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Travel hacks: How to stay fit while travelling?

6 tips to stay healthy while travelling

Shashank Mehta
4 min read • 
24 June 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hello there! Some of you had requested tips for staying healthy while travelling. Shashank Mehta, the founder of The Whole Truth, wrote about this on his blog long before this company existed. As we mentioned in our manifesto, many health concepts are timeless, as fitness ideas don’t change much. So we are republishing his blog post today, and I hope you’ll find it useful.

As you read this, I’d be sitting in Kota, Rajasthan — attending my wife’s cousin’s three-day wedding. That’s three days of kachoris and baatis and gulab jamuns. 

Not to mention, I’m the first son-in-law, in my wife’s generation of kids— which means that bride and groom apart, I’ll be the centre of everyone’s love and attention. I wouldn’t have minded had I not known that in Indian families, love is measured by the number of sweets you allow every aunt and uncle to stuff you with individually. Because God help you if you had jalebi that choti mami was offering but refused badi mami because your tonsils were floating in sugar syrup by then. I mean, what behaviour is this beta? Don’t you love your badi-mami!

Shouts of, “Arre, aapne toh kuch khaya hi nai, damaad ji (but you haven’t had anything yet, dearest son-in-law),” kept me awake all through last night. And I’ve spent most of my waking hours today planning how to protect my fitness interests while still not pissing my wife’s relatives off.

The point is, weddings or not, many of us have hectic work and personal lives featuring trains, flights, cabs and eating out. So this innocent-looking thing called travel creeps up on us and screws up our fitness goals as we eat on the go and miss the gym.

Yes, there is something romantic about travel that makes us take liberties with our fitness regime. We are — I am — much more prone to eating junk, binge drinking, and generally being lethargic and lying around in that super-comfy hotel bed all day when we travel. And exercising on travel is — how do I say this — not a real thing.

Now, while I can’t change all that, I can help you mitigate the havoc travel might wreak on your fitness system. So let me give you the top fit tricks I’ve learnt after hundreds of failed experiments: simple, practical, executable hacks that’ll go a long way in making your travels healthier. 

One: First, carry water.

Let’s start with the basics. I can’t overstate the importance of being hydrated when you travel. Fluid losses, especially if you’re in a sedentary office job, rise a notch during travel. But even more importantly, you lose track of your eating cycle as you travel (sometimes across time zones). Your stomach (hunger) and your body clock (it’s dinner time) are no longer in sync. That’s the primary reason why we over eat or under eat while travelling.  

And water can help solve that. Keep yourself full with water, and the chances that you’ll have a sudden, irresistible food craving are much lower.

Pro tip: The first thing I buy as soon as I enter the airport is a water bottle. I’ve trained myself to do this even before my mind can go looking for some other sugary drink. Which brings us to point two. 

Buy water as soon as you enter the airport

💦Glug, glug, glug. Remind a friend to stay hydrated during travel.

Two: Find alternatives to sugary drinks.

Sometimes, especially at airports, just water isn’t enough. With so much soda and cold coffees — a euphemism for liquid dessert — and juices on offer, I always gravitate towards one of these sugar-laden drinks. 

That’s part of the reason why I first buy water. It’s a good physical deterrent once you already have a bottle in your hand. But when that doesn’t cut it, my go-to drinks are vitamin water, black coffee or diet soda — in that order. (I’ve spoken about diet sodas earlier, so read this before you binge on those.) But they are a much, much lesser evil compared to that Starbucks Frappuccino

Opt for black coffee over suggary drinks

Three: No in-flight eating. 

This one was a HUGE quandary for me for the longest time. Especially on short-distance, early-morning flights: Should I have what they’re serving for breakfast on the flight, say at 7 am? Or should I get off and eat at my usual time, 9 am? 

Drowsy as I’d be, my decision-making capabilities at their weakest, I’d usually give in and eat on the flight. Only to get hungry again by 10am and eat again. Over time, I noticed that whenever I ate on the flight, it ended up being an extra meal. That meal didn’t replace any meal. It just got added — and that spelt disaster for my calorie count. So I made a rule. It’s called NO!

Now I don’t eat on flights. It simplifies the entire process. I don’t think about it much because it’s an absolute rule. I keep asking for water, and that keeps me full (That’s also why I prefer aisle — I need to pee a lot. And if I’m not pee-ing white, God help the poor air hostess because I will be asking for a lot more water).

Avoid in-flight eating, drink water instead

I still do give in and eat on flights at times. Especially on < 3-hour flights. But then it has to be a meal replacement. And the usual calorie counting rules apply — so no touching dessert. No canned juice either.

Pro-Tip: Before the flight, have a large milk coffee — cappuccino, flat white (and not the sugar-laden cold coffee). It’ll help get you through the air-time.

Four: Whey is the (only) way.

If you are on a strict fitness regime and counting calories, one of the biggest problems during travel is hitting your macros. Especially your protein requirement. Especially if you’re Indian. And are headed to an Indian, vegetarian wedding (crap, I am so screwed). 

You’ll either not get enough protein or get it at KFC in a deep, batter-fried form. So, without a second’s hesitation, get an air-lock polybag or an air-tight container, and put no.of days of travel * 30gm of whey protein in it. Read this for a complete low on the pros and cons of whey.

Get your protein from whey instead of deep fried chicken

📩Share a-whey with your friends

Pro Tip: Have it an hour before dinner. Protein takes work to digest. It’ll keep you full longer and stop you from binging on that company-paid meal.

Five: Snack. But your way.

This is the most innocent-looking fitness evil ever made. It hides in plain sight, doesn’t ever fill you up, and piles on the calories without anyone noticing. Pure, salty, evil. 

And its powers seem to double when you travel: that small bag of chips, some peanuts served on the flight, a few chicken nuggets or some fries with your diet coke — the list is endless. 

That they’re all around you — in vending machines, at cash counters, next to mannequins — doesn’t help. And for those hyper-actives (like me) who need to be doing something at all times, stopping our hands from going for one more fry is just impossible (I know). After all these years, I still falter on this one.

My best solution: if you can’t stop snacking, carry your snack. I used to keep two protein bars in my bag all the time. It started with only travel, but then I kept them at work to replace snacking between meals. Now that my wife has jumped onto the fitness bandwagon, she makes a large batch of protein-powder-granola every weekend, and I keep that. A bag of mixed nuts is a good option too.

Long story short: find a healthy, protein-rich snack you like, and make it your travel buddy.

Six: Walk. A lot. 

You can’t exercise. But you can walk during travel. So don’t take that travelator at the airport — walk. Don’t call a cab to go to a restaurant just 1km away — walk. Don’t keep sitting around at the wedding and waiting to get served — walk: go to the counter, walk back, and think about the 300-calorie cutlet you just ate. Walk.

If you have a step counter, hit your walking goal on every trip. It’ll go a long way in mitigating the effects of the junk you might be bingeing on.

Choose walking over taking a cab for short distances

There. I’ve told you everything. Now it’s time for me to see if it really works. Those kachoris and baatis are not to be underestimated.


🚶‍♀1 share=1K steps (not really)

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