After traveling the world for 3 months, I’ve actually lost 10 pounds (close to 5kgs for you non-Americans out there!).
And the best question I get even outside of how I pay for this travel, what I do for work, or where am I going next, is how do I stay fit while traveling?!
For those that follow along via Instagram know that while traveling Eastern Europe my diet has consisted of a good amount of donuts, gyros, cereal, and of course, my beloved kebab!
They don’t call me the kebab king for nothing! I once ate four kebabs in a matter of two days. Needless to say, I’m obsessed with the drippy shawarma chicken, the crunch of the cabbage, and spicy + garlic sauce combination all wrapped up in a warm tortilla or pita.
For all the fun eating this “junk” food is, there’s a lot that you don’t see.
Because posting pictures of eggs and spinach every day wouldn’t be much fun, aye?
What you don’t see is what you’re going to learn over the next few minutes as I dive into how you can keep or even build your dream body while traveling the world and enjoying foods you love.
If you don’t want all the fun details, there is a quick conclusion at the end of the article.
It’s Important To Enjoy The Food While Traveling
Extended travel is more than just taking pretty Instagram pictures and going on adventures.
It’s also about experiencing a different culture and gaining a different perspective.
Experiencing the local food and culture
Culture summed up according to the dictionary is the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups.
One thing that encompasses customs, arts and social institutions of one’s culture is food.
Not only what kind of food they eat, how it’s prepared, how it’s eaten, when it’s traditionally eaten, and more.
When you learn more and try more of the local food in each and every place you go, you not only learn about yourself but can experience a different side of that country and city.
This is why you rarely see me eating a burger or drinking a Heineken when I’m abroad. I can get the best burgers back in the States, so why would I travel somewhere else to eat this?
Not only are you seeing and experiencing a different side of the culture but you are also getting the best of the best of that particular food!
Only The Best Food Baby!
When you’re in Italy, you know you’re getting the cream de la cream of pasta. When you’re in Thailand, you know you’re getting the bee’s knees of the pad thai. When you’re in Hawaii, you know you’re getting the top poke bowls.
You get the point. Whenever I’m traveling, I want to experience the way the locals live and experience the best the region has to offer, and I hope you do the same.
There’s a KFC and TGIF’s back home, you don’t need to eat it in Ukraine, okay?
Bringing It Back To Fitness
It’s also important in your own fitness and health regime to enjoy the local food while you’re there.
What you’re probably thinking right now is how can loading my face with endless pasta in Italy be good for my thighs?!
And what I’m telling you is it can be.
For those that know me know that I’m a big propionate of flexible dieting, cheat days, and still being able to enjoy foods you love in moderation while reaching your fitness goals.
And while traveling is no different.
Cheat Days – How Eating What You Want Helps Long-Term Fat Loss
I won’t dive into the science too much here and you can learn a lot more about how cheat days can help with your fat loss here (or download it directly below).
Side note – This does include drinking as well! Check it out in this blog post here.
But basically, the cheat days and enjoying your food can help increase your metabolism when following a low calorie and low carb diet the majority of the days.
On top of that, It provides a good mental break from the day to day dieting that allows you to stick to your goals long-term! Which is the absolute goal, long term health and wellness.
The Framework On How To Stay Fit While Traveling The World & Eating Foods You Enjoy!
Well now that we know that eating the local grub and eating foods you enjoy are both important things while abroad. Let’s dive into how we can stay fit or get fit while doing so.
I’ve broken it up into a few different sections. You don’t need to follow each and every section to maintain a good body and fitness level, but I follow them all and is recommended for maximum results and enjoyment of traveling the world. (You can clearly tell which one I’m most excited about.)
1. Use AirBnB’s To Ensure You Have A Kitchen
2. Fall In Love With Cooking
3. High Protein and Low Sugar For Most Days
4. Use Intermittent Fasting To Eat & Drink How You Please
5. Maintain A High Base Line Activity Level
6. Finding The Best Gyms In A Foreign Country!
1. Use Airbnb For Your Stay So You Have A Kitchen
This is a short quick tip. But opt for an Airbnb over a hotel or hostel.
