The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide To Traveling Without Sacrificing Health, Performance And Mental Alertness
Do you travel frequently, and then feel worn out, tired, and not at the level of performance you need to be to crush it? You are not alone. Travel is a massive stressor and it can wreak havoc on your productivity and performance. I’m here to tell you how stay fresh, confident, and razor sharp, whether you’re fully rested or you just walked off a redeye.
This is a much bigger issue than we often anticipate, and it’s especially challenging for people starting or running their own businesses, as we’re expected to shine even in the most chaotic of circumstances.
In my years as a corporate wellness consultant, the biggest challenge my clients collectively face involves traveling for business—constantly shuttling between hotels, planes, trains, and automobiles often derails their efforts at being successful while maintaining healthy lifestyles. As many of them are CEOs and business consultants—meaning it’s their business to travel—this can be a huge issue.
Just check your bag!
Luggage weight limits, TSA regulations, and barebones hotel rooms top the list of ways travel sabotages a healthy routine, even for the best of us.
One of my clients, for example, is a nursing consultant who travels across the country every week. As a medical professional, she was always in command of her health—eating right, running marathons, and doing up to two workouts per day. But a decade of weekly travel (and up to three different cities per week) got the best of her. It took its toll in the form of persistent fatigue, weight gain, and digestive issues. Trust me, the impacts of travel are real, and they have serious effects on our lives and careers.
Indeed, recent studies highlight health dangers of constant airline travel, subjecting business travelers to excessive radiation, pathogens, and accelerating their risks of strokes and heart attacks. All that’s not to mention the damage your business will suffer when you can barely keep your eyes open, much less concentrate on your next move.
But we all have to travel, even if it’s just a weekend jaunt to a conference or meetup. That means you need a plan. The following entrepreneur’s guide to traveling includes the key recommendations I share with my clients to keep them at their peaks.
Read ahead to become the ultimate power traveler, and to pick up some surefire tips to generally stay fresh amid of the chaos of entrepreneurship.
The High-Performing Entrepreneur’s Guide to Dining Out
For my clients, work dinners can sabotage an otherwise stellar diet—especially when steak and mashed potatoes are on the menu. That’s why it’s important to take the steps, including meal planning, to ensure healthy choices when on the road.
Choose restaurants that fuel success
Begin by selecting a restaurant that best supports your healthy lifestyle. If your clients, boss, or partners always seem to pick the least healthy venue, say a polite “no,” and then offer up suggestions for a healthier experience.
If there’s resistance, simply put it in context for them: Explain that you want to be able to do your best work and that means choosing places that fuel your body, not sabotage it.
I also recommend using apps and websites like Healthy Out and Clean Plates to find the healthiest options nearest you. A good rule of thumb when searching for healthy restaurants is to make sure they have a few clean salad options or at least two to three side dishes you could put together to make a complete meal. I always make sure I can make a meal of 50% vegetables and at least four ounces of lean protein. If I can get that, I’m good to go. Generally, Mediterranean and Japanese restaurants are safe bets, as they have cleaner dishes low on sauce and suitable for the healthy traveler.
On a recent trip to the Southern US (aka the butter and cream capital of the world), I found a few great restaurants and called ahead to let them know of my allergies and make sure I could find healthy combinations. I was assured that the chef could accommodate, so I quickly scheduled my reservation. Upon arriving, I was met with a very different scenario, where the waiter informed me that the “dishes could be made dairy free, just not without butter.” After a good giggle, I asked if they wouldn’t mind making me a simple salad with olive oil and vinegar and grilled fish. They were totally obliging and even made me a fresh fruit sorbet for dessert. Score!
The moral of the story is, if you have food allergies or are sticking to a healthy routine, be sure to call ahead, and even then don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
Eat for energy by hacking your blood sugar
When it comes to staying healthy on the road, I have a few rules. Optimal work (and life!) performance is tied to great energy and a clear and sharp mind. To achieve both of those, we first need balanced blood sugar.
When we over-consume sugars and carbohydrates, it causes our blood sugar to spike, which, in turn, leads to lethargy, irritability, and trouble concentrating. What’s more, when our blood sugar rises, our bodies produce insulin to cope with the copious amounts of sugar in our blood. The flood of insulin brings our blood sugar down to a low point, making us crave more sugar to get back to a place of balance. (Still with me?) In a nutshell, too much sugar and carbs are a recipe for sluggishness and crankiness—terrible conditions if you’re aiming to do your best work.
To avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster, start by honing in on the section of the menu that contains the most vegetables, as it will automatically crowd out carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and rice. It could be a salad, a veggie bowl, or you might need to fashion a meal out of a few sides—a trick I use often when eating out. Then, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of lean protein (think grilled chicken, white meat turkey, and wild-caught fish); aim for a portion roughly the size of your palm. Getting the right balance of macronutrients means you’ll be eating for great energy, balanced blood sugar, and satisfaction, and protein plays a very important role in that.
Additionally, to keep yourself full, ensure that healthy fats also make their way onto your plate in form of foods like a quarter of an avocado, a tablespoon of olive oil, or a handful of nuts. Good fats as well as fatty fish, such as salmon, are my go-tos as they’re a great source of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid which has demonstrated support in brain functions like memory, motor skills and even depression. A real win for the always-on entrepreneurial brain!
Here are some healthy substitutions for common foods:
Image credit: Picklee.com
Avoid the booze…but if you must, here’s what to drink
Few work dinners are complete without the requisite wine and sugary cocktails. But this can have a major impact on the body and its ability to perform at work the following day, even if you’re not getting lampshade-level tipsy. As such, I always recommend that my clients choose water whenever they can—especially when they’ve been flying, as that can worsen dehydration.
But who are we kidding, that doesn’t happen very often.
So, if booze is on the table, be sure to skip the wine and choose what I refer to as a “clean cocktail.” This would entail something like a 100% agave tequila paired with soda and lemon. Lemon is very detoxifying and the soda will dilute the alcohol and help you stay pseudo-hydrated. By choosing the purest tequila, you’ll be avoiding all the additional additives such as grain alcohol and coloring that often make their way into other spirits.
This is also important: Have a glass of water in between cocktails and slip in some electrolytes via tablets or electrolyte packets to counter the dehydrating nature of the alcohol. Oh, and don’t do anything you might regret in the morning!
Step Away From the Slim Jim! Snack On The Go, the Right Way
One of the most common complaints I hear in my practice is that clients are often in transit and don’t have access to healthy, fortifying snacks. As a result, their blood sugars drop (remember the blood sugar roller-coaster) and they reach for the nearest unhealthy fix, such as high-sugar protein bars, candy, and other highly processed foods.
Don’t play snack roulette
Don’t leave it to chance and get caught with Snickers as your only snack option. I recommend my clients fill their bags with go-to snacks like sprouted nuts and seeds, roasted chickpeas, a clean protein bar, or low-glycemic fruit, like berries. Choosing protein-rich nuts, seeds, and chickpeas will ensure your blood sugar stays constant and your brain is satiated. Staying away from higher sugar fruits like bananas and dried mangoes also safeguards against blood sugar pendulum swings.
Next-level travel tip: Mail yourself snacks
If lugging around a bunch of snacks sounds like a drag, I also encourage clients to mail their snacks to their hotel rooms ahead of time, something that I often do myself. Seriously! Using websites like Amazon or Jet, I’ll usually send Fit Mixes or Sun Warrior Protein, plus some nut milk in order make my own shakes or protein bites. Real talk: It’s not always as delicious as a homemade super smoothie, but it gets the job done. There are also battery-powered blender bottles that can whip your drink into shape.
When in Rome, snack like the Romans
For my clients who can’t carry or mail their snacks (and quite frankly don’t want to make a smoothie in a hotel room), I recommend apps like Food Tripping to find local restaurants and juice bars that can cater to their nutritional needs.
Quick and Efficient Ways To Stay Active And Alert
Whether it’s due to lack of resources, time or energy, it’s hard for many of my clients to maintain a healthy workout routine when on the road. This is a shame, because aside from keeping them lean and trim, exercise actually has a tremendous impact on the brain. Our brains stop producing new neurons around the age of 30, and one of the best ways to keep them sharp and oxygenated is through exercise.
If you’ve got a big client meeting or you’re cooking up the next big idea, exercise is a must. Here’s how to stay on top of it when you’re on the go.
You don’t need a long workout
“Don’t have time” to work out? New research is suggesting that short, high-intensity workout bursts are just as effective as your hourlong slog on the treadmill. For clients who are time-starved while traveling, I always recommend the 7-minute scientific workout or simple bodyweight exercises. Even taking 10 minutes to do a series of crunches, squats, box jumps, and push-ups is better than nothing.
