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Training & Eating On The Road

June 22, 2015 | 0 Comments
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The Minimalist Approach to Dieting and Training on the Road

There are a plenty of articles out there offering advice on how to best prepare for a trip while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but most focus on casual trips like vacations or travelling to bodybuilding shows. This article should help those of you that have to travel in more professional settings or simply want to reduce the amount of luggage and stress you have to bring with you whenever you’re travelling. With these tips you should have everything you need to pack minimal gear but make maximal GAINS! 

Always Trippin’

I see it all the time, fellow bodybuilders stick to their diets and workout regimes religiously when in the comfort zone of following their normal 9 to 5 schedule. Then as soon as they have to break their everyday routine and travel for work or other obligations their program becomes totally unravelled. Unsure of how to find the right balance or unwilling to try, many use travelling as a reason to completely forget their fitness goals without giving any consideration to maintaining a healthy diet and getting any exercise. On the flip side, the group of athletes determined to stick to their program no matter what the conditions usually decide to include a huge meal management bag in their luggage and strategically scope out gyms ahead of time to train at while away.

As the assistant sales director for Core Nutritionals, my responsibilities have me travelling at least a few times each month. As a natural bodybuilder as well, I strive to maintain a proper diet and training program year round. However many situations during my trips aren’t conducive to bringing along a large meal management bag packed with food or hitting up a gym for full workouts every day- and completely falling off the wagon every time I travel is by no means an option either. There needs to be some middle ground.

As I balance my dedication to being a bodybuilder with my responsibilities to my job, I’ve come to refine my travel strategies to better maintain my bodybuilding lifestyle while limiting the amount of supplies and time I have to dedicate to it while I’m out of town. Here’s some insight into how I get the job done as both a businessman and bodybuilder! 

Pack Lean – Stay Lean

Usually when the topic of sticking to a diet while travelling is brought up, the obvious solution is to invest in a meal management bag and stock it up with whole food – normally lean meats, sweet potatoes and frozen vegetables which act as ice packs that won’t be confiscated by Airport Security. Normally I would agree, however for those that frequently travel on business, bringing along a large meal management bag in addition to your work supplies, clothing and other necessities may not be an option. In my case, my trips have me staying at a different hotel almost every night and there are many situations where I don’t necessarily want to pull out a large container of chicken breast and sweet potatoes in front of other people; especially if I’m trying to make a positive first impression with new business associates. 

For trips like these, I’ve found that bringing just a few staples to serve as the majority of my intake during the trip offer the best way for me to stay within my current macro goals with relatively nutrient dense sources, while vastly cutting down on the space I have to devote to the meals I bring with me. These staples in particular also allow me to quickly get in meals throughout the day without drawing unwanted attention to myself or appearing unprofessional. 

I always have my backpack with me when travelling which has just enough room for a few large Ziplock bags after packing away my laptop and other work gear. Using this extra room to pack away a few staples helps me reduce the amount of luggage I have to check-in during flights or find space for in the car. I simply fill a few Ziplock bags with these staples along with a protein scooper, toss ‘em in my backpack and I’m on my way to Gainsville! 

Staple 1: Whey Protein Isolate 

I can almost always expect to eat out at a restaurant at least a few times on an extended trip, whether it’s to discuss business or try out a famous location in the area I’m visiting. Although I can make a solid effort to choose meals that fit my current macros, and estimate the amount of each macro, we can all agree that even the best effort will likely not be 100% accurate. Most restaurants are going to have meals higher in fat than if the same meals were prepared at home due to their cooking techniques. For that reason, I like to make sure I’m hitting or at least getting near my desired protein intake for the day without taking in extra unnecessary calories. By having a large Ziplock bag of a high quality whey protein isolate (Core Nutritionals Core ISO in my case) I’m able to get my protein in for the day with minimal carbohydrates and fat, which allows a little more leeway for the meals I have to estimate throughout the trip. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about keeping protein powder refrigerated constantly like I would have to with meats.

Staple 2: Quick Oats

My next bag is always filled with something all fit folks are familiar with, good ol’ quick oats. First off, there’s no better marriage than protein powder and oats mixed into a pudding. So naturally any time I get to eat this concoction, I’m a happy camper. Another benefit is that it can be transported much more easily than a whole grain cereal and especially easier than carb sources requiring constant refrigeration like sweet potatoes. I can stuff oats in my bag without worrying about them getting crushed into oblivion. I can also adjust the amount of oats I eat on the fly instead of being locked in to a particular amount by pre-made carb sources like muesli or granola bars. Not to mention the mess I would have to deal with if my protein bars melted in my bag!

Personally, working for Core Nutritionals allows me to have easy access to our Core MRP meal replacement powder. Core MRP is comprised of a quality protein blend, complex carbohydrate blend of oat and barley flour, and even has an added micronutrient blend and digestive enzymes, which makes eating on the go even easier. At 3-4 grams of fat, 27 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 27 grams of protein – Core MRP is a huge lifesaver during my trips! 

Staple 3: Nuts or Seeds 

Once again, spoilage and space are the two biggest factors in my travel staples. Packing nuts and/or seeds takes up minimal space in my bag, and don’t carry the risk of going rancid or becoming a melted mess like oil or nut butters would. Having a serious nut allergy myself, my go-to fat source on the road are sunflower seed kernels. Packed with healthy fats, fibre and a ton of micronutrients, sunflower seed kernels are a great option for getting in healthy fats on the road. Nuts and seeds are also another easily measured food source that allow you to eat the particular amount you need for your current macronutrient goals.  

