Fit to Post Health

Three tips to help you stay healthy when you travel

When looking through the lifestyle questionnaire we go through with each of our Genesis Gym members, I realized that about a quarter of them have heavy travel schedules due to work.

This is understandable when we see Singapore's central location in the region, the growth of neighboring countries, and the incentives given by the government for MNCs to place their regional headquarters in Singapore.

Clients tell me that travel is often the most difficult time to keep to a healthy lifestyle, and I experience the same difficulties when I travel for seminars or conferences.

Here are some common difficulties and what you can do to minimize their disruption to your fitness.

Problem: Jet lag and time zone differences mess with your sleep patterns and affect stress hormones and fat burning.

Solution: This is one of the few times I recommend melatonin. If you constantly take it, you will find your body become adapted and resistant to it. So there are better ways to improve sleep if you are at home...

However if you take it only occasionally when you travel, it can work well. I suggest one tablet when you want to sleep at your new location's bed time.

In my experience, it can reduce your jet lag recovery time by 30-50%. Usually it takes one day per hour of time zones to get adjusted. So if you travel to Europe (8 hours time zone difference), you will normally take 8 days to adjust. With melatonin, you can get fully adjusted in 4-5 days.

Problem: You are not in control of your food preparation and may have social obligations to eat unhealthy stuff.

For most people who have excess body fat, especially those who store it around the waist and hips, frequent meals of healthy unprocessed food tends to give better results. However on the road, this may not always be possible. In this case, the key is to hit your protein target for the day, and let the rest of the food you eat simply fill up your daily calorie requirements.

For example, a sedentary 75kg man, needs about 2,300 calories to maintain weight. Yes there are differences in each individuals metabolism, so you will need to experiment a little on your own.

The protein target is a minimum of 2g of of protein per kg of weight. A little more is fine. Try to get this from lean meats.

So you hit 150-200g of protein per day. That's about 6-8 servings of lean meat or eggs. After that, eat as much veggies as you can, and then if you need to drink socially, or eat an "unhealthy" meal with colleagues just go ahead and do so.

I suggest eating a high protein breakfast with eggs and meat at your hotel. At least you know that the rest of the day will allow you more nutritional freedom as you have already hit most of your protein target.

NOTE: ladies go for about half to 2/3 of what men need for protein.

Protein is very filling, and improves fat burning. So it will be hard to eat too much evil stuff after hitting your protein target.

Problem: Traveling is very tiring even if there are no time zone changes

The reason for this is the air that is in planes.

It is not equal to what you would be breathing at sea level. Normally, if the plane is flying at lets say 35000 ft, it is pressurized to about 5000-8000 ft altitude. This is called the "cabin altitude".

Everything in your body moves slower and takes more energy at this "altitude". In addition, the air is usually of low humidity so you lose water faster.

Solution: Drink water beyond usual requirements, I would target at least 4l per day for men, and 3l for ladies.

Coach Jonathan Wong is a respected health professional. He is also the Founder and CEO of Genesis Gym Singapore, which aims to provide the best personal training and fitness services in Singapore.

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