How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

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Spider-walking in Karijini National Park in Western Australia.

The following branded content post is brought to you by RXBAR. I’ve been eating roughly two RXBARs per day since the beginning of the year, and their team noticed on social media — so they reached out to do a giveaway together! Working with companies I love is my best-case scenario, so I’m very pleased to share this post here with you.

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to reclaim my health and get back into a diet and fitness routine. For the month of January, I stayed in New York and got into a solid routine. But one of the most difficult parts was when I started traveling again.

Yes, it’s one thing to be healthy when you’re at home — but what happens when you travel?!

I was so nervous when I went to Florida with Cailin in February. This was my first trip since committing to a new gym, an exercise routine, a personal trainer, and an 80% paleo diet. How was I going to manage in a theme park famous for its milkshakes and turkey legs?

I made it through security at JFK Airport and felt like crying. I was hungry and surrounded by forbidden foods. The old me would have gone for a latte and a pastry at Starbucks, or maybe a giant bag of Cheez-Its if I felt indulgent. Was I going to fail after so much hard work?

It’s okay, Kate, I told myself. You can keep up your diet here. I went to a fountain and filled up my portable water bottle. I went to a newsstand and bought a banana. And then I reached into my RXBAR stash and pulled out my favorite flavor: Coconut Chocolate.

Yes. I could travel and stay healthy.

SUP Yoga in Key West, Florida

How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

Over the past seven months, through trial and error, I’ve gotten much better at staying healthy on my travels. These recent trips have been some of my healthiest yet.

But didn’t you eat a ton of key lime pie on those Keys trips? I sure did! But I balanced things out. I would rarely eat more than a few bites of pie. I would eat healthy fish dishes the rest of the day. And I made sure to work out like crazy while I was there! I worked out in gyms, I kayaked, I did the 7-minute workout over and over in my room, I even went to a Zumba class where I was the only participant. (That was a bit awkward.)

Here are some of my best tips for staying healthy while traveling:

On a…bicycle kayak?…on South Africa’s Garden Route.

Establish healthy habits at home first.

There are a number of people in the travel blogging community who are super into fitness. You see them scaling mountains, running on beaches, rocking self-made bootcamps at various playgrounds in different cities. How do they do it?

Their secret is that they prioritized fitness at home before they hit the road.

The same truth holds for you, too. If you want to be in shape while you travel, you should commit to fitness at home long before you hop on your flight. The road is full of temptation — discipline at home will keep you on track while traveling!

Sipping on a black iced coffee — maybe 5 calories? — while strolling the reservoir in Central Park.

Hydrate Frequently and Limit Caloric Drinks

So much of your health rests on hydration. It helps your body work better, it keeps you alert, and perhaps most importantly, it staves off hunger. Very often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty.

Make an effort to drink water constantly. Bring a portable water bottle to cut down on trash. And if you want to drink something else, stick to drinks with few calories: black coffee, herbal tea, seltzer.

Cut back on lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices and you’ll pack on fewer pounds. I say this with regret as someone who loves lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices.

Pack Healthy Snacks And Use Them Often

The old me would buy a roll or two of Oreos and eat them all on a six-hour bus ride. I don’t do that anymore.

RXBAR: The Ultimate Healthy Snack for Travel

When I got into fitness at the beginning of the year, I tried all kinds of paleo protein bars. Seven months in, there’s only one brand that I still eat regularly: RXBAR.

I first noticed them at the gym, with labels reading, “3 Egg Whites. 6 Almonds. 4 Cashews. 2 Dates. No B.S.” By “No B.S.” they mean no dairy, no gluten, no added sugar, no soy, no artificial colors or flavors, no preservatives, and no fillers.

I got hooked on the bars at the gym — and then started buying them in bulk. (FYI, they’re cheapest at Trader Joe’s — even cheaper than Amazon!) My favorite flavor is Coconut Chocolate, followed by Mixed Berry and Chocolate Sea Salt. All are paleo and fit the criteria for Whole30, excluding Peanut Butter Chocolate, as peanuts and other legumes are off the paleo menu.

All the bars are gluten-free and vegetarian; some but not all flavors are paleo, Whole30 compliant, and Kosher. None are vegan due to the egg whites. See more details here.

Today I eat them constantly. In fact, the reason why RXBAR reached out to me for this campaign is because their staff noticed I was eating them all the time on Snapchat!

How I use RXBARs While Traveling

I bring a huge stack of RXBARs with me when I travel nowadays — usually two for each day. No joke, when I went on the cruise earlier this year, an entire shelf was devoted to my healthy snacks.

I pack them into my carry-on backpack. Snacks on planes are usually junk food and some airports are severely lacking in healthy options (hello, Fort Lauderdale), so they are vital on some flights.

I have them for breakfast. Each bar has roughly 200 calories, which makes them a good start for the day before grabbing a mid-morning snack.

I have them for pre- and post-workout snacks. Before the workout, they give me energy; post-workout, their 12 grams of protein helps me recover. (My trainer likes me to have 20 grams of protein after a strength workout, so I’ll often have a bar and a half after.)

I hold onto them for long rides in transit. Whether it’s a half-day bus journey or an hourlong subway ride, I keep a bar or two in my purse in case hunger pangs hit.

I bring them on road trips. When my friends and I drove out to Montauk a few weeks ago, I came bearing bars. “Coconut Chocolate, Mixed Berry, or Chocolate Sea Salt? I brought three of each!” They both went for Coconut Chocolate.

