Dr. Susan Kleiner
Traveling is a great method for evaluating personal care strategies. When we are away from home we are forced to determine what things that we do for ourselves are the most important to come on the road with us, and which are secondary and can be left to do at home.
I have found that age has helped me set those priorities like never before, and the goal of "being comfortable" is the driver of most of the self-care choices that I make.
As a nutrition consultant, I know that many people are not exactly sure what "being comfortable" really means for their body. That's one goal of our discovery process during counselling. The funny thing is that once we determine those expectations, what we choose to do about them can be wildly different.
For instance, in order to feel at ease in my body most of the time, I have to take myself out of my comfort zone through exercise. That means challenging myself athletically so that the work is hard, serious, focused, and nearing the edge of what I think I can stand.
I am spent, and I feel great. The sense of mental and physical accomplishment prepares me to be "on top of my game" for the rest of the day. My exercise routine is particularly critical during travel, when nearly everything else is outside of my control.
Diet can be a very hard thing to control while traveling. Years of travel have taught me to plan ahead, bring certain foods with me that can travel well, and think flexibly. Typically, the meal that has the most promise for control is breakfast. We often have two choices: eat at a restaurant or bring breakfast foods with us and eat in the hotel room.
Of course, today we also have a third, excellent option, which is renting a room, apartment or house with a kitchen, and really eating exactly as desired. This adds food shopping to your travel destination to-do list.
I blend the first two together. I wake up and fuel my early morning workouts with Vitargo to optimize my training time. Then, I really hate paying high prices for breakfast, but I depend on some local food sourcing for support. I pack baggies of cereal, flaxseed meal, raisins, seeds or nuts, a bowl and a spoon, protein shake powder and a shaker bottle in my suitcase.
I hit the closest coffee shop or hotel food shop for milk and bottled water. I make my breakfast in my room and eat what and when I want. If I have a breakfast meeting I skip the protein shake and order two poached or soft-boiled eggs and coffee at the meeting. My body and mind are fully fuelled and comfortable and my colleagues are none the wiser.
Speaking of breakfast foods, sometimes dinner is really a struggle when you are on the road working or on a tight travel schedule. This was a question that one of my coaches asked me a few months ago. By the time he returns to the hotel after evening games, it is so late that he doesn't want to eat much but knows he needs to eat something.
What foods might work for a very late dinner? Eggs are a wonderful choice here. Most hotel restaurants can make you a light omelette or egg dish, even if it's not on the late dinner menu. Add a steamed vegetable and a cup of caffeine-free tea, and you'll sleep easy.
For some of my clients the thing that is most important when they travel is a good night's sleep. This is actually critical for everyone no matter whether you are home or on the road. Just like your breakfast food, planning ahead is crucial here.
"Alcohol disturbs sleep. While drinking too much may cause you to pass out before your head hits the pillow, you are destined to wake up several hours later and maybe have a hard time falling back to sleep. That is the effect of alcohol, and even a little bit can have an effect. If you have a big day tomorrow, try to limit or forego the alcohol and celebrate with an alcohol-free cider or mocktail, rather than a cocktail.
"High fat meals can cause gastric reflux or heart burn. Traveling often presents us with wonderful opportunities to try new foods and have fine dining experiences. Late night heavy meals will often cause night time stomach upset and discomfort. The later it gets, the lighter your meal should be if you hope for a good night's rest.
"Caffeine has a five- to six-hour half-life. If you are caffeine-sensitive and drink caffeine at 5 pm you will still feel some of the effects at 10 or 11 pm. Beware of the beverages and foods that contain caffeine, and plan for when you should switch to caffeine-free.
"Protein plus carbohydrate together may help you prepare for rest and sleep. In the evening your brain's serotonin receptors switch to their night time circadian cycle and help you wind down to sleep. The combination of protein plus carbohydrate enhances movement of tryptophan, the building block of serotonin, from the blood into your brain.
A small meal or snack may be just the right choice instead of a nightcap."Vitamin D is important for a good night's sleep. Make sure that your vitamin D levels are healthy. Many people benefit from a vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter.
My "comfort zone" travel kit:Vitargo (www.vitargo.com), puffed cereal, raisins, flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, whey protein shake, multivitamins-minerals and fish oil supplements, plastic bowl, spoon, shaker bottle, ear plugs (in case the hotel is noisy), exercise bands (if there isn't a hotel gym), exercise shoes and clothes, sports headphones and phone arm band.
The writer is a nutrition specialist
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