Staying Lean whilst travelling

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Who’s caught the travelling bug then? In the last year I’ve been lucky enough to go and explore different parts of the world that are very different to Dubai where I currently reside, my experiences have been both adventurous and humbling. I recommend anyone who has the time and money to travel to different continents and explore the countries and cultures dissimilar to our own. We as humans were never meant to be stuck in a social bubble, only communicating with our own tribes. The majority of us have had an education and have got job prospects, giving us the freedom to earn money and choose to travel the world. This is something we take for granted, but would be a great privilege to many, for example the majority of local people I met in Nepal had never had the chance to leave their country and probably never will.

Anyway, I’ll stay in my lane and get back to giving advice about something I pretend to know a little bit about.

When you go travelling or on holiday, do you get the feeling of anxiousness, the feeling that you’re going to undo all the hard work you’ve put in prior to the travel date? If you’re now thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, do you say certain phrases like: “f*ck it I’m on holiday” or “I’ll get back to it when I’m home” and shrug it off as if you don’t care? I’m no psychologist but I think this is a very cliché method of convincing yourself that it’s okay to let loose and binge for 10 days, and that you “deserve it” because you’re on holiday. Some people (juiced or natural) can hold their abs for 2 weeks on holiday without tracking a macro or training, some can simply get straight back to their routine after holiday and be in shape within a week post-holiday. Remember that these people are gifted with great genetics, and this likely won’t be the case for the majority of us. I’m adamant that we can all enjoy ourselves on holiday (in terms of food and alcohol consumption), whilst still maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle, simply by adopting the methods below.

I think we can all agree it is difficult to maintain your regular eating, drinking and exercise habits whilst on holiday. Physically, you’re in a different environment and you don’t have access to the same resources e.g. a gym. You’re also unlikely to be preparing your own foods with packaging that allows you to check nutritional info, you’re more likely to be eating out every single meal which comes with its own range of problems. You may have the best intentions of sticking to your usual diet as much as possible and eat healthily, but menus in restaurants (especially in other cultures e.g. where everything is fried in a litre of oil) sometimes simply do not allow it. Coupled with the massive increase in tempting choices… whether it’s that buffet breakfast in the hotel, the burgers and chips for lunch by the pool, the cocktails, ice creams, all before a big blow out dinner to top it off. Ordering 10 different starters between two because you want to “immerse yourself in the local culture” by trying all their food… literally all of it.

I’m visiting the most rural and undeveloped places where there aren’t gyms and there definitely isn’t any places with nutritional information labelled on their menus, but I want to maintain my physique, fitness and diet habits to the best ability I can whilst I’m away.

I’ve put together some easy ways that I’ve learnt and adopted throughout my travels and holidays which help me stay in line with my physique and fitness goals.

Use these or simply take them into account when you’re next travelling so you can enjoy your time with a clear conscience.

  1. Protein consumption

As important as this is any other time, whilst you are traveling it becomes potentially the biggest factor determining muscle maintenance and weight control, along with step 2.

You’re unlikely to progress in strength, hypertrophy or effective weight loss (without muscle loss) whilst you’re away, so your goal should instead be to maintain your weight/muscle mass and not regress. As you’re not likely to be training, you must try to maintain your physique through dietary methods. The only way to do this is with calories and protein, and as calories are hard to control, protein becomes the most important factor of maintaining muscle mass and preventing weight gain.

We must increase MPS – Muscle Protein Synthesis (muscle gain/maintenance), and prevent MPB – Muscle Protein Breakdown (muscle loss)

Protein for muscle maintenance-protein enhances muscle maintenance through the process: protein synthesis, you must keep this activated by consuming sufficient protein daily. If you want to be optimise this process, then something called protein distribution comes into play: 3-5 servings of protein per day is optimal with each serving containing 20-40g of protein.


Ever wondered why the majority of protein drinks and bars contain 20g of protein? This is because 20-40 grams of protein is said to be the most optimal consumption per serving to activate MPS - take protein bars travelling!

Protein for reduction of weight gain - protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning you’re likely to feel fuller and more satisfied when consuming this is higher quantities.

