A friend of mine recently came back from a week-long trip to Spain. He had a great time, expect for one thing – he gained 10lbs in 7 days. And as crazy as 1.5lbs/day may sound, it’s not an uncommon sight.
Many of us go on vacation, move very little, eat what our hearts desire, then wonder how we manage to pack on the pounds in such a short period of time.
It shouldn’t be that way. And, with the right strategies, it doesn’t have to be.
Traveling to different parts of the world can offer some of the most incredible experiences and memories of your lifetime, but it should never come at the mercy of your health (or weight).
In this post, I want to show you 10 easy ways to not only avoid getting fat while you travel, but to actually get fit and boost energy levels while you’re on vacation.
Let’s take a look…
1. Walk everywhere
“Not all who wander are a lost.” -J. R. R. Tolkien
Walking is one of the easiest and most agile ways of exploring a new city. It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new location in a very intimate way.
Armed with a map (or not), you can spend an entire day wandering through different streets and you’re bound to find things that you would’ve missed.
And here’s the cool part: walking also happens to be one of the most effective tools for shedding excess fat.
When you are walking – or simply moving at a pace that is no greater than 50-60% of your maximum heart rate – your body switches to an energy system that is designed to burn stored fat as fuel.
Even better, if you are visiting a place that has steep roads or generally lots of hills and valleys, you’re presented with an incredible opportunity to build lower body strength while exploring a city.
I recently took a trip to the beautiful country of Portugal with my girlfriend.
We explored every corner of every city we visited on foot.
We averaged about 15 km of walking – mostly up and down steep hills. Some days were more (up to 26km) and other days were less. But we got to see the city in a unique way.
You don’t have to put in that kind of work to see results. Even 5km per day should do the trick.
2. Rent a bike, see the city
If walking is not your thing, consider renting a bike.
A bicycle is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways of seeing the city. You can cover way more ground in much less time without overly fatiguing yourself. And you get a solid workout to boot.
Most bike rental places will give you a lock so you can stop to see different parts of the city at your disposal.
Unfortunately, not all cities are bike-friendly. Be aware of that.
Some European cities I’ve visited (like Barcelona in Spain or Amsterdam in Holland) were very bike friendly and it was possible to see much of the cities on rented bikes.
Other European cities (like Sintra in Portugal or Verona in Italy) were difficult to traverse by bike because the roads were too narrow and the streets were too congested.
If you can rent a bike, take advantage of it.
3. Avoid renting a car
If the trip does not call for it, avoid renting a car.
While it may be more convenient and time-efficient to get around from city to city, renting a car minimizes your overall movement and induces unnecessary stress (which you should be trying to get away from in the first place).
Throughout all my travels, I’ve never once rented a car.
I’ve used trains, shuttle buses, city metro systems, tuk-tuks, taxis, ferries, and boat taxis to get from place to place.
Not only did I save myself some money, I immersed myself in the local means of travel and created an environment for myself that required me to move in order to explore.
If you organize yourself properly, there are many ways to travel without renting a car.
4. Bring simple training tools
If there is one thing that I never forget to bring with me on my extended travels, it’s my Crossrope jump rope. I don’t always end up using it, but I like to have it available in case the times call for a workout.
Simple training tools give you the flexibility to build quick and effective workouts wherever you happen to find yourself (hotel rooms, airports, poolsides, cabins, wherever).
Here’s a little montage of some jump rope training I did in different cities across Costa Rica:
Press play to watch the video.
Two other training tools worth bringing are a resistance band and a lacrosse ball (for mobility work). Both can be thrown into your bag without adding much weight to your luggage.
Note: if you’re going to bring your Crossrope, make sure it’s packed inside your luggage and not your carry-on. Otherwise, security in Poland will think you’re bringing in nunchucks and take them away 🙁
5. Use intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective ways of burning fat while traveling as it does an excellent job of offsetting the negative effects of caloric splurging.
The easiest way to fast is to skip breakfast.
The longer you can hold off on breakfast, the greater the effect. What you’re aiming to do is create an extended no-eating period between your last meal the night before and your first meal the day of.
A 16 hour break is typically what you want to aim for (it’s that magic number you want to hit).
What IM effectively does is it helps regulate and boost hormones that are primed to burn fat and regulate metabolism and digestion.
6. Do a quick HIIT workout first thing in the morning
If you’re not moving around a lot while on vacation, use HIIT.
