How to Count Macros While Traveling
When we began traveling more frequently, we got bombarded with emails and direct messages asking how we manage our macros when not at home; so we decided it would be a great idea to create a simple, comprehensive guide to help you get started.
We get it: traveling can be overwhelming, stressful and frustrating. Through our experiences, we learned that managing macros better meant creating a game-plan. Remember this: nutrition is one of the few choices we're able to control within our environment!
Our goal with this article is to help you become better prepared so you are finally able to start enjoying your travels!
You'll first need to determine how you're planning to travel — by vehicle or airplane. Keep in mind that if you decide to travel by car, you'll have more freedom with what you're able to bring as compared to what can fit into airline luggage.
Vehicle: Carry any foods you want by packing them in Ziploc bags, Tupperware containers, coolers, and other travel food bags. You are also able to bring gallons of water (if needed).
Domestic Flights: You're most likely going to be limited to Ziploc bags, plastic (BPA-free) Tupperware, and a travel food bag. Bringing a refillable (BPA-free) water bottle will help you keep hydrated. Most airports have water foundations to use for filling up (some even have special bottle-filling stations).
Sometimes you can get pulled aside for agents to check your food; however, every airport's regulations are slightly different. So in some cases, be prepared to throw out food if asked (i.e. peanut butter, protein/supplement powders, jerky).
Note: Airport websites typically include a list of restaurants/shops available with a map of the terminal. If you know at which gate you'll be, the map will show you which food options are available nearest you. This will be especially useful if you have planned layovers between flights.
International Flights: You'll want to check Customs' website to see what foods you're able to bring when flying out of the country.
The next step is to find out how many days you'll be out of town.
Short Trip: If it's a trip between 2-5 days, we recommend finding a hotel room that includes a kitchen/kitchenette or includes a coffee maker, refrigerator and/or a microwave.
If you are unsure of what is available, we recommend calling and requesting kitchen staples upon arrival. Typically, most hotels will either bring one to your room or have one available for use in the lobby or dining area.
Long Trip: If it's a trip lasting more than 3 days, we recommend booking accommodations through Airbnb because it is affordable, convenient, and typically includes a kitchen with full-size appliances.
Check your surroundings before you decide to reserve accommodations.
Restaurants: What restaurants are near-by? Check their websites for menu/nutritional information so that you can plan ahead!
Grocery Stores: Are there any grocers nearby? If so, you may want to check and see if they have delivery service through apps such as InstaCart — it'll save time from making an additional trip if they can deliver it to your place upon arrival.
Insider Tip: Looking into meal-prep service companies (some of our favorites are Bite or Icon Meals) can be another great option for pre-cooked, healthy options.
Gyms: If you're staying in a hotel, check to see if they have a fitness facility and ask what kind of equipment they offer. If you are looking for more equipment, check Google Maps for a nearby gym.
If there are no gyms nearby, don't fret; you can plan a few in-room, quick workouts before starting your day.
Now that you know what to take, where to stay, and what's nearby, let's discuss strategies for the day-to-day.
Of the three macronutrients, protein is essential to the growth of lean muscles; however, it can be difficult to meet your intake while traveling. Most of the foods we tend to eat contain high carb and fat content, especially alcoholic drinks.
Here are some protein source suggestions to consider bringing and/or purchasing upon arrival:
Protein Powders (don't forget to bring a shaker!)
Tuna or Chicken Packets
Lean Beef, Chicken, or Turkey Jerky
Boiled Eggs (pre-packaged to prevent smell)
Deli Meat (opt for low-sodium)
Fat-free Greek Yogurt
Light String Cheese
When you're traveling, try to eat more protein dominant meals in the morning and early afternoon. This will help you save more carbs and fats allotment for late afternoons and evenings. We aim to leave about 30g-60g (women) or 50g-70g (men) of protein for meals in the late afternoon and/or evening.
It is important to consume whole, high-volume food sources when you are traveling because it'll help you stay "fuller" for longer periods of time. Opt for less-processed, colorful meals, such as salads, wraps, fajitas, or any meal that comes with a large variety of vegetables.
Important Tip: If you decide to order a salad or wrap, make sure to ask for dressing or sauce on the side — this can save hundreds of calories!
When you are better hydrated, you are more likely to make wiser food choices and combat food cravings. Water keeps hunger signals in check, prevents fatigue, and keeps energy-levels stable.
We recommend taking a BPA-free water bottle with a goal of refilling it 3-4 times (women) or 5-6 times (men) a day to ensure you're drinking plenty of water to keep your body running optimally.
Vitamins & Minerals
Think of this like house or car insurance; vitamins and minerals are designed to fulfill your nutrient deficiencies. Oftentimes when you travel, you'll be faced with more temptations to eat less nutritious food sources than more nutritious food sources.
