So you want to stay in shape even while on vacation to protect those precious gains you’ve made?
Vacations are awesome! You get to spend time and create lasting memories with your loved ones, perhaps by recharging your batteries at the beach, trying authentic local cuisines, taking a city tour, or lounging by an infinity pool.
Living a healthy lifestyle means going on vacation shouldn’t be avoided, even if we think it will get in the way of our routines. Sure, it could cut into the progress you’ve already made and, depending on how long you’ll be on vacation, could result in some weight gain if you completely abandon your fitness routine.
It’s common to come back from a vacation a couple of kilos heavier - I used to too.
As I got older, I realized settling back into my routine and losing excess weight got a little more challenging each time.
Fortunately, you don’t have to gain much weight while on vacation, even if you miss a workout here and there or try all the local delicacies.
Sign a contract with yourselF
Good lord! You’re going on vacation, right? Why do you need to make a commitment on paper?
You know that staying in shape takes commitment. And those days when you are on vacation count too because body fat doesn’t know you’re on a holiday (of course you can skip this step but without a commitment, you know what could happen).
By the way, you still have to commit do some physical activities even if you’re not going to the gym to prevent weight gain on vacation.
The hardest step is also the one that’s most important, especially if you’re going on holidays for longer than two weeks. When you’re committed to maintaining your fitness routine while on vacation, it will feel second nature and you can ditch the pen and paper the next time. A verbal commitment will do ;)
Are you still there? Great! Let’s continue…
Airbnb or hotel?
What’s the best option to book for fitness? Is it a hotel or an Airbnb? Each one has its own advantage/disadvantage.
Advantage — you can save money on food, cook healthier meals, and have more room to store fresh produce from the grocery. And depending on the location, it might even cost less than a hotel.
Disadvantage — you might not have enough space to do your workouts. Some are located further from the tourist spots, requiring you to travel a bit farther.
Advantage — if you still want to lift weights on vacation, most hotels have gyms you can access the whole day. Some are also closer to the tourist spots as well.
Disadvantage — limited space to store healthy food. You can’t cook your own meals and might have to rely on meals served in the hotel or nearby restaurants.
Who wants to cook or workout when they’re on vacation??? The person who wants to stay in shape, that’s who. If you’re not staying with relatives or at a friend’s house then I’d recommend booking an Airbnb so you have the option to cook your own meals.
It’s extra work on your part but the rewards are worth it.
Bring what you need
I don’t expect you to pack a yoga mat or a blender - especially if you’re flying, but if you’re driving then I suggest that you take what you need with you. Resistance bands and a set of scales don’t take up that much space…
Having things like that on hand may allow you to get a workout in the apartment and keep your portion controls and meals in check.
And speaking of nutrition…
Half of the battle (and the harder part, in my opinion) when you’re on vacation is calorie consumption. There’s plenty of food to try, parties to attend, and alcohol to consume. Here are my tips to keep your calories in check.
1. Snack on whole food
Snacking on nutrient-dense whole foods like nuts, dark chocolate, and fruits, helps keep you full and your blood sugar stable, which prevents you from overeating on your next meal. They’re also light, compact, and easy to carry in your backpack while you go from one destination to the next.
Unfortunately, you can’t just throw calorie counting out the window when on vacation. When there’s plenty of food, it’s hard not to give in and eat that remaining barbecue on the plate even if you’re already full. I understand that you’ll probably overeat from time to time so my suggestions are:
Eating slowly. Eating slowly helps you identify if you are already full or not. It takes a bit of time for your body to signal to your brain that you’re full so take your time chewing your food, especially if it’s your first time having Paella.
Compensate. If you’re looking forward to indulging for lunch or dinner then I suggest you cut your calories from your other meals like your snacks or breakfast (if you’re into intermittent fasting).
Eat plenty of whole foods. Lean meat, fibrous carbs like vegetables, and fruits keep you full much longer and therefore reduce the risk of overeating. If you’re going to eat out, try your best to stick to eating whole food.
