Travel Tips

Travel Diets: Balancing Your Calorie Checkbook While on the Road

Jogging outside

 Who better to dispense advice on how to stay healthy on the road than a personal trainer? Annette Lang weighs in on how to stay on track whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

Being a personal trainer allows me to hear my clients’ concerns about overeating while traveling and not staying on track with activity and exercise.

Whether it’s business or vacation, it’s a constant balance of calories going in and out.

I have tried to help them out by using metaphors that they can relate to. For some, it has helped to compare the challenges of calories going in and out to keeping track of expenses while traveling.

While traveling, you probably give some thought as to how much money you are spending (depending of course on who is paying the bill!). This directly impacts your experiences on the road and how much fun you can have.

Learn more with Healthy Eating Tips for Business Travelers.

Well, it’s the same with spending and consuming calories. Just as people can be surprised by their checkbook balance when they don’t keep track of what they are spending versus saving, many times we don’t keep track of calories going in and out, and by the end of the year, we wonder how we gained a few pounds!

Man joggingSo … what about planning your activities to purposely balance out the calories you are taking in?

Let’s start with walking. Pick up a pedometer at any sporting goods store to get an accurate count of the steps you walk each day. Some of the pedometer models allow you to input your specific stride length to give you a more accurate count. Even if yours doesn’t do this, they are pre-set at a pretty average range which is a good way to start.

Across the board, the average stride length is about 2.5 feet, so it takes about 2,000 steps to walk 1 mile. A 150-pound person can burn an average of 225 calories per hour walking at 3 per mile, or 20 minute per mile. Plan to walk to the restaurant for dinner, and your first two beers are on the house, so to speak!

Other choices for activities you can plan in order to burn some extra calories are (based on the same 150-pound person):

  • walking up stairs: 544 calories per hour
  • standing, or doing light work: 150 calories per hour
  • dancing: 306 calories per hour
  • leisure swimming: 408 calories per hour

So here is an example of what your day might look like if you deliberately plan to balance your calorie checkbook …

Salad illustrationLet’s assume that you are traveling for work but have half of the day to yourself.

Your day is going to include a great lunch and dinner where you know you will want to eat pasta and probably some bread, and have a drink or two. Plan ahead and eat a low-calorie but filling breakfast, such as a small serving of oatmeal.

Think ahead that you need to eat a big salad with non-fat dressing at one of the two meals. Plan to drink lots of water during the day so you are not starving when you get to the restaurants.

As far as activities to help balance the output, this is how it can break down:

  • Get up in the morning and take a walk for 30-45 minutes before your meeting (about 175 calories).
  • In your hotel, walk up the four flights of stairs two times per day (about 150 calories). If you are on a higher floor, get off the elevator and walk the four flights.
  • Make sure you are standing instead of sitting as much as possible, and plan your sightseeing so that you can walk to most of your destinations (about 200-300 calories).
  • By the end of the day, you could burn an average of 500 calories to help balance out the extra calories you eat during the day.

Another tip for burning extra calories to balance the incoming amount is to focus on different efforts each day.

Learn more ways to burn calories with High-Intensity Road Workouts.

Exercise anywhereI have found (and my clients agree) that when you are body aware, it helps in making better decisions regarding food. You feel your body, you recognize your goals and you might make a better decision next time you have the choice.

For example, one day you can commit to walking up as many stairs as you can. Remember to first notice how many times you are confronted with a set of stairs right next to an escalator, especially at airports, hotels, malls, etc. If it’s stair day, there is no option—just do it!

The next day, you can focus on your core. As much as you can think of it, see if you can sit and stand tall while deliberately pulling in your abs.

Learn more about how to exercise your core in Road Work: Exercise With a Stability Ball.

Another tip: While sitting in a chair, sit away from the back of it, and consciously pull in your abs without holding your breath. Alternate leg lifts, lifting one foot an inch off the floor, putting it back and then lift the other. This not only gets your core muscles working, it also puts you in a frame of mind of being aware of your body.

Push Up on Exercise BallNext day is push-up day! Start in the morning and do a set of as many push ups as you can. During the day when you catch yourself in a room by yourself, do another set.

You don’t even have to do them on the floor: If you’re in an office, you can do push ups towards a chair; if you go to happy hour, doing push ups makes for a great party challenge! At the end of the night in your hotel room, do another set.

With these simple tips in mind, you can have a great time on the road and not feel like you are sabotaging your efforts at staying fit and trim!

By Annette Lang for Annette Lang is a personal trainer and the author of Morning Strength Workouts. For more information about Annette, visit her Web site at

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