TRACKING MACROS WHILE TRAVELING
how to handle your nutrition for your goals
When it comes to working towards specific nutrition goals, we talk a lot about creating habits and establishing a routine; unfortunately, travel can wreak havoc on our routine, leaving us feeling like we should just throw in the towel and start over again when we get back home.
Tracking your food while you’re traveling may not be possible in every situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to eat whatever you want. If you’re working towards fat loss goals, your body doesn’t discount extra calories just because you’re on vacation, and indulging in extra food day after day can halt the progress you have made so far.
It can be unrealistic to expect to hit your numbers spot on while traveling, but it is possible to still stay on track when on the go. Being diligent about your nutrition doesn't mean you have to carry a food scale around with you and say no to every treat offered. It does, however, mean there may be some compromises to make on occasion.
Eating the foods you enjoy should not require restricting, rationalizing, or guilt. The key is finding strategies that will help you stay aligned with your goal and navigate situations that are not totally in your control. As you travel or take time away from your normal routine, there is no doubt that you will be going out to eat, having food and drinks at social events, and indulging a little more than usual. So, what do you do?!
Do you have to bring along your own tupperware meals and resist every bite in order to meet your goals? Or do you stuff yourself with every treat and indulgent meal and promise yourself you’ll get back on track when you get back home?
The obvious correct answer is neither of those things, but that’s definitely easier said than done. Flexible Nutrition is about finding balance in your diet, and that means even spring break, work trips, and international travel, where our health and nutrition can be the last thing on our minds. Unless you know that an all-or-nothing approach is the best strategy for you, having an artillery of strategies to help you stay on track in situations that are not totally in your control is key.
TRAVEL & FAT LOSS GOALS
Knowing your goals, and keeping them at the forefront of your mind as you navigate different situations, is such an important part of creating long term changes. If you have fat loss goals, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to be willing to do what is required to meet those goals, even when out of your normal routine. It is unfair to ourselves to go on a trip, let loose and ignore our goals while we’re away, then come home to the the scale being slightly up and get upset at ourselves.
If you do want to stick to your fat loss goals while traveling, that may mean tracking your meals out, ordering your second choice option when you go out to eat, or occasionally skipping dessert or a drink. It’s far from impossible to see progress in body composition or performance when out of your normal routine, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
A good happy medium is to make it a goal just to maintain progress as you travel, then resume your fat loss goals once you’re back home. This can give you a little added flexibility and allow you to enjoy some untracked meals, have an extra drink or two, or indulge in dessert as long as you continue to eat in moderation and focus a majority of your nutrition on nutrient-dense whole foods.
ESTIMATING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
While you should not be a slave to your scale and your phone, continuing to log your food can be a helpful tool for staying on track regardless of your goals. Even if you are just estimating, creating a rough outline of what you are eating will keep you accountable to yourself and help you stay aware of your food choices.
If you are estimating food while away from home, you can use your hand as a tool to help you understand general portion sizes. It isn’t the most accurate way to track, but it can be more trustworthy than just eyeballing portions. You can also practice at home by estimating portion sizes and then double checking your estimations by weighing those portions with your scale.
TO TRACK OR NOT TO TRACK
Flexible Nutrition doesn’t only mean being flexible with your food choices; it also means being flexible in how you deal with different situations. You will find that there are some occasions where tracking your food will be best for you, and other occasions where taking time away from tracking will be the best approach. Now that you’ve hashed out your goals and have a general idea of what you need to do to meet those goals, here are a few examples of different ways you can navigate different events you may encounter as you travel:
PRE-TRACK || If you are staying in an Airbnb, condo, or a hotel with a kitchenette and have some control over your food choices, pre-tracking can be helpful. You can plan out your day and plan ahead for a dinner or dessert out. While it won’t be exact, having a general idea of what you’ll eat can help you plan the rest of your day accordingly, and can also keep you from mindlessly munching leading up to your meal out.
ESTIMATE || It’s not always appropriate to whip out your phone and get on MFP in the middle of a social event or meal out. Being present with family and friends should always be your top priority, but if you have serious goals that you want to reach, continuing to estimate and track may be a good strategy for you. As mentioned above, this can keep you accountable and help you stay within the realm of your macro goals, which is loads better than giving up and eating whatever you want until you get back home. Use hand measurements to estimate general portion sizes and then take 30 seconds to step aside and track your food before you put your phone away for the rest of the night. You can also snap a quick photo of your meal and then track it later, using the photo as a reminder of accurate portion sizes.
EAT MINDFULLY || It’s completely possible to still work towards your goals without tracking your food at all. While taking this approach every single day may not help you see major progress, eating mindfully can help you stay within the realm of your macro goals while still enjoying your trip. Eating mindfully means being extra attentive to hunger and fullness cues. It means eating slowly and staying in touch with your body and its’ needs. If taking a mindful eating approach, try to center your meal around protein, fruit, and vegetables and then focus on eating slowly. Have a conversation while you eat, chew slowly, and set down your fork between bites. This is a great strategy to help you avoid overeating at a dinner where the menu is unknown and tracking isn’t appropriate.
Travel doesn’t have to be a reason to throw in the towel. We firmly believe that successful nutrition comes from building positive habits that you can maintain even when you’re out of your routine. So before you call it quits just because you’re headed out of town, make sure to take a minute to assess your goals and use some of the tips above to figure out how you can work towards them while still enjoying your vacation!
Interested in more resources on handling your nutrition goals while traveling, eating out, or handling social situations? We have brand new stuff in The Good Stuff this month (just in time for Spring Break!) including a guide to tracking while traveling, a travel packing checklist, bodyweight and butt stuff workouts for on the go, restaurant guides, and more!