3. Alcohol Consumption
Ahhh, what would a vacation be without trying the local beer, or a few cocktails by the pool, right? Here’s a fact: Losing fat and drinking alcohol don’t go together.
Alcohol is known to inhibit fat oxidation. This means when you have a bottle of beer, it takes about one hour before your body metabolizes the alcohol, during which time your body stops burning fat.
Whatever you eat during that period gets converted into fat straight away. Yikes.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking alcohol altogether; you just need to moderate the consumption. Here are a few things to remember:
If you’re going to drink alcohol, wine is preferred, then spirits, then beer.
If you’re drinking hard liquor, it’s best not to mix it with other sugary drinks. Stick to drinking with soda water, low cal mixers or drink it straight.
Drink plenty of water together with your beverage to prevent dehydration. I will alternate between one alcoholic drink and one water.
Drink your beverage slowly to give your body enough time to metabolize the alcohol and to avoid putting too much stress on your liver. Try to keep to one drink an hour.
Avoid drinking and eating.
Keeping yourself moving is the easy part when you’re on vacation. There are plenty of ways to move your body and burn calories even without a gym. Here are some of them:
1. Do it everyday:
If you can’t go to the gym then plenty of walking is a great substitute. If you’re going to places like Paris, Rome, or Singapore, you can tour a huge part of the city on foot. That’s great if you’re taking pictures as well.
2. Plan fun, physical activities
You can also plan activities like beach volleyball when going to the beach, hiking when you’re going camping or exploring a city on a bike instead of taking a bus tour.
3. Workouts you can do anywhere
If you want to get your dose of HIIT or circuit training to build or maintain the muscle mass you gained, there are plenty of workouts you can do anytime, anywhere. You can go on a short jog around the city, do bodyweight workouts in the park, or use a jump rope in the parking lot with some plyo-pushups mixed in. A set of resistance bands can replicate an entire gym when you know how...
These are great workouts you can do in 20–25 minutes tops. They can be pretty intense too so that helps you burn more calories.
Get plenty of sleep
You might be tempted to stay up late, especially if you’re going to a party, but don’t forget to get 7–8 hours of quality sleep. Since you’re on vacation, this is the perfect opportunity for you to catch up on much-needed sleep. Recovery should be an equally important part of your routine whether you’re on vacation or not.
And when you get enough sleep, you can also…
Give yourself a head start
Wake up early if you have plenty of activities scheduled the following day because the best time to get your workout in or to prepare food is early in the morning.
If you get your workout in early, you will feel good about yourself physically because of the endorphins exercise produces, and you’ll feel less guilty about overeating because you know you already burned some calories when you worked out.
Give your best effort
It’s vacation time! You can take it somewhat easy on your workouts and diet. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you miss a workout or overeat every now and then.
A helpful guideline is following a “Rule of Two”: Don’t miss a workout or a physical activity two days in a row, or don’t overeat for two meals in a row. Your brain is tricky. It wants you to stay in your comfort zone and “missing two in a row” could easily turn into a bad habit that could carry over even when your vacation is finished.
Also, you probably won’t beat your deadlift records while you’re on vacation and that’s perfectly fine. Aim for maintaining the gains you made instead of wasting them all away.
Enjoy your holiday
Now that you know how to stay in shape even while on vacation, it’s time for you to test it.
Make a commitment to stay in shape, pack what you need, load up on plenty of nutritious whole food, keep moving, follow the tips on alcohol consumption, get plenty of sleep, and most importantly, have fun!
Holidays are great for recharging your batteries. You know what else feels great? Staying in shape and coming back home in awesome form like you never went on vacation. It’s easier to slip back into your fitness routine and continue building on the progress you’ve made.
Follow the tips on this article and stay in your best shape ever.
Remember to grab a copy of the FitSELF Travel Guide for more tips and hacks to help you stay in shape while you're holidaying.