Ever wondered why the majority of protein drinks and bars contain 20g of protein? This is because 20-40 grams of protein is said to be the most optimal consumption per serving to activate MPS - take protein bars travelling!

2.NEAT - steps

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - exercise that isn’t intentional (intentional exercise = gym sessions, home sessions, cardio etc). This is an obvious one, also the easiest one in my opinion. Get a load of daily steps in, be on your feet generally throughout the day a lot more and this can have a serious impact on your weight.

The facts and figures online about sitting compared to standing vary, but it is obvious to anyone that standing is more enduring than sitting.

Here are some simple methods of increasing NEAT on holiday:

  • Go for a walk down the beach rather than just lying down sunbathing, you’ll still be catching a tan – don’t worry!

  • Walk to and from the town in the evenings instead of getting a short taxi

  • Swimming lengths in the pool instead of just floating on a lilo, or sinking?

At rest (sitting) depending on your weight you’ll burn around 60-70 calories per hour (BMR), if you’re standing this number could be up to 80/90.

Calories burnt with 10,000 steps = 400-500 calories(depending on your weight & fitness level)

This figure is an estimate but it does not include your BMR. Every human burns calories to stay alive which as mentioned above is about 60-70.

Summary: MOVE MORE

3. Workouts with no equipment

Understandably, doing home workouts on your balcony may not be what most of you had in mind for your holiday.. but it could really help with the maintenance of your physique and fitness. A 20 minute bodyweight session in the morning can make a big difference for muscle maintenance/activate protein synthesis and calorie expenditure.

Have a look at my Instagram (@harripereira)for bodyweight workouts whilst travelling (icon at the bottom right of this page)

4. Fasting

Fasting is one of the best TOOLS for weight loss in my opinion. Notice emphasis on the word tools, because it does not make you lose weight it’s just a good way of creating a deficit. Fasting/intermittent fasting means not eating for a timed period which can reduce the number of meals you eat which is likely to put you into a calorie deficit. So, at home if you would usually have breakfast lunch and dinner with some snacks in the middle, whilst you’re on holiday you’re probably overeating considering you’ll be having food in restaurants. Skipping 1 meal, probably breakfast or lunch will cut about a third of those calories that you’d usually be consuming.

Ways in which I fast/create a deficit when travelling:

  1. Wait as long as possible without eating, then have a coffee, do some exercise (workout or steps) then eat an early lunch followed by an early dinner which will see me through until the next day.

  2. Wake up, have a protein bar and a coffee, have lunch & dinner like normal.

  3. Have a big high protein breakfast, skip lunch but drink loads of water and maybe fruit or protein bar as snacks then have early dinner.

Notice how all of these methods require me to eat dinner earlier! You may have heard the myth that eating late or having carbs after 7pm will cause weight gain. I believe this has derived from the fact that most people have breakfast as soon as they wake up, have lunch at midday/1pm and then can’t last until dinner time (late) to eat so they snack in the early afternoon before dinner, causing overeating.

5. Water & diet fizzy drinks & caffeine

Drinking loads of water and fizzy drinks is a great way to suppress appetite and fill you up slightly. Drinking diet carbonated drinks essentially fills you up without consuming calories and can potentially reduce sugar cravings from my own experience.

Caffeine can reduce hunger and suppress appetite for a brief period, I sometimes have 2 coffees in the morning which will allow me to wait until lunch time to eat my first meal.

6.Cardio: Walking? Running? Swimming?

This may not be in someone’s biggest interest when on holiday but doing a few lengths every day or a run may just be the key to increase your energy expenditure just a little so it puts your energy balance at neutral or even a deficit. As mentioned earlier, walking or getting steps in is a huge variable that will usually determine your energy balance.

Use some or all of these principles when you’re next away - high protein and high step count are the two game changers and I guarantee if you use those two you will notice a difference - whether it be that you don’t put on any weight at all, less than you did last year, or that you maintain strength in your lifts. Any of these aspects should be deemed as a win and you can keep trying to improve your diet and fitness adherence whilst on holiday in the future.

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