Surfing at sunset in J-Bay, South Africa.

Sign up for a fitness activity or tour.

Have you always wanted to learn how to surf? Or whitewater raft? Or rock climb? Now is the perfect opportunity to learn! I guarantee you it will be one of the most memorable activities of your trip. Plus, once you come home, you’ll have a story in your back pocket about that time you went surfing in South Africa during a pink sunset.

Another option? Try a fitness-oriented tour! Bike tours are already popular in many destinations, and running tours are starting to become popular in cities as well.

Enjoying one of my favorite restaurants on the planet: Red Snapper in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Limit your indulging to once per day.

Definitely be sure to indulge in the local cuisine when you travel — it’s one of my favorite things to do! But balance it out. If you’re having a heavy meal for dinner, get a salad or some simple protein and vegetables for lunch. If you’re having dessert, don’t have three glasses of wine.

Let yourself live — but save the indulgences for some of the time, not every meal.

The most difficult hike of my life: the Alps surrounding Innsbruck, Austria. I hurt so much the next day!

Walk everywhere — but remember that walking is not cardio.

When you’re on the road, especially when visiting cities, you’ll be walking all over the place. You might clock upwards of 20,000 miles per day. And that’s fantastic — but walking is no substitute for cardio. Walking keeps you active, but you won’t be bringing your heart rate up much.

Is walking better than nothing? Of course! But you shouldn’t be considering it your workout for the day if you’re comparing it to your usual spin class or HIIT. Try to add some actual cardio in between the walks.

A heart rate monitor might help you here. I recently started using a Fitbit Alta HR, and while it’s not perfect, it does let me know which kind of activities get my heart rate up.

Bike riding in Caye Caulker, Belize.

Rent a bike or kayak.

Whether in a city like Berlin or a tiny island like Caye Caulker, Belize, renting a bike can be a great way to explore more of your surroundings in a healthy way.

Kayaking with Wren on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Another fun option? Rent a canoe or kayak! It may not be the most efficient to get from town to town, but it’s a lot of fun. Plus, you’ll get new perspectives for your photos.

Trying out Anti-Gravity Yoga in New York.

Join a fitness class in another city.

One of my favorite things to do in different cities is to spend my days as if I lived there. So I visit coffeeshops, I read in parks, and I occasionally join a fitness class at a local studio. Zumba, yoga, kickboxing, spinning, barre — I’m game for anything that isn’t completely terrifying!

Above all, I recommend yoga. Yoga classes are easy to find around the world, and even if you don’t speak the local language, they usually say the name of the pose in the usual Sanskrit! Plus, yoga is all about letting go and focusing on your inner self. Nobody judges you at yoga class.

Hiking to Jesus in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, with Alex.

Grab a fitness buddy for company.

It’s much more motivating to work out alongside a friend! If you’re traveling with a friend, see if you can plan some kind of fitness activity during your trip. If not, there are other ways.

If you’re staying at a hostel or hanging out in a neighborhood with lots of backpackers, ask around. Don’t be scared — this is what people used to do before smartphones! Backpackers are often looking for something cool and different to do, especially if they’ve been traveling long-term.

Alternatively, ask on the local Couchsurfing or Reddit forum for your destination or join a Meetup Group. You never know what you might find!

On a surf and yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

Consider going on a fitness-oriented group trip.

Back in 2011, I went on a yoga and fitness retreat in Mexico. At the time, I was grotesquely out of shape and thought I would be the resident lump amongst a dozen lithe women.

But you know what? It wasn’t like that at all. All the women on the retreat were interested in fitness, and some were in very good shape, but most of them were average-sized women who wanted to go somewhere warm in the winter — and justify their nightly margaritas.

We began and ended the day with yoga. In between we’d do boot camps or go surfing. And throughout we were served delicious, mostly vegan food with a bit of fish thrown in. I felt so healthy at the end of the week!

Every retreat is different, and you should research in advance to find out what the day-to-day is like. But don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Just after caving and swimming in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

Take care of your body.

Know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. Don’t go out drinking every night. Get a good night’s sleep whenever possible. And when you feel the faintest beginnings of a cold, get yourself to the nearest place serving homemade chicken soup.

Rock climbing — and hating it — in Railay, Thailand.

If you mess up, that’s fine. Just do better tomorrow.

Fitness is not like addiction. If you mess up, it doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym tomorrow and announce, “It’s been one day since I was healthy.” It’s okay to fall short, to eat way too much dessert or to spend a day sedentary in a cafe. We all fall short sometimes. God knows I do.

Likewise, it’s okay if you try a dream activity and end up hating it. I tried rock climbing in one of the most beautiful places to do so — Railay, Thailand — and hated the experience, start to finish. From the way-too-tight shoes to putting my life in the hands of a dude named Stinky Pete (seriously), it was not for me.

That just means you need to make the conscious decision to do so again tomorrow. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Win a Travel Pack Worth $500+ from RXBAR!

RXBAR is giving away a travel pack to one of my readers, and this prize is excellent. Here’s what you’ll get:

To enter the giveaway, go to @adventurouskate on Instagram and leave a comment on my latest photo — the one with the RXBARs. This is open to US residents only. The RXBAR team will be choosing the winner at random. Good luck!

How do you stay healthy while traveling?