to lose a ton of weight while on the road, the main objective was to stay close as I could to being 48/49kg so that I wouldn’t have to do anything insane once I got home. In any case, in experiencing all of this, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks that I did while traveling, and how I try to keep to the program as much as possible while I’m out on the road for work or for fun. Hitting your macros or making the IIFYM lifestyle can still work, it just requires a lot more planning! While I don’t let IIFYM consume me while I’m out on vacation for fun, I do try to keep a few of these in mind irrespective of where I am and/or what I’m eating!
Depending on what your goals are or how strict you’re looking to keep up IIFYM/macro planning on vacation or on the road, bringing your own anything will be better than having nothing. One thing I absolutely could not live without was my food scale. It might be a pain in the ass to bring with you, but if you’re sensitive about quantity of food, this is really the only way to get precise about what you’re eating. If you’re not all that strict about it, guesstimating usually works OK, but obviously isn’t accurate.
Leading up to my weightlifting meet, since I was incredibly cognizant of my sodium intake, I decided that my life would be a lot easier by bringing ALL of my own food. So for four days, I packed the following onto my carry-on:
- 1 whole Perfectly Plain rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, divided in 3 oz. bags. Since plain chicken would be impossible to find at a hotel-catered event, this was absolutely vital in getting me the necessary protein I needed without having to leave the hotel. I called ahead of time and requested a fridge in my room so that I could keep this and any of the other items I brought with me or bought at the local Whole Foods with me at all times. Portioning everything out into 3 oz made tracking super simple, especially when I was either in a hurry or trying to plan out the rest of my day.
- Two types of protein powders. When I was tired of the chicken option, or needing to get a little bit more protein in my breakfast, I threw in a few grams of protein powder during the day. When I travel, I typically bring my protein shaker and powder since I find protein to be the hardest item to keep track of since I love carbs and fats so much. Having heard about some weird horror stories when going through security at the airport (powder in a Ziploc bag definitely seems suspicious), I labelled my Ziploc bags with “Protein Powder” in case I got any questions.
- Other snacks/food items I brought:
- Protein bars (current favorites are Quest Bars and Rise bars!)
- Fruit that doesn’t require a fridge (apples, oranges, and pears are great since they stand up to some jumbling around while in transit)
- Single serving nut butter packets (Justin’s Nut Butter single serving packets are the best, I especially love the hazelnut and almond butters)
- Oatmeal packets (I brought the Banana Bread Quaker Weight Control oatmeal packets)
Fridge/Microwave Access & visit a grocery store!
Some hotels will be able to accommodate a request for a fridge and/or microwave in your room – be sure to check ahead of time! The fridge in my room was similar to one that I had in my dorm room my freshman year of college, but it was perfect for housing the cheese, deli meat, raspberries, and yogurt cups I had bought and brought back to my room. In scoping out the area around my hotel, Whole Foods wasn’t exactly around the corner, but these days, getting anywhere with apps like Uber make a trip to the grocery store possible. When I’m on vacation in Kauai, I’ll also take a trip to the local farmer’s market and pick up any local produce as well since it doubles as an experience and supporting local businesses. If I’m somewhere for awhile with access to a kitchen, I’ll also buy a carton of egg whites to keep on hand as another protein option.
Drink water, exercise regularly
I try to save a few plastic bottles along the way in my traveling by bringing my own water bottle with me. I track my water intake with the Waterlogged app to make sure I’m getting hydrated throughout the day. As you might know from work conferences, water availability can be limited, so I fill up when I can at the water machine.
I could get into an entire series of posts about working out while away from your home gym, but I ALWAYS exercise when I’m out on the road. Whether I’m on vacation or at a work event, using whatever facilities are available to me, or going to a local gym is something I make a point in doing. In getting out to a gym, it gets me out of the hotel for a little bit, meet some nice local folks who are only too happy to share their experience with a little visitor like myself, and it also is an opportunity to share my gym with that affiliate. If no gym’s available, then finding hotel workouts is something I’ve done a number of times and has left me gassed depending on how hard I’m pushing myself.
Enjoy what you can, you do you
One of the absolute hardest things to do while I was out at networking events for work was restrain myself from eating the passed finger foods, mini desserts, glasses of wine, and bar snacks. At some point, things got later on into the evening where I was feeling the hunger pains and finally caved into eating what I could: the vegetables from the crudite plate, the fruit garnishments from the desserts, and a few nuts and some deviled eggs from the bar snack area. While I couldn’t measure or portion out what I ate, I did the best I could with what I had in front of me. Throughout the week, I got a little bit of flack from people for not overindulging in the free booze, or not going out with everyone for deep dish pizza. While I certainly do enjoy all those things, my fitness goals were far more important to me, and no matter what IIFYM said I could drink or eat, it was something I simply I decided to opt out on.
On the flip side, I’ve definitely been on vacation where I’ve allowed myself the luxury of enjoying a fine dining meal, complete with appetizers and dessert. As long as I could plan out what I could eat leading up to that, eating out is something I prefer to enjoy with a clear conscience. While I’ve heard people of going as far as bringing their food scale with them to restaurants (not something I would recommend at a Michelin star restaurant), I’m a foodie at heart and enjoy the food and ambiance at the same time without the distraction of IIFYM. So really, you do you and do what you think is in your best interest when eating out.