Whether you are a bodybuilder or an office worker, sometimes you will need to travel and make the best out of a hostile situation regarding your diet. Not all hotel rooms have a microwave; not all restaurants offer chicken breast and unfortunately you will sometimes have to go long hours without eating. Here I will discuss some ways to eat properly away from our cozy homes. Remember that as a general rule of thumb, you will want to eat your protein requirements first, and then eat the rest of your macros. This means to always try and order protein rich food at restaurants, always carry protein bars on you when traveling and being mindful of this aspect.
Depending on the duration of your stay, you will need to bring a couple of things (if you can). If you are flying in, you will have fewer options unless you are willing to go buy the items listed below. Have a look at the apparatus section, and try to get as many items as possible. It shouldn’t be a big problem if you are driving and space isn’t an issue.
George Foreman grill – Useful for just about anything. I use this even at home. Great during the winter to replace the BBQ grill outside. The advantage of cooking your meat on it is the fat dipping tray, which will make sure you eat as lean as possible with your cut of meat.
Microwave – Included in most hotel rooms nowadays. Great for reheating meals you’ve previously cooked with your grill, making eggs in the morning, making instant oatmeal packs in the morning…
Refrigerator – Goes without saying. If you don’t have one, you can get away for a night or two by using the tub and filling it with ice to keep your meat semi-frozen. If you don’t and it isn’t an option, you will most likely have to make more frequent stop at the grocery store. Not the best option, but a refrigerator is a very nice tool to have.
Portable Electric Stove – Please don’t blow yourself up by using the propane one made for camping. Electric stove can be bought for cheap (around 50$) and be used with any skillet. This combined with a fridge and you can feel just like your home. Plus, it is much smaller than a foreman grill (regular size, not the Panini ones) and you can use your home skillets too.
Now leaving the comfort of your hotel room, if you are traveling a lot by car or train, you will need to adapt by prepacking your food. Again, the duration of travel/work will be of huge importance. For instance, if you are traveling for 10 hours, you can likely get away with a big lunch bag filled with icepacks, and get some nuts, fruits, protein shakes, cans of tuna, sandwiches… and a thermos for some ground beef or other warm meal. Should you be in there for more than this, for instance if you are on a road trip for consecutive days, you will need to adjust your strategies. An electric cooler would definitely be a good option, and so would a small propane stove that you could make meals on. This way you can carry just about everything in your cooler and stop to make your meals on the road.
Of course, I mentioned transportation and didn’t touch about flying. Why? Because those traveling by air are in for a tough ride. Most airports don’t carry much healthy food without their ridiculous price tags, and you cannot carry everything like you can when using a vehicle (Ice pack, liquids, etc.). What I suggest is always carry protein bars, protein powder in a shaker (only need to buy water when you passed security) and some nuts, dried fruits, homemade sandwiches (without mayo please), hard boiled eggs, … It is tougher, but doable.
Restaurants (Eating out)
Now, onto the good stuff. A lot of you will need to go to restaurants at some points. Be it a business meal, family meal, or just because you want to, most of you will frequent restaurants during the week. When on diet, I don’t recommend going to the restaurant at all. This means that if you are home during a given week, and don’t have any good reasons to go to the restaurant, you shouldn’t be going. Of course we all have different priorities, but if you are serious about your diet and your goals you need to put as much chances on your side as possible. Your cheat meal doesn’t count in there obviously. I cannot go through all the restaurants, but below are the most common ones and their diet friendly choices.
Subway – Always go double meat there. Try to put as many veggies as it can hold. If you are on a cut, go for a 6 inches. On a bulk, choose the foot long. Remember, green veggies are free calories so use this at your advantage. Recommended are: grilled chicken, tuna or steak and cheese. Delis are NOT meat.
McDonald’s and other fast foods chains – Grilled chicken wrap. Order without sauce and no fries. Don’t need to have that in your face if you’re not about to eat them. Remove the temptation from the source. Another “ok” option for those bulking is to get two quarters pounders and remove the bread of one, making a half pounder with only two slice of bread. For those cutting, a salad (chicken, tuna) with very little dressing is good.
Generic Italian – Italian food is the hardest because of their ratio of Carbs vs Protein. In bodybuilding, we don’t have the same definition of “portion of chicken”. 100g of chicken for 400g of pasta isn’t good to me. Add on top of that their fatty sauce and garlic bread, and you’re in for more devastation than a Big Mac Meal. I suggest trying for a piece of grilled meat; some place will offer this even if it’s not listed on the menu. Ask, the worst that will happen is that they can’t do it. Otherwise, go for any type of chicken/shrimp/beef/fish pasta and ask for the sauce apart.
Thai/Indian/Etc. – These places normally have a great selection of meat, but are most likely covered in thick, sugar-rich sauce. Again, try something like general Tao chicken with sauce on the side. By now you should be able to spot a decent protein ratio to sauce/side.
Vegetarians – Obviously, I cannot go into your every situation. If you are vegetarian, allergic to something, eat kosher, or any number of restrictions, you will need to be aware of this. Try your best to find something on the menu that will “work” with your macros but also your taste buds. Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter for something NOT on the menu. Some place will go great length to please a customer.
Can’t access food for a long period of time
Sometimes you will need to be away from a fridge or restaurant for a long period of time. During these moments, I would suggest stashing your coat, pants or what you’re wearing with protein bars or other meal-ready items like nuts, fruits and even sugar-free jerky. If this happens only this one time every so often, you can get away using this strategy. However, if you have a job that prevents you from eating every 2-3-4 hours, I suggest you look into Intermittent Fasting. This is an approach that is more and more popular amongst people working and can’t have access to food mainly because you will be fasting for 16 hours straight, and then have an 8 hours eating window. This 16 hours may seem long for some, but if you work 8 hours shift + sleep 8 hours; you have your 16 right there.
As you can see, eating away from home is really hard but doable if you put your head into it. You just have to minimize the number of times you do it, and when it is mandatory, prepare yourself in advance. As with everything regarding nutrition, I strongly believe that preparation is the difference maker in this.
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