A quick high intensity interval workout can help boost your energy levels and provide the much-needed metabolism-boosting effects to counter the caloric-surplus you will be facing on a daily basis.
Bonus tip: for even better results, do your quick HIIT workout first thing in the morning just before you break your fast. Studies have shown that training in a fasted state can further boost the effects of the fast.
If you brought your training tools, use them to craft some killer HIIT workouts. If you packed light, then build your HIIT workouts around simple bodyweight exercises.
Looking for some simple and effective workouts to do while on vacation? Just choose from any of these Bloom to Fit workouts of the week.
7. Plan (and do) some fun activities
One of my favorite ways of staying active while traveling is signing up for cool adventure activities.
Mountain biking and kayaking in Costa Rica.
Surfing in Portugal.
Muay Thai training in Thailand.
Not only is this a good way to stay active, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in a new country in a unique way.
Some of my fondest traveling memories were from the activities I’ve done. When you’re on vacation, search out some cool activities to do.
8. Do mobility and flexibility work
One of my least favorite things about traveling is the constant sitting.
You really have to learn to love being uncomfortable.
Planes are often cramped and falling asleep can be tough. Trains (and cars) are a little bit better, but you’re still sitting down for extended periods at a time. Airports have long waiting lines.
Needless to say, you’ll get stiff from time to time and doing some simple stretches and mobility exercises can really help you offset some of this stiffness.
When you have time (particularly at airports and hotel rooms), make sure to stretch these areas (as they tend to get stiff most often): lower back, hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, thoracic spine, traps.
If you brought your lacrosse ball or mini foam roller, use either to relieve some of the tension from your muscles.
Looking for simple mobility exercises to use? Joel Runyon and his team from Impossible recently launched the MoveWell app which outlines some really useful mobility exercises. Definitely worth checking out.
9. Get a traveling backpack
If you’re used to dragging around luggage everywhere you go, consider changing it up for a traveling backpack.
My girlfriend and I got some sweet matching ones a few years ago and they’ve served us extremely well.
Not only is it a more efficient means of packing for your trip (less is more), but carrying the bag on your back offers extra resistance that boosts strength as you make your way from destination to destination.
Bonus tip: you can also use your backpack as a training tool. Here’s a simple little workout I did at the airport as we waited for our flight in Portugal.
When you’re choosing a traveling backpack, make sure that the bag is well-built and has proper straps to ensure your back is protected at all times.
10. Don’t use vacation as an excuse to eat (and drink) garbage
My absolute favorite thing about traveling is the food.
There is just something about food that connects you to the place you’re visiting. If you stick to the local foods, you really get a taste of what it’s like to be a local.
I never worry about splurging because I know I’ve done other things to offset some of that damage (see numbers 1 through 9).
But there’s a fine line here that should be followed here.
Vacation shouldn’t be used as an excuse to start eating garbage foods. That’s what can get you in trouble (which my friend in Spain learned the hard way).
Personally, I like letting loose from my typical 80/20 rule of eating.
When I travel, I bring it down to about 60/40 and I play around with the ratio on a daily basis depending on my level of activity.
Here are my simple nutrition tips to help you stay lean when you travel:
1. Stick to the local foods. You’ll not only get a more nutritious meal, but you’ll also get to experience the true essence of the place you’re visiting (while saving money at the same time).
2. The more you eat like crap, the more often you should fast.
Bonus tip: use coffee to as an intermittent fasting tool. It effectively suppresses your appetite and gives you a nice jolt of energy (perfect before HIIT workouts)
3. Drink lots of water. Especially if you’re doing a lot of walking, biking, or exploring in general.
4. Control your alcohol intake. This is a given, but a tough one to control. I don’t always tend to follow this rule as wine is my friend. 🙂
Again, just a few simple tips to be used at your own discretion.
So there you have it…
I’ve outlined 10 easy ways to avoid getting fat while you’re on vacation.
Which ones you use will really depend on where you’re traveling, how long you’re traveling for, and what kind of things you’ll be doing.
Traveling to different parts of the world can provide a real sense of excitement, exploration, and relaxation and it should be enjoyed to the absolute fullest.
It just shouldn’t leave you feeling (and looking) like crap when you get back home.
So use any combination of the 10 tips outlined in this post to make sure you come back stronger and leaner than when you left.
Before you leave…
I would love to know which of these tips you’re going to use on your next vacation and which tips you just can’t see yourself doing.
Leave your comments below!