Unless you haven’t noticed already, I’m quite a health nut and have invested a lot of time to find a balance to stay healthy when I travel (even for extended periods). These are my personal learnings based on my own research – maybe you can find it useful.
I have found great inspiration in the books of Ray Kurzweil (like Transcend – Nine Steps to Living Well Forever) and Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. All these books are more a collection of ideas and don’t replace consultations with a physician, but they give you an idea of what matters (even to your physician).
Table of Contents
Nutrition – Food
Ideally, I’m striving for a diet that is rich in protein, with low-fat meat and vegetables that are as fresh as possible – items that are low on the glycemic index. Not every cuisine has plenty of variations of this and you can’t always easily find such food in every region or country, but sometimes it just takes some searching; while Russian cuisine isn’t ideal for this, for example, almost every little town has a Georgian food place (called Gruzinskie) that’s often cheap and makes life cheerful.
In general, I try to find high quality, fresh items and eat less or if there is nothing suitable available, I don’t eat. Lots of countries just don’t have proper hygiene standards and you need to stick to ‘boil it, peel it, wash it, cook it or forget it’, which limits your choices a lot.
I do eat a pastry for breakfast (ideally paired with great espresso). This is flour with sugar and not low glycemic, but I eat just one until I have a late lunch.
If in doubt, I prefer rice against potatoes and starch. I favor lean meat (ideally chicken) to fish and darker meat.
It’s a good idea to get enough fiber and avocados are a great resource; however many countries do not have a real avocado culture.
I have also found that chia seeds and plant-based protein powder are easy to transport and simple to mix with mineral water for consumption. This is a healthy (yet not very tasty) breakfast. I also try to always have nuts available whenever I travel, including almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews. In China it is often necessary to live on such a diet alone for a few days (with the occasional soup mixed in).
There is research that the sweet potatoes found in Southern Japan greatly help in the fight against heart disease and cancer. However, this specific plant is rare to find outside of Southern Japan (it’s not the sweet potato fried at your regular burger joint).
It is generally it is a good idea to avoid dairy and cheese (something I’m not good at sadly).
Nutrition – Drinks
Research shows (though these studies are anything but conclusive) that 500mg in daily caffeine is a healthy dosage and better than no caffeine. This translates into 1-2 double espressos per day (much depends on the barista and beans). I try to get two quality espressos every day.
Another set of research shows (conveniently, I know) that one to two alcoholic drinks per day help prevent heart disease. Ideally this is a quality red wine and not beer, white wine or hard liquor, but we all need to find a balance there.
I also like to eat or drink 50ml of quality virgin olive oil per day. Now you can’t take much liquid in your carry-on bag (and I rarely check any bags anymore), so I try to find olive oil locally which can often be a challenge.
I try to avoid sugary cocktails and hard liquor – unless it’s below 10 degrees Celsius and it becomes a medical necessity 🙂
I gave up drinking juices as I try to get all necessary vitamins through other sources and they have a lot of sugar. I’ll usually stick to bottled water (sparking water is my favorite). I also gave up on bringing my own bottle (I know – bad for the environment) as it is a lot of hassle for me and not the most hygienic. Water is also not expensive when traveling – just tends to be in the US and Northern Europe.
It is important to find an exercise routine that you can do:
– almost anywhere
– that helps your body
– that isn’t too challenging that it makes you extremely tired
– that is repeatable (one you can do it in 20 minutes or less)
I found a set of stretches and exercise routines that I can do almost everywhere. A gym is a great place if the hotel has one, but some gyms are nasty and some cheaper hotels just don’t have one.
I spend 20 to 30 minutes exercising and try to do so every second day. The routine also helps against feeling cold (great for winter days) and helps with back pain (unfortunately an issue for me).
I do like to go for long runs outdoors but I don’t find it easy to find a suitable running routine in a new city. Traffic, pollution, heat and missing recreational areas don’t help. If I can’t go on a run, I try to walk and exploring a new city for two hours or more per day helps a lot.
Yes, you can also run in a gym, but I find it hard on my knees and just plain boring, so I have stopped doing that altogether.
I have also explored a number of supplements that are all available on Amazon with no prescription required. If you decide to take any, consult your physician and do enough blood tests to see what is going on first. I have found interesting results with:
- Green tea supplements
- Caffeine supplements
- Red bean extract
- Vitamins C and E
I’m terrible at jet lag – just ask anyone who knows me. I’m just too married to a 24-hour (or 25-hour) biological clock. I haven’t found anything that really helps. I tried a number of items like melanin without much success. What I found, though, is that caffeine HELPS me adjust to a time zone in a positive way. But I try not to exceed the dosage mentioned above.
I always bring my own set of high quality ear plugs from Amazon and eye shades, which both enable me to sleep on a noisy flight even in bright daylight. The bulky noise-cancelling headset I own is good for music but not conducive for sleeping.
What is your ‘stay healthy routine’?