Every experienced dieter knows that traveling and weight loss do not mix. Nor does staying in shape and traveling. Traveling is always a chance to experience new cultures, new people, and new food. For most cultures, food is an integral part of the experience. I have a love / hate relationship with travel because I love to experience new cultures, but I also love to stay in shape. Don’t panic! If you follow some simple rules before you travel, you will minimize any waist line damage you do.
If You Need to Lose Weight Before You Travel
This is where I suggest a cleanse or crash diet, right? Wrong. There is a right way and a wrong way to drop some quick pounds. Any diet will weaken your body and immune system. I never suggest dieting to lose weight quickly before a trip.
Still, even I am guilty of wanting to drop a few pounds before a trip. I have even helped friends and clients drop some weight before a trip. From my days boxing, I know a few quick ways to make it happen.
First is starting with increasing how much water you drink. Throw the eight glasses of water rule out the window and aim for at least twelve. A glass before you eat any food, including a snack or meal. Step two is cut out carbohydrates completely. Including bread, cereal, pasta, and starchy vegetables. Carbohydrates hold onto water.
By increasing water intake and decreasing carbohydrates you will quickly drop pounds of water weight and look visibly leaner. You can’t lose a lot of fat quickly, but you can look better. Carbohydrate manipulation is the way to go as you can survive find without carbohydrates and still be healthy. You can conservatively drop ten pounds or so in the first two weeks of no carbohydrate dieting, which can vastly improve how you look.
Ready, Set, Go!
The day you know you are traveling or going on holiday you need to start preparing your diet. This is less about losing weight, and more about actually enjoying your trip. When I think airplane, I think arm rests which were not washed, close seats and stale air. This is a breeding ground for germs. Without fail, whenever I fly I get sick. No one wants to be sick on holiday.
Being sick also means you can do less, and will end up eating more. This is the unwritten rule of travel. When you feel bad, you go to the bar and buffet more. Trusting my habits from my days boxing, I nix the dreaded cold weeks before I leave. At least two weeks out I start sleeping more (At least 8 hours of sleep a night), taking immune system support (Such as Airborne or Vitamin C), and religiously taking a multi vitamin.
When I am on the plane (Or train, or bus) I make sure I follow basic sanitation rules. No touching my face or rubbing my eyes and washing my hands often.
Losing What You Gained
I skipped any advice on the logical next step, how to not gain weight when traveling. You should enjoy your time traveling. Save the diet for after you get back. Experience where you go and enjoy it. When you get back, the work starts. Depending on your goals, this may differ. In general, you want to follow the basic advice of weight loss.
Your goal is to aim to lose up to two pounds of fat per week. Why only two pounds? The consensus in the medical community is losing more would most likely be done in an unsafe way. Although this is not exactly true, as I discuss in a few articles on approachingfitness.com, it is a good place for most people to start. At least 3,500 calories need to be burned or not consumed to lose a pound per week.
The easiest way to get to those magical 3.500 calories is a combination of diet and exercise. Real ground-breaking advice here, I know. The number of calories should be looked at in two parts. 250 from dietary restriction, and 250 from exercise every day. For the food portion of the equation, this would be about 6 less Oreo cookies a day. For exercise, the best way to guestimate calories burned is with simple multiplication.
For every pound you weigh, multiply that number by 0.30. This will give you the net caloric expenditure per mile. If you weigh 200 pounds, you burn an extra 60 calories per mile you run. This does vary, but is a good starting point. I am not saying you need to run to lose weight. I suggest lifting over cardiovascular exercise to maintain muscle mass and improve body composition, but the equation shows us a 200-pound male only needs to run about four miles to burn more than enough calories to hit your weight loss goal.
Don’t let your next holiday stall your weight loss goals. If you follow some simple rules, you can enjoy your trip and minimize weight gain. You start by cutting out carbohydrates and increasing water to look as good as possible before you do. Second, you sleep more and boost your immune system. Sleeping helps you lose weight, and staying healthy helps you not gain weight.
When you come back, you then start losing what you gained. A slight caloric deficit and a little exercise will make losing what you gained easy. 500 calories a day is not a lot when approaching weight loss through diet and exercise. Making weight loss easy will help you stick with it and succeed.
The final takeaway is to enjoy your time away from home. Weight loss is not an overnight endeavor. A couple weeks of indulgence can be easily overcome if you show even slight discipline. By starting to prepare early, you will minimize the damage you do and be back to your fit self before you know it.
Eric is the founder of Approaching Fitness, the premier fitness website based on scientific research and real-world experience.