We recommend getting a pill organizer to help keep you accountable to taking your vitamins and minerals first thing in the morning.
How to Eat Out
Large/Chain Restaurants: Take a few minutes to find nutritional information online by visiting the restaurant's website and/or a quick google search of "Restaurant Name + Nutritional Information" to find options you'd like to fit in your macros.
Local Restaurants: After looking at the menu, find similar foods/dishes available at larger (chain) restaurants and use those macros to approximate the meal.
A few weeks ago, Julie and I ate at a mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant deciding to order chips and salsa, and chicken fajitas with flour tortillas. Since this restaurant didn't have the nutritional information, we plugged in nutritional information for similar food from Chili's into our macro tracking app. Sure it might not have been 100% accurate; but remember, it is consistency over perfection that matters most.
Intermittent fasting is one of our favorite traveling strategies. By skipping out first few meals early in the morning with breakfasts and/or snacks, we're able to save more macros towards our lunches and dinners.
It is easy to use when we travel because we like to explore the cities, mountains and/or beaches. When we get busy, we don't recognize our hunger cues as readily as compared to when we are working from home. Whenever we feel hungry, we drink water to ensure our minds are not mistaking hunger signals for thirst signals.
If our bodies continue to prompt us with hunger signals, we snack on high-volume foods such as rice cakes, veggies (bell peppers, celery, broccoli, etc.), and/or beef jerky. These foods are low in macros, yet "fill" our stomach to keep us satisfied.
Here's an example of what our daily schedule might look like:
6:15 AM: Wake up
6:45 AM: A cup of coffee
7:30 AM: Go explore
1:00 PM: Have our first meal of the day (higher in protein)
3:00 PM: Continue exploring (snack if needed)
7:00 PM: Dinner (enjoy higher carb and fat meals)
10:00 PM: Back to our place
11:00 PM: Sleep
Intuitive eating doesn't mean completely disregarding hunger and/or full signals; nor does it mean eating whatever you want whenever you want. Instead, intuitive eating is a strategy used to help you connect with your body by listening to your body's cues whether you're thirsty or hungry.
When intuitively eating, try this when ordering food:
1.) Drink a glass or two of water while reading through the menu.
2.) Remind yourself that it's okay to order appetizers as long as you're able to split it with your peers.
3.) Decide if you're going to have dessert or not.
If Yes: Choose a light entrée of your choice.
We suggest choosing a small entree from the appetizers' section, salads (dressing on the side), wraps, lettuce-wrapped hamburgers, naked sandwiches (no bread), or soups.
If No: Choose a medium to heavy entrée of your choice.
We suggest asking the waiter/waitress to split the meal in half and placing one half in a to-go box prior to bringing it to your table. (At least, ask for a box to be brought with the entrées for you to immediately split the meal yourself.)
* Most restaurant entrées provide more than two servings!
4.) When an entrée is placed on your table, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself you're there to socialize. If you eat slowly, chewing each bite, and drink plenty of water throughout the meal, you'll do great!
5.) When you're finished, place your fork and knife with handles on the plate and aim to drink 1-2 additional glasses of water to help you stay hydrated. This is especially important if you plan to drink an alcoholic beverage or two.
Remember: at the end of the day, it is better to have a positive attitude and understand that you will make mistakes than beat yourself up. Learn to give yourself grace because you're human and we mess up — it's the learning process.
The secret sauce to success in health and wellness is consistency, making sure you're able to get back on your feet as quickly as possible and keep trying again after a "mistake."
Frequently Asked Questions
1.) What do you recommend for lunches?
We try to take advantage of our lunches by aiming for high-volume food that focuses on fulfilling our macronutrient and micronutrient requirements through fruits and veggies.
We would get a large amount of salad, and double the serving of protein (chicken or steak) and place dressings on the side. It allows us to save hundreds of calories by dipping our fork in the dressing cup before dipping it into the bowl of salad.
2.) What about dinners?
We like to save our macros for dinners, meaning we're able to have one alcoholic drink (along with a few cups of water) to drink throughout the meal. We'd each have an entrée (i.e. chicken fajitas) and then we'd share a dessert (chocolate and ice cream).
It is important to recognize that it is about spending quality time with each other, and not about the food.
Important Tip: Drink a cup of water or two before, during, and after your meal. It is also a great idea to eat slow, allowing your brain to tell you when you're about to get full.
3.) What if I want to have a dessert but I don't have enough macros?
Save your entrée by splitting in half and taking it home in a box or sharing it with your loved one, peer and/or a friend. This way, you're able to balance it with a dessert of your choice.
4.) What if I went over my macros? What should I do?
This is when you need to make a decision — if you decide you'll want to splurge a bit by getting an alcoholic drink or a dessert, do it to create memories (#memoriesovermacros) and get back on track within the next meal. There is absolutely no need for us to feel guilty about giving ourselves a treat from time to time.
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