Bonus Tip: Stakeout the Steakhouse 

Another simple but very helpful strategy for me has been to take time and look up the nutrition facts for a few meal options at common restaurant chains and have them programmed into my macro tracking app (My Fitness Pal) ahead of time. By doing this, whether I’m taking a client out to a dinner or simply stopping by my favorite restaurants for a hassle free meal, I can have a few go-to meals to choose from and can easily and inconspicuously track it with my phone. Doing this for common chains like Hog’s Breath Cafe, La Porchetta or Cafe Primo (AUS) or Outback Steakhouse, IHOP, and Denny’s (USA) has helped in countless situations. 

Order a Side of Shredz

Another thing to keep in mind that can help you maintain your diet goals on the road is to not be afraid to make special requests regarding your food preparation. Nearly always a restaurant will be happy to oblige you, especially since you are a paying customer. A few things that myself and others ask for regularly when ordering are:

1. Ask for foods to be cooked “dry” meaning without butter or other sauces. This will largely reduce the often additional fat included in foods that most people don’t consider when ordering out. Pancakes without the butter, plain wheat toast with butter substitute on the side; even requesting main entrees like steaks to be cooked “dry” or with just a cooking spray is a wise choice since protein entrees are typically cooked with various butters and oils, making an otherwise lean cut much more fattening. Seemingly harmless options such as steamed vegetables often have flavored butters added to them despite not always being directly stated on the menu.

2. Inquire about whole wheat options for grains like pancakes or toast. As our society continues to grow more health conscious, the unlikeliest of food chains are beginning to offer these regularly. 

3. Order salads with the cheese, croutons and dressing to be brought on the side. This allows you to adjust your intake of the higher calorie ingredients based on your current needs. 

Working out the Details

One of the most enjoyable aspects of travelling for physique athletes has to be getting to visit new gyms. No matter what area of the world we end up in, the universal language of gym culture found in gyms can make us feel right at home! Unfortunately, some trips require me to bounce around between different areas so quickly that I don’t have time to locate and visit local gyms. 

To make things even more difficult, not all hotels will have a gym aside from a few basic cardio machines. For trips with very limited access to any sort of real gym I like to use the following base workout that can be performed entirely in my hotel room or in the surrounding area. By doing this, I can get in solid training sessions no matter where I’m staying or how pressed for time I am.

The Split 

All workouts below should be performed as one large circuit, saving time and increasing heart rate for added aerobic activity. The beauty of this template is that it can easily be adapted for anyone’s current fitness level. Adjusting rest time between circuits, total amount of reps performed, total rounds of each circuit, exercise variations, and rep speed can help you increase or decrease the intensity of the workout to fit your needs. The four day split can be performed on consecutive days whenever time allows. I personally don’t plan “off days” during trips and instead get in a workout every day that I find an opportunity. Doing this, I make sure I get in sufficient training time with the expectation that at some point I’ll likely be forced to take a rest day by default due to simply not getting a chance on days that are really busy.

Heavy lifters may initially scoff at doing such high reps, but not only does focusing on high rep workouts make it easier to train without a lot of weights, it’s also a nice switch from the rep schemes most physique athletes stick to. As my fellow Team Wilson coach, and Core Nutritionals rep Cliff Wilson points out in his Power Block Periodization article, there are a TON of benefits to using a wide variety of rep ranges. Yes the typical 6-12 reps most physique athletes use can be extremely beneficial, but all too often we see athletes ignore very high rep workouts despite their positive effect on cellular swelling, increased mitochondrial and capillary density and also on increasing lactate threshold – all things that can go a long way in helping athletes lift more weight and gain more muscle over time. 

Okay, okay I’ll stop explaining and get to the point- this entire routine can be performed with only your bodyweight, a hotel staircase, and a small physical therapy style resistance band which can easily be stashed away in your bag. High reps, circuits, and a little creativity allow you to hit all your major muscle groups no matter how busy your trip, or how limited your gym access. Except for the Day 2 workout that calls for stairway sprints, all other workouts can be performed entirely in your hotel room.

Day 1

Exercise                             Sets        Reps        Rest Time

Standard Pushups             1           20-25         ——

Band Bent Over Rows      1           20-25         ——

Band Upright Rows           1           20-25         ——

Close Grip Pushups           1           20-25         ——

Band Hammer Curls          1          20-25         1:00

(Repeat Circuit)


Day 2

Exercise                             Sets        Reps        Rest Time

BW Squats                          1           20-25         ——

Stairway Sprint                  1           20-25         ——

Split Squats                        1           20-25         ——

BW Calf Raise (Steps)      1           20-25         ——

Russian Twist                    1          20-25         1:00

(Repeat Circuit)


Day 3

Exercise                             Sets        Reps        Rest Time

Incline Pushups                   1           20-25         ——

Band Pull-Aparts                1           20-25         ——

Band Lateral Raise             1           20-25         ——

Chair Dips                             1           20-25         ——

Band Hammer Curls           1          20-25         1:00

(Repeat Circuit)


Day 4

Exercise                             Sets        Reps        Rest Time

Squatting Wall Sit               1           20-25         ——

Split Squats                         1           20-25         ——

Single Leg Glute Bridge    1           20-25         ——

Mountain Climbers            1           20-25         ——

V-Up Crunches                   1          20-25         1:00

(Repeat Circuit)


About the Author:

Andrew Pardue is the assistant sales director for Core Nutritionals. He is also a contest prep coach for Team Wilson – owned by Core Nutritionals athlete and MassiveJoes.com contributor Cliff Wilson. A natural bodybuilding competitor himself, Andrew is finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science with minors in Chemistry and Entrepreneurship in the United States at the University of North Carolina Wilmington – where he has also been able to conduct scientific research on topics related to natural bodybuilding and exercise physiology. 


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