As you read this, I’d be sitting in Kota, Rajasthan — attending my wife’s cousin’s three-day wedding. That’s three days of Kachoris (fried, stuffed dough-balls) and Baatis (fried, not-stuffed dough-balls) and Gulab jamuns (fried, dipped in sugar syrup, dough-balls). Not to mention, I’m the first son-in-law (in my wife’s generation of kids)— which means that bride & groom apart, I’ll be the centre of everyone’s love and attention. Which I wouldn’t have minded, had I not known that in Indian families, love is measured by the number of sweets you allow every aunt and uncle to, individually, stuff you with . Because god help you if you had jalebi (deep-fried flour pretzels dipped in sugar syrup) that choti-mami was offering but refused badi-mami because your tonsils were floating in sugar-syrup by then. I mean, wtf beta, don’t you love your badi-mami!
Shouts of ‘arre aapne toh kuch khaya hi nai damaad ji (but you haven’t had anything yet, dearest son-in-law)’ kept scaring me awake all through last night. And I’ve spent most of my waking hours today, planning how I’ll protect my fitness-interests, while still not pissing her relatives off.
Point is, wedding or not, travel can be this innocent looking thing that really screws up with your fitness goals. There is something romantic about travel that makes us take liberties with our fitness regime. We are (I am) much more prone to eating junk, to binge-drinking, and to generally being lethargic and just lying around in that super-comfy hotel bed all day, when we travel. And exercising on travel is, how do I say this, not a real thing.
Now, while I can’t change all that, I can help you mitigate the havoc that travel might wreak on your fitness-system. So let me give you my top fit-tricks that I’ve learnt after hundreds of failed experiments. Simple, practical, executable hacks that’ll go a long way in making your travels healthier — FITSHIT style.
First buy Water
Let’s start with the basics. I can’t over-state the importance of being hydrated when you travel. Fluid losses, especially if you’re in a sedentary office job otherwise, rise up a notch during travel. But even more importantly, you tend to lose track of your eating cycle as you travel (sometimes across time-zones). Your stomach (hunger) and your body clock (it’s dinner time) are no longer in sync. That’s the primary reason why we over-eat while travelling. And water can help solve that. Keep yourself full with water, and chances that you’ll have a sudden, irresistible food-craving are much lower.
Pro tip: The first thing I buy, as soon as I enter the airport, is a water-bottle. I’ve trained myself to do this even before my mind can go looking for some other sugary drink. Which brings us to point 2.
Find alternatives to sugary drinks
Sometimes (especially at airports), just water just ain’t enough. With so much soda and cold-coffees (which really is a euphemism for liquid dessert) and juices on offer, I always find myself gravitating towards one of these sugar-laden drinks. That’s part of the reason why I first buy water. It’s a good physical deterrent, once you already have a bottle in your hand. But when that doesn’t cut it, my next go-to drinks are — Vitamin water, black-coffee or diet-soda — in that order. I’ve spoken about diet-soda’s earlier, so do read this before you go binging on those. But they are a much, much lesser evil compared to that Starbucks Frappuccino. Oh and (I don’t get paid for this) below is my top recommendation for airport drinks. A little bit of sugar to help calm those cravings, great flavor, good nutrient profile and a nice bottle in which you can fill water later! # Win
(No) In-flight eating
This one was a HUGE quandary for me for the longest time. Especially on short-distance, early-morning flights. Should I have what they’re serving for breakfast in the flight (say at 7 am)? Or should I get off and eat at my usual time — 9am? Drowsy as I’d be, my decision-making capabilities at their weakest, I’d usually give in and eat on the flight. Only to get hungry again by 10am and eat again. Over time I noticed that, whenever I ate on flight, it ended up being an extra meal. That meal didn’t really replace any meal. It just got added — and that spelt disaster for my calorie count (given what shit they serve on most flights). So I made a rule. It’s called NO!
Now I don’t eat on flights. It just simplifies the entire process — I don’t think about it much because it’s an absolute rule. I just keep asking for water and that keeps me full (That’s also why I prefer aisle — I need to pee a lot. And if I’m not pee-ing white, then god help the poor air-hostess, ’cause I’m going to be asking for a lot more water).
To be completely honest, I still do give-in and eat on flights at times. Especially on >3-hour flights. But then it has to be a meal replacement. And the usual calorie counting rules apply — so no touching dessert. No canned juice either.
Pro-Tip: Have a large, milk-coffee (cappuccino, flat white) before the flight. It’ll help get you through the air-time.
Whey is the (only) way
One of the biggest problems during travel is hitting your macros (don’t know macros? Read this). Especially your protein requirement. Especially if you’re Indian. And are headed to an Indian, vegetarian wedding(crap, I am so screwed). You’ll either not get enough protein, or you’ll get it at KFC in a deep, batter-fried form. So, without a second’s hesitation, get an air-lock polybag, or an air-tight container, put no.of days of travel * 30gm of whey protein in it. Read this for a full low down on the pros & cons of having whey.
Pro Tip: Have it an hour before dinner. Protein takes work to digest. It’ll keep you full longer, and stop you from binging on that company-paid meal.
Snack. But your way.
This, perhaps, is the most innocent-looking fitness-evil ever made. It hides in plain sight, doesn’t ever fill you up, and piles on the calories without anyone noticing. Pure, salty, evil. And its powers just seem to double when you travel. That small bag of chips, some peanuts served on the flight, a few chicken nuggets or some fries with your diet coke — the list is endless. That they’re all around you — in vending machines, at cash counters, next to mannequins — doesn’t help. And for those hyper-actives (like me), who just need to be doing something at all times, stopping our hands from going for one more fry is just impossible (I know). After all these years I still falter on this one.
My best solution. If you can’t stop snacking, carry your own snack. I used to keep 2 protein bars in my bag all the time. It started with only travel but then I kept them at work too, to replace snacking between meals. Now that the wife too has jumped onto the fitness bandwagon, she makes a large batch of protein-powder-granola every weekend and I keep that. A bag of mixed nuts is a good option too.
Long story short — find a healthy, protein-rich snack that you like, and make it your travel buddy.
Alcohol — Damage control.
I’ve written a whole post on how to keep a check on your consumption and mitigate it’s fitness-effects. Do give it a read — everything I said there holds even more true during travel.
Walk (a lot)
You can’t exercise. But you can walk during travel. So don’t take that travelator at the airport — walk. Don’t call a cab to go to a restaurant just 1km away — walk. Don’t keep sitting around at the wedding and wait to get served. Walk — go to the counter — walk back — think about the 300 calorie cutlet you just ate — walk.
If you have a step counter, make sure you hit your walking goal on every trip. It’ll go a long way in mitigating the effects of the junk you might be binging on.
There. I’ve told you everything. Now it’s time for me to see if it really works. Those dough-balls are a not to be under-estimated.