The last 2 weeks have been packed with travel for my family. We started off with the plan to take the kids to the beach, but once we got there, it started raining. With no clear end to the rain for days, we decided to change our plans.
We started driving and decided to hit several of the main cities in Texas, going from Houston to San Antonio to Austin, and then back home to Dallas in a matter of days. The following week my wife and I took a trip to Cozumel.
We had a great time, but there were certainly challenges if I wanted to enjoy myself, while at the same time try not to do too much damage to my body. Being on the road for 18 hours with three kids brings some challenges, but nothing that can’t be solved with a little planning.
Taking Care of Exercise
First of all, there’s exercise. I rarely if ever exercise on vacation. I use vacations as a time to rest and recuperate, and they are typically planned at a time in my exercise routine where it’s a good time to take a break.
If you’ve been exercising consistently for months, you should be taking a week or so off from working out anyways. Doing so gives your body, mind, central nervous system, tendons, joints, and muscles a chance to fully recover. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come back from a break with better motivation, and even increased strength. Rest does a body good.
I’ll work out right up to the day before I leave for vacation, and then I don’t think about it again until I get home. I might bring some workout clothes with me in case I decide to go for a run on the beach or something, but I do it because I want to, and not because I have to.
Planning Your Nutrition
The real challenge with vacations is the nutrition. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel, where we had plenty of food options to choose from, but when we were on the road with the kids, the vacation was centered around food and trying restaurants that were famous or on TV.
What are you supposed to do when the kids want to order the giant 3 pound cinnamon roll? Do you get it and watch them eat it, or do partake in the fun too? Personally, I partake in the fun. Some experiences are just more valuable than saving a few calories. What’s life if you can’t have a little fun with your family?
Does that mean I ate that cinnamon roll until I was stuffed? No way. I ordered a regular healthy breakfast first, and once I was done with that, I had a nice controlled portion size. The key on these vacations is not to restrict all your food choices, but to watch your portion sizes. Eating a 400 calorie cinnamon roll is really not going to do anything in the big scheme of things.
If you’re going home in a week and getting back to your normal eating patterns, that cinnamon roll might even do your mind and body some good. That kind of food can go a long way in resetting many of your hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin, not to mention the psychological benefits it provides.
The Week Before Vacation
Did I eat crap at every one of meals? Absolutely not. Before I left home, I cooked breakfast for myself for every one of the days I was going to be gone. I put it into individual plastic containers, and put it in a cooler. Breakfast is an easily controlled meal on vacation, and just about every hotel has a microwave to heat up your food. I save my calories for when I can better enjoy them.
The week before I leave for vacation, I also start a process of carb depletion. I eat very few carbohydrates during that week. The low carbs in combination with the glycogen depleting workouts has many benefits. Most importantly, it improves insulin sensitivity and puts your body into a perfect position to absorb the carbohydrates you consume on vacation.
You’ll be able to eat those not-so-healthy carb choices without any real worry about carb spillover. Your glycogen stores are depleted and are ready to suck up any glucose you send its way. The average person can store up to 500 grams of glycogen. That’s a lot of carbohydrates to enjoy if your glycogen stores aren’t already full.
Inevitable Weight Gain
Which leads me to my next point – weight gain. It’s likely you will put on weight after your indulgent vacation. However, you must differentiate the difference between weight gain and fat gain. The likelihood that you gained five pounds of fat in a week’s time is highly unlikely. You would need to eat around 3000 calories over your maintenance calories every single day, and that realistically is not easy to do.
More than likely, any weight that you put on over your vacation will be water weight. Glycogen stores about 3 grams of water for every gram of glucose. If you were to fill up those 500 grams of glycogen stores, that would equal 2,000 grams, or about 4 pounds. Add that intracellular water weight to any subcutaneous water weight, and you have the potential to add a little bit of weight.
That water weight is nothing that won’t be lost over the course of the week once you return to normal exercise and eating habits. Don’t stress about your vacation. Don’t be oblivious to what you’re eating either. A little planning and moderation will go a long way in helping you enjoy your vacation so that you can have your cake and eat it too.
Life is too short to not enjoy those few times where memories are created. Be smart, and understand that the week of vacation is just 1/52th of the year. You’ll be maintaining healthy eating habits for the other 98% of the time – an impressive track record for a healthy body.