I’ll dive in to experience the culture and why it’s good to cook a lot of your meals in the next section, but getting an Airbnb with a kitchen has become a must.
Your Airbnb will usually end up cheaper than a hotel room and give you an awesome local guide/experienced person who can lead you to the best when you do go out to eat.
Almost every Airbnb that does have a kitchen will give you at minimum the basics you need to create a quick, healthy, and cheap meal. Giving you that option so you don’t have to eat out every meal.
If you’re looking more into the hostel route due to budget, I’ll be showing you a way to negotiate Airbnb prices like a pro. Let’s just say I’ve been able to cut my Airbnb prices in half by staying longer and using a little negotiation tactic. This will allow you to stay in your dream place in a perfect location for a fraction of the cost.
2. Fall In Love With Cooking
Do you know what’s just as good as eating and drinking the local country’s grub? Learning how to cook it.
Each has its own art, flair, and flavors.
And in each long-term destination, I try to pick up just a little bit to add to my cooking repertoire.
Pro Tip: Use Airbnb to find cool cooking experiences. You’ll eat great food, probably meet a nice local mom or grandma, and have an excellent time while learning a life long skill!
But even that tends to be a bit rare for me and is mostly used for special occasions.
Think about it as fun and practical, such as if you’re able to whip up a fine local dinner as a date night over going out to eat, your significant other will enjoy that a lot more.
For the most part the best weight loss advice I’ve gotten in my life is to learn how to cook a few meals amazing and eat them over and over again. Aka I eat roughly the same meals every day.
Why eating the same meals almost everyday works and what makes it better than eating out?
1. You get really good at cooking those meals. You end up testing different flavors, variations, additives and find out what you really love.
2. It takes the decision-making process out of eating and grocery shopping. You know what you’re making and buying each and every week. This saves you loads of time and stress.
3. You find what works for your body and what doesn’t in terms of energy, fat loss, muscle gains, and performance. You know exactly what is in each meal and how it’s cooked leaving no guessing what’s giving you the best bang for your buck.
4. Talking about bang for your buck…. It’s cheaper! You save soooo much money when you buy the local food at the grocery store and prepare it yourself compared to dining out every meal. I generally spend $35-50 on groceries each week for myself while abroad. Compared to eating out especially in touristy destinations in Europe will end up costing you at a minimum $15-20 meal (and I’ve spent a lot more trust me).
What’s My Homemade Meals Look Like While Traveling
I stick to the staples. Why? Because they are available in almost every country and I know what I’m getting.
My first main meal is my favorite.
Ham and Spinach Omelette.
It’s a simple and quick dish. The beauty? These ingredients are wildly available around the world in any grocery store. Plus my Airbnb always has the kitchen utensils to make this as all that’s need is a pan and stove. (Remember less decision making and I found out how I love to make this dish so I’m satisfied and have a go-to wherever I am.)
First, I sautee up my spinach and ham with a little bit of olive oil. Next, add in my seasonings and 4-6 whole eggs. Scramble it up and either flip it like an omelet or eat as scrambled eggs. (Toss in some salsa or hot sauce of course).
Boom quick easy meal that keeps you full, gets you the protein you need to recover and maintain muscle mass while minimizing decision making and time.
Meat and Roasted Veggies
The beauty of this simple dish? It’s versatile.
Aka I’m basically eating the same thing from a nutrition standpoint but can have wildly different flavors.
First, I toss some veggies on a cooking plan/sheet and sprinkle with seasonings and some olive oil. Place these bad boys in the oven at 425 degrees (F) for 25-30 minutes.
Secondly, I grill up or use a stovetop pan to cook a good portion of meat between 6-10 ounces depending on how hungry I am. Using seasonings over sauces to flavor these up to lower the calorie intake.
Finish both at the same time and boom. It doesn’t even feel like I’m on a diet as I’ve got a whole pan of crunchy delicious veggies and a fat slab of delicious protein waiting for me.