Bring your workout with you
My go-to workout for travel is jumping rope. I bring a lightweight, easy-to-pack option, and I do sets of a hundred jumps interspersed with floor work like sit ups and pushups. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up and get a good sweat in. Moreover, some of my clients with bigger workout budgets will Skype in their trainers to wherever they’re located to make sure they still get their exercise fix. If that’s not something you can afford, websites like Daily Burn allow you to benefit from a trainer-developed workout in the comfort of your own hotel room.
Get to know the city
If you do have time for a full workout, apps like ClassPass make exercising in every city a real cinch—just be sure to read reviews to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. I also always recommend taking a run or going for a walk in a new city. It’s a great way to see what’s outside the boardroom, plus you can check exercising off your to-do list at the same time.
How to Relax And Remain At Peace Amid Traveling Chaos
Different time zones, client meetings, and red-eye flights can all be exhausting, which is bad news if you need to be at the top of your game. In fact, according to a study from Harvard Medical School, consistently sleeping four or five hours per night, or pulling an all-nighter cause study participants to perform on par with those with a blood alcohol level of 0.1, which is above the legal limit for driving in many countries. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting your beauty rest.
Snooze on the flight
I always recommend that clients get as much rest during a flight as they possibly can. Starting a trip with a breathing exercise can signal to the nervous system that it’s time to rest and lull you into a sleep.
If you have to work throughout the flight, take 20 minutes when you land to meditate—which for entrepreneurs is the ultimate success tool. This can be done in the car to and from your hotel, or once you arrive and are settled in. Some practitioners suggest that a 20-minute meditation is akin to four hours of sleep; there’s also evidence to suggest it supports enhanced performance and can reduce your need for sleep.
Create a relaxing environment far from home
Can’t sleep due to a change in time zones? Aromatherapy can be a huge help. Lavender, bergamot, and Ylang Ylang essential oils can all help to create a state of relaxation and therefore sleep; finding TSA-approved roller balls like these from S.W. Basics is a great start. If you want to kick things up a notch and use an essential oil diffuser, there are travel-sized options with USB interfaces. Research shows it can support you in a good night’s sleep, or even help facilitate a quick nap—which, if you didn’t know, is a real superpower.
Dehydration Strains Your Brain: Easy Ways To Stay Hydrated
Flying is one of the most dehydrating processes we can put the body through, so it’s important to be conscious of water intake. Moreover, even if you’re not flying and are simply running around all day, it’s just as important to stay on top of your water intake.
Chronic dehydration negatively impacts the brain and can impair mood, cognition and memory; additionally, a group of studies pointed to a major increase in perceived effort when dehydrated. That means short, run-of-the-mill activities feel much harder to carry out when we’re not drinking enough water.
The perfect formula for drinking water during travel
I always recommend clients add six to eight additional ounces of water for every hour flown. So, a two-hour flight would have you add an additional 12 to 16 ounces of water on top of your regular eight glasses. Always bring a water container with you so you can refill anywhere. I highly recommend these bottles, as they’re super lightweight and portable. Also, be wary of beverages beyond water, as they can worsen dehydration—especially alcohol.
Get more oxygen
If you do happen to find yourself on an airplane, getting a little extra oxygen isn’t a bad idea either. When you’re flying at altitudes of 30,000+, the cabin pressure is low and that pressure does a few things to your body. First, your blood receives less oxygen, which can cause fatigue, foggy brain, and more.
Cabins are also kept at around 10-15% humidity, which is why many of us leave flights feeling severely dried out. As such, I recommend bringing chlorophyll drops in-flight to support oxygenation of the blood while flying. Chlorophyll is extremely detoxifying and also fights oxidative stress, which we get a lot of on commercial flights.
There are plenty of opportunities to derail a healthy lifestyle while on-the-go, but staying on track is not impossible, or even as difficult as you’d imagine. It’s all about making smart food decisions, prioritizing mini-workouts and planning ahead to ensure you are your healthiest, best self.
I’ll leave you with one final tip: When I work with busy entrepreneurs that travel every week, I encourage them to create a “minimal viable wellness plan.” In short, this encompasses the absolute least effort they can put towards their health and still stay well.
In some cases, we really don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast or hit the gym, and when those instances strike, this plan ensures we have healthy coping strategies. A minimal viable wellness plan becomes the go-to when times get tough—when we’re overbooked, traveling, or under the weather. It’s a roadmap to ensure we are making the best choices they can for the situation we find ourselves in.
I recommend everyone create such a plan, to establish the bare minimum of what you need when you’re stretched thin. In other words, when time is an issue, take lemons and turn them into lemonade—or, better yet, an alkalizing clean cocktail!
How do you stay well when you’re traveling for work? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below.