Any entrepreneur can tell you about their love-hate relationship with being a road warrior. Traveling for business often means interrupted eating, sleeping, and workout routines—all lifestyle hindrances that can ultimately lead to getting sick or, worse, unhealthy habits. Here are my top tips for staying healthy when traveling for business.
Make Eating Healthy & Hydration a Priority
Unlike a leisure vacation, while you’re on a business trip, you need to think and perform. What you put into your body while traveling will play a major role in your brain health, energy levels, and your immune system. To start, always avoid coffee and alcohol while flying. The reduced pressure in the cabin places more pressure on your body. Not only will alcohol stress the body, it’ll cause dehydration, too. Instead, drink plenty of water. Pack an empty, refillable water bottle in your carry-on, and fill it at a water fountain before boarding.
About 70 to 80% of our immune system is in the gut. Research over the past 15 years has shown that probiotics can influence the immune system, and that these effects are strain specific. Prebiotics, a complement to probiotics, support the growth of beneficial microorganisms in your gut. They are important for your diet because they feed the flora that keep your digestive tract healthy. Together with probiotics, they’ll stave off bacteria in the circulating cabin air or in the water of foreign countries—helping you to avoid getting sick when traveling. While there are a variety of prebiotics and probiotics that can support your immune system, a prebiotic such as AppleActiv organic apple peel powder has tremendous antioxidant effects, supports joint comfort, and promotes healthy joint function—a benefit you’ll seek when I later discuss the downsides of sitting on planes. A probiotic like Morinaga BB536 increases the levels of bifidobacteria in your gut—supporting a healthy immune system and providing a natural defense against digestive problems.
Aside from supplements, you can incorporate prebiotics into your daily diet by choosing plant-based foods that contain prebiotic fibers such as asparagus, cabbage, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, and onions. Unripe bananas, cashews, pistachios, lentils, and chickpeas are great prebiotic-packed foods, as well. To maximize the power of prebiotics, be sure to pair them with probiotics; cottage cheese, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, and fermented cheeses are all great choices.
Since you can’t always squeeze in a healthy meal when you’re conducting back-to-back business meetings, try to plan ahead for when hunger strikes. Avoid any fried foods, heavy carbohydrates, or salty foods—especially the ones served on flights. Not only are these foods unhealthy for the body, they also cause bloating. Instead, pack protein-rich snacks, such as: hummus with vegetable crudité, wild salmon pasta salad loaded with vegetables, quinoa salad with bite-sized lean protein, vegetables (peppers, peas, grape tomatoes, and olives are all great options), whole apples or pears with raw nuts or almond butter, a quality protein bar, or a dark chocolate and raw nuts trail mix.
Stretch on Your Flights
We all know sitting is the new smoking—which presents some unique obstacles for business
travelers. Sitting on a plane for long hours increases pressure on the lower back. Meanwhile, the changes in air pressure while flying can trigger an inflammatory response that causes pain in already damaged joints. Also, since the cabin pressure is lower than the air pressure at sea level, gases sometimes trapped in degenerated discs expand, causing more back pain.
Proper lumbar positioning, standing up, and stretching will all help relieve the stress sitting causes your body. Depending on the amount of space you have, try a variety of stretches, like ankle and wrist rolls, a hands-over-head stretch, head rolls, and shoulder rolls. You can also engage your core with seated twists. Sit up firmly and twist your body left and right in controlled motion while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. Twist only from your torso. Hold for five seconds on each side. Repeat a few times. You can also relieve tension and aches with a seated neck stretch. To do so, sit up straight with your core engaged. Drop the side of your head towards your shoulder and hold for five seconds, then repeat on the other side. Perform this move as often as you like.
If you’re on a long-haul flight, try to find some space to move about with these stretches and exercises:
Hamstring and back stretch: Stand upright with knees slightly bent, feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. With your core engaged, bend forward from the hip keeping the back/spine straight until you feel the hamstring taut, and hold for three seconds. Slowly move back up and repeat a few times.
Squats: Stand up tall, core engaged, feet hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or straight out in front of you. Hinge from the hips and sit back into a squat. Knees should be in line with your toes. Stand back up. Repeat this move 10-15 times.
Calf raises: Stand up straight with your core engaged and feet hip-width apart. Place your hands with on your hips or straight out in front of you. Raise your heels and stand on the balls of your feet, pause for five seconds, then lower your heels back down. Repeat 10-15 times.
Shoulder stretch: Grasp your hands behind your back, stand up straight. Pull your hands down while opening up your chest, feeling the shoulder and chest stretch.
Find Time to Exercise
When you’re on the road, heading to the gym might be the last priority on your to-do list. But working out and releasing endorphins has the proven ability to alleviate stress and boost creativity. When possible, do a HIIT workout on the day of your scheduled flight. Vigorous exercise will help get more oxygen into your brain and release endorphins, which will help when you’re sitting for long stretches of time on a plane.
Can’t find time to sneak away to the gym before your flight? Create your own workout in your hotel room. Push the furniture aside and bust out a circuit of body weight exercises, such as squats, burpees, hip-bridge, standing lunges, side-lunges, planks, side-planks, bird-dogs, jogging in place, jumping jacks, or knee-ups. Many hotels are fitness-friendly and will provide equipment like yoga mats or weights upon request. Remember: your workout doesn’t have to be lengthy to be effective. An eight minute tabata-style or a 20 minute HIIT are efficient workouts that you can do when short on time. Plus, the exercise should also help you recover from any jet-lag.
With a little advanced planning, you can eat healthy, stave off bacteria, and combat the side effects of sitting while you’re still in the air. Once you’re back on the ground, make exercise a priority—even if it means getting a short workout in your hotel room. By making healthy choices while traveling for business, you’ll have an easier transition back to your normal routine once you return home.