How To Make It Your Own
Now my go-to is usually whatever is cheapest or on sale at the local grocery store or market. This can be pork chops, chicken breast, ground beef/turkey, white fish, or even shrimp (Greece it was super cheap!).
Then I usually go with Broccoli or Cauliflower has those are my favs!
The beauty is you can 100% customize this meal to what you like and change it up every day or every week if you can’t eat the same thing over and over again as I can.
Here’s a nice little list of meats and veggies you can interchange and swap and still have similar nutritional values and calories for you in each meal.
Lean Protein/Meat Substitution List
Serving sizes = 4 oz. (palm-sized) unless otherwise stated
- 1 scoop of Protein Powder
- 5 Egg Whites
- Pork Chop or Loin
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- 90% Lean Ground Beef
- 90% Lean Ground Turkey (lean Turkey Bacon)
- 2 servings (according to package) Deli Turkey, Ham, Chicken
- Fish (Any white fish)
- Crustation (Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, Mussels, etc.)
- Venison Steaks (or any other game meat)
Pro Tip: I usually find the supplement store and grocery the first or second day I land in a new location. This gives me no excuse on eating badly due to no food in the household. Plus I’m always able to have some protein powder for quick snacks and curb cravings.
Fatty Protein/Meat Substitution List
Serving sizes = 4 oz. (palm-sized) unless otherwise stated
- 4 Whole Eggs
- 2 pieces Chicken or Turkey Thigh or Leg
- Pork/Beef Roast
- Ham (Non-Deli)
- 2 pieces Chicken or Turkey Wing
- <90% Ground Turkey or Beef
- Sausage (4 oz. or two links)
- 4 slices of Bacon
- 2 Beef/Venison/Turkey Stick
- Salmon (or other fatty fish)
- Steak (any kind)
Serving = usually 1 cup but eat as much as you want! The more the merrier though as you’ll be hard-pressed to end up eating too many veggies.
- Green Beans
- Green Peas
- Cauliflower (yes I understand it’s not green lol)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Peppers (Any color and kind)
And boom. You can use any combination in this list, mix, and match and you have an endless variety of healthy meals that can all be cooked quickly and in almost any country with little equipment.
3. High Protein and Low/No Sugar For Most Days
As you can tell above, the majority of those two meals consist of three things: Protein, Veggies, and Olive Oil.
This is due to the protein for muscle recovery, veggies for vitamins and nutrients, and healthy fat to help stay full throughout the day.
And the majority of my eating when I’m not having fun mowing donuts, pastries, noodles, and kebabs on the weekends tends to be those three things.
My Normal Food Groups
I tend to place everything that I eat into a few of my own food groups that I can substitute out.
- Lean Protein
- Fatty Protein
- Healthy Fats
- Whole Carbs
Pro Tip: You can view all the substition lists in this blog post here. So you have them all and never get bored while eating healthy!
And as you can see, sugar is nowhere to be found on this list.
This means I cut almost all sugar and definitely any added sugar from my diet 80% of the time I eat.
Where’s The Fruit In Your Diet?
And this biggest question that comes with this is where does fruit fit in?
And the best answer is, it doesn’t.
Yes, I love fruit. And I’m sure you do as well! But fruit can fit in on the other 20% or eating out portions of my life, it doesn’t need to fit in here.
Fruit although it contains a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals our body needs is mostly made up of sugar.
The only thing that makes eating the sugar in a candy bar different from the sugar in your apple is that the apple is surrounded by vitamins. As your body digests sugar from both sources the same way by converting it into glucose which then spicks your insulin and blood sugar levels telling you to start gaining weight and stop burning fat. (Oversimplified this process to not bore you with science.)
So if I cut fruit, you might be thinking where are you getting those necessary vitamins then?!
Get All Your Needed Vitamins From Green Veggies To Cut Out Fruit!
