How to thrive when traveling

August 11, 2012

Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Travel

Think of your health as drawing energy from three main sources — sleep, exercise and diet.

by Dr. Alan Christianson — 

People often put off initiating or maintaining positive health changes because of perceived obstacles, such as travel. The good news is that, with some advance planning and a little effort, it really is not that difficult to stay healthy and energized on the road.

So you have currently been taking better care of yourself and living healthier. You have incorporated some good habits and routines into your daily life. At some point, you have probably learned how easy it is to lose momentum and drift back to unhealthy habits. Whether you are going across the globe or over the river and through the woods, do not let travel take you farther away from your goals.

Think of your health as drawing energy from three main sources — sleep, exercise and diet. If you can keep these sources working for you, you will be OK.

How do you sleep on the go? Nothing ruins the memory of a good trip like a lingering cold or bronchitis you picked up on the flight home. What is the main reason this happens? Your immunity was diminished from lack of sleep. It is not unusual when traveling to try to take it all in, no matter how much is on the list. Plus, factor in a time zone change, and your body really needs as much or more sleep than normal, not less.

  • The week before traveling, shift your sleep schedule toward your destination sleep schedule as much as possible. This works best when moving your sleep schedule forward.
  • Avoid sleeping at your destination until it is bedtime in local time.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine on the day of travel.
  • Adults can use 2 to 3 mg of time-released melatonin at bedtime during short trips and for the first few days back home. This helps reset your internal clock.

How do you work out when you cannot get to the gym? The best answer is to do lots of walking. Fortunately, this is usually easy, whether you are going to an amusement park, beach or most other parts of the world. You can also get a good workout with simple body weight exercises like squats, jumping jacks, burpees, lunges, pushups and planks.  And you can always take a look around for something to use as a pull-up bar.

How do you control what you eat? While traveling, think about food in terms of fuel, protein and produce. Your fuel needs (carbs) are minimal when sitting in a plane, car or boat, so do not consume them or, at the least, cut way back. Take along your favorite powder forms of protein and veggies, and use them as a replacement for one meal or more every day.

This will save you time and money, and help keep your diet healthy and in balance. Package up single servings in snack-size baggies and mix the powder up in bottled water as needed. This gives you a nutritionally complete, low-calorie meal and enables your body to rest and detox. You may also drop a few pounds, which can help keep your weight stable by the time you get home.

So, do not let your vacation be an excuse to backslide. With a little forethought, you can focus on being healthy while sightseeing, having fun and tasting the local flavors.


Alan Christianson, N.M.D., has been practicing in Scottsdale, Ariz., for more than 14 years and is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease. He practices at Integrative Health, along with Drs. Ann Lovick and Phil Wazny. 480-657-0003 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 3, June/July 2012.

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