Flexible Dieting while Traveling for Work

I enjoyed late March and the first half of April, reaching championship-level pizza consumption.  It’s time for a mini cut, perhaps out to Memorial Day to really dial it in.  Normally this would be a pretty easy process—either make some math rules or behavior rules.  For instance, one way to go about it is, “I’m going to set deficit macros based on my expected activity level over a window of time.”  Another way is, “I’m going to back off eating pizza and ice cream during this window of time.”  It’s two roads to the same place.  Ten years ago I was in the behavior camp—no white stuff, whole grains, lean meats, etc.  More recently (the last five years) I’ve been all math.  However, as I’ve started coaching I’ve become more in tune again with behaviors because a lot of the people, especially those new to organized nutrition, work better with tackling behaviors one at a time, finding the carte blanche math approach overwhelming.  While I’ve been successful in the math approach, honest self-assessment has revealed some eating habits that I’m not thrilled with.  I love food, and it tends to take over a lot of my day—thinking about the next meal while consuming the current.  Turning the whole thing into some sort of spectacle or sport where I try to reach some never-before reached level of satisfaction.  So, during this mini-cut—in addition to reaching my body-composition goals– I’m going to try and make some meaningful progress in the reducing the importance of food in my life.  The difficulty in this (besides the obvious) is that I’m going to be on the road for about half of this mini cut.  Trying to be right with macros, never mind good food choices, while on the road is next to impossible.  Happy hours, pre-set, carb-heavy lunches, and dinners at steakhouses, are landmines for any dieter.  Throw in poor sleeping in hotels, inadequate hotel gyms, and deadline-related stress, and you’ve got a perfect storm for failed flexible dieting.  So, I’m creating some behavior rules to help me: 1) hit my macros during the mini cut, 2) allow flexibility while I workout inconsistently, and 3) make better food choices more consistently.  Here they are:

The Math

I don’t know when or if I’m going to workout each day (a set of pushups in the hotel doesn’t count), so it doesn’t make sense to follow one set of macros.  So, for the first time I’m going to have two sets of macros: sedentary days and workout days.  If I don’t workout or I do a little hotel gym something, I’ll eat the sedentary macros.  If I get in a Crossfit workout or a substantial regular gym workout I’ll hit the second numbers.

The Food Behavior Rules

(I’ll follow them the best I can, but I’ll be on the road, and I won’t feel bad for a second if I break one.  However, I won’t make it regular.  I’m not using this as a passport to fail.)

  1. No sugar (except the little bit from bars), fruit, starchy vegetables, or bread on sedentary days;
  2. I’ll follow rule #1 on workout days, but I’ll augment on those days with fruit and starchy carbs before and after workouts, and I’ll include bread and rice in my carb numbers;
  3. Skip breakfast to shrink my feeding window;
  4. Eat lots of vegetables on the low glycemic index end of things.

All this basically this means I have to eat salads with a piece of protein for lunch and dinner, with hippie-fiber bars, protein shakes, and nuts & nut butters to fill in the rest.  Hopefully at the end of all of this I’ll be less attached to poor carbohydrate sources.  I know I’m disciplined enough to hit the macros.  Making better food choices is troubled waters for me.

What a day looks like, and what you can do on the road

  1. Before I left for this business trip I packed what we’ll call a success bag: individual-serving super-foods powder, nothing-but-peanuts peanut butter, zero-carb protein powder. I also went to a hippie grocery store and checked out the ingredients in all their meal replacement bars with the diligence of a diamond jeweler.  Don’t wait until you’re on the road to buy these, because the gas station ones are chalk full of sugar and other garbage.  You’re better off with a McD’s cheeseburger at 300 calories than you are with a Power Bar if you’re in a pitch.

2. As I said I’ll be skipping breakfast. I’ll have coffee and a powdered superfood.

3. Mid to late morning I’ll have a bar (little bit of fat, good amount of fiber, good amount of protein).

4. Lunch- salad with lots of greens, low GI vegetables, some cheese, lean piece of protein, and oil/vinegar dressing. I’ll also add avocado if I can find it.

5. Dinner- filet with greens salad and something else green that doesn’t have a bunch of cheese, oil, butter, or cream incorporated (like grilled asparagus).

6. Remainder of macros to be met via the success bag.


Hopefully this is helpful this is helpful for you road warriors!

Author: Asher

I worked as a CPA for 10 years before jumping into a fitness industry career. I'm Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified, a Crossfit Level 1 trainer, and an Eat-to-Perform certified nutrition coach.