In the vegetables. These colorful and mostly green vegetables in the food group have all the vitamins and minerals you need and as long as your eating plenty of them, you’ll never need to pick up an apple again if you don’t want to.
Pro Tip: Plus, I’m a huge fan of dehydrated greens powders for when you’re not getting enough vegetables in your diet naturally. I prefer these over vitamin pills as these are all-natural and come from fruits and vegetables giving you added digestive benefits and better absorption into your body.
How Staying Low Sugar Helps You
This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about sugar being the devil. But I won’t bash it on as bad as that.
When you stay low sugar a cool thing happens in your body. You’re able to switch off sugar as your main fuel source and start to use other methods more effectively such as healthy fats, whole carbs, and the goal your own body fat.
This will keep your insulin and blood sugar lower the majority of days which are key markers in your ability to lose weight and burn body fat. Plus it’ll help keep you lower calorie as sugar is loaded with them!
As you continue to ween off of sugar you’ll notice fewer cravings, less urge more mental clarity, and more energy throughout the day.
Then the science of cheat days comes in. Where when you enjoy that sugar and splurge a few (not really magical but I’ll say it) magical things happen that turn up your body’s fat-burning ability.
4. Use Intermittent Fasting To Eat and Drink However You Want!
As mentioned above, you’re not going to be eating “however you want” for every single meal. Anyone that tells you that you can eat pizza, beer, and chips for every meal and still lose weight is straight lying to you.
But you can enjoy anything and everything in moderation, especially when you adapt to an intermittent fasting lifestyle.
I won’t dive too deep into the weeds on why I love intermittent fasting and how it’s helped me transform my body and relationship with food, but if you’d like that you can check it out here.
But what I will go into is specifically how it can help you when traveling.
4 Reasons Why Intermittent Fasting Is Great While Traveling
1. It allows you to control your hunger. No longer do you need a snack every hour or need to stop for food or get cranky on flights without a meal. It gives you the control and ultimately allows you to be able to be energized throughout the day without consistently eating.
2. You can do more and get more shit done! If you’re working while traveling or sightseeing, as mentioned in number 1, you don’t have to stop and find food every two hours. You’re able to thoroughly enjoy what you’re doing without food or lack of it slowing you down.
3. You’ll naturally eat fewer calories but feel like you’re eating more food! If you are only eating 1-2 meals a day in a shorter period of time, instead of 4-6 meals a day, you’ll naturally eat less as it’s harder to pack in that amount of food in such a short window. Plus when you do it, you can indulge in larger meals that leave you super full instead of small little meals that you nibble on.
4. Last, similar to the point above, during those meals, because you’re eating fewer and naturally less, you can be a bit more flexible! Aka eat more food that you enjoy! If you’re only eating one meal a day and that meal happens to be burger and fries, you won’t go over calories for the day and gain weight. But if you’ve already eaten 3 meals today and the fourth you make burger and fries, there’s a good chance you’ll go over!
Side Note: Now all these reasons are just the logical and not scientific reasons on the benefits of intermittent fasting specifically around travel. But if you want the pure science on what happens with your hormones and body fat-burning ability while fasting, you can hit this up here.
How To Use Intermittent Fasting While Traveling
For those that are unsure what, intermittent fasting is, here’s my way too simple answer.
Intermittent fasting is basically just skipping breakfast.
Booya. Basically you are just condensing your eating period into a shorter window. So instead of eating right when you wake up, you may wait until noon, 6 pm, or do OMAD (one meal a day).
There are three specific intermittent fasting methods I use on a weekly basis in order to eat however I like while still maintaining a six-pack.
1. 16/8 – Your Standard Intermittent Fasting
This is what most people think of when the think of intermittent fasting. It’s basically fasting for 16 hours a day and eating in an 8-hour window (a popular one is starting to eat at Noon and ending at 8 PM).
This is my daily routine as I love to eat 2-3 larger protein-packed meals during this time like the ones above. This also gives you the ability to eat a nice first meal in the middle of the day then have more flexibility on dinner or drinks later on.
