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Managing Keto while Travelling

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

The snow is starting to fly where I live, and the change of season has me reflecting on all the great times I had over the last few months. Little trips here and there had me enjoying time with friends, camping with my kids, learning new things, and relaxing with my spouse. No shortage of good times! There was wine, there was nachos, and there was ice cream. No shortage of indulgences either!

And through it all I maintained my ketogenic lifestyle >90% of the time. Surprisingly, I ended the summer slightly lighter than when it started. Travel presented no interruption to my usual habits - but did require a few key efforts.

Be Prepared

Bulletproof coffee was my gateway to keto, the daily habit that launched me down a rabbit hole of learning about ketones and the ketogenic diet. I haven't missed a single morning since I started in January of 2017. The items in picture below travel with me everywhere!

1) My "Off the carbs, off the couch" Travel mug

2) MCT Oil (2 TB) and organic butter (10g)*

After much trial and error, these Trudeau Fuel condiment containers (no affiliation) are the most reliable containers I've found to transport MCT oil without any risk of leaking.

3) Collagen protein

This is a