2. OMAD – One Meal A Day
As it states in the name, it’s just one meal a day. This leads to usually a 23-24 hour fast leading up to that meal.
This is not my daily routine, but on days where you’re busy with work or travel, it can be a great option.
On top of that, my favorite way to incorporate OMAD is on days that I know and can plan eating out or maxing out on a meal. If I know in advance that my friend and I are meeting at a delicious gyro spot in Athens, Greece, I’ll utilize OMAD to absolutely max out in that meal without setting back my fitness goals.
3. Prolonged Fasting – 1-3 Day Long Fasts
This is where we get a little wild. But 1-3 day fasts (I usually stick around 36 hours) is where you skip eating and only have zero-calorie drinks for at least over a day.
These are utilized after cheat days or long guilt-free weekends. It not only mitigates some calorie damage but resets your blood sugar and digestive system to jump right back into eating healthy. This ensures no cheat day or cheat weekend spill over into a life of cheat days.
We won’t jump into the science here but using a pro-longed fast like this after a cheat day can have amazing fat-burning benefits on top of a low-calorie diet by manipulating your hormones and increasing your metabolism.
Pro Tip: If you want to know how to use cheat days to maximize fat loss, you can download this free e-book on faster fasting here or below. It’ll give you all the steps on what to do before, during, and after a cheat day to minimize fat gain and actually boost fat loss while eating junk food once a week!
5. Maintain A High Baseline Level of Activity
This is probably the easiest tip to complete, even over finding and booking an Airbnb that has a kitchen.
Because when you’re traveling there’s a lot you want to see and do! Plus you generally won’t have a car or easy means of transportation with you. So what do you end up doing or should end up doing?
It not only saves you a ton of money but allows you to see sides of cities and areas you would never see.
Walking anywhere that’s reasonable (less than 2 miles or 4 kms) will increase your daily calorie burn by 2-3 times the normal level.
This is what I contribute to be the main factor in my fat loss while traveling.
Set The Mark High On Your Activity Level
To ensure you’re being held to being active. Set the mark high.
I track my active calories on my Apple Watch. Many people set their activity at a standard 10k steps or 300 active calories because it has a do-good feeling when you hit that easy goal.
But what if you doubled it?
Now it becomes a challenge and more likely than not you’ll hit that the majority of the days.
Personally, my Apple Watch is set at 750 active calories a day and with the amount of walking to and from the gym, grocery store, sightseeing, cafes, and dancing my ass off during the night, I crush that goal 80% of the time.
You can do the same when you set that activity goal high and walk everywhere you can.
6. Finding The Best Gyms In A Foreign Country (Or At Least Still Exercising Regularly)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that if you want to build your dream body or increase your confidence, exercise is important.
Get your blood moving, your muscles tired, calories burning, and make sure to still hit the gym when you’re traveling.
There tend to be three scenarios when it comes to travel and exercise which we’ll discuss them all.
1. No Gym Near or Can’t Go To The Gym
No gym? No problem!
You got weights anyways, it’s called yourself (bodyweight).
So schedule that time and get moving!
Going For A Run
The number one way to do so is to go from a run. You can do this anywhere and everywhere.
This is actually my favorite as I find it to be the best way to see a city, town, or area. You’ll run past and into things you never thought you’d find and it’s always an adventure!
Number two would be doing bodyweight training.
Don’t want to lose those hard-earned gains? You won’t if you do it right!
The best advice here is to find yourself a nice park and hit it early in the morning. You can then do pull-ups and other bar exercises that are difficult for even the fittest individuals.
Some of the best and most effective bodyweight exercises are air squats, pull-ups, push-ups, burpees, and inverted rows. These all combined (plus some ab work) will work your entire body!
I used a parkour park in Honolulu, Hawaii for two months as I didn’t have a gym. I loved it, got a great tan, and my pull-up game was strong AF afterward.
Pro Tip: If you’re chilling in Russia or a former USSR country you might just find yourself an awesome full outside gym like the one below in Ukraine that had everything from the deadlift, squatting, curling, lat pulldown machines, and more. This one was in Kyiv, Ukraine right by the beach.
2. Short Term Traveling (Less Than Two Weeks)
This seems to be the golden period of when people give up on the gym or exercise.
It’s not short enough (1-4 days) for you to consider it a resting time to allow your body to recover. But it doesn’t seem long enough to get a gym membership, get into a routine, or become a member.
And that’s where you are wrong my friend!
The first step is to have your routine always nailed out. So no matter where you are, you know what workout is next.
My days consist of this:
1. Chest and Triceps
2. Back and Biceps
And repeat baby! This gives me the ability to start with large compound lifts on each day (Bench, Rows/Pull-ups, Press, and Squat) and then switch to isolation.
Easy, simple, and always know what workout is next. So whether I’m able to hit the gym 3 days that week or all 7, I’m always in the rhythm while traveling.
Now there are two ways to go with getting to the gym.
1. Free Trial
Most gyms inside of the United States (and sometimes elsewhere but fewer) will have one day to one week free trials.
So if you’re on a business trip or just exploring a new city, sign up online or call to get a free trial day or week.
Pro Tip: The key here is to make yourself feel like a local. I don’t like to advocate lying… But I’m a pretty good one! So pretend like you just moved there or looking to move there. This will make it seem like you’re not just scheming that gym for a free trial. Then just opt-out of their marketing/sales messages afterward. I’ve done this at too many Anytime Fitnesses to name as they offer a one week free trial at every location.
2. Short Term Memberships
Most gyms outside of the USA, from what I noticed, don’t offer the free trial.
But everywhere I’ve been has offered a flexible and no-contract membership. This is in terms of a 1, 3, 5, or 10-day pass.
You’ll generally pay a bit more than the long-term or monthly rate, but your health is worth it.
Pro Tip: If they don’t have any short-term options like the ones above. Ask about them or how they can make it happen when you’re in the gym. Generally, a business will not turn down your money in order to follow the rules and make sure you sign a long-term contract. You’ll never get it if you don’t ask!
3. Monthly Memberships
As with above, everywhere I’ve been has had flexible monthly memberships.
In the US, getting people on contracts is a huge thing for gyms. But I can guarantee you and it’s never failed, if you ask about a flexible plan (which may cost a tad bit more) is always possible.
Pro Tip: Anything over 2-3 weeks, it’s generally most cost-effective to just go with the month option over a short-term pass.
The beautiful thing that I’ve noticed?
Despite a few locations like Athens, you’re able to go to top-notch gyms without paying the ridiculous prices that are in the States.
In 3 different cities (Warsaw, Kyiv, and Budapest) I’ve gone to some top-notch gyms that were all nicer than the Equinox in downtown Miami for a fraction of the cost!
I’m talking $30-50 a month compared to $200 a month for Equinox in the states. And finding these top-notch gyms is super easy!
Simply Google search a week beforehand and map out the closest gyms to your hotel or apartment.
From there check out the Google Reviews and use Google Translate naturally to make sure there’s nothing strange about the gym.
From there just go your first day and ask about the membership. They’ll set you up on the spot and boom you’re in it!
Conclusion On How To Not Only Stay Fit But Get Fit While Traveling The World!
It’s not only possible to stay fit but to start your fitness journey while you travel.
Whether your traveling for a short vacation or embarking on a life long journey of nomadism you can follow these main tips in your own way to ensure eating around and experiencing the world doesn’t get in the way of your health.
- Stay in Airbnb’s that have a kitchen so you have the option to cook meals.
- Fall in love with cooking your own meals to save money and calories. Plus find meals that you love cooking and use my food substitution lists so you never get bored!
- Eat a high-protein and low sugar diet the majority of the time to stay full and help your muscles recover.
- Use some intermittent fasting to give your diet and calorie intake more flexibility.
- Keep your baseline activity level high
- Always find a way to exercise with or without a gym.
Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to enjoy your traveling to the fullest without completely derailing your health.
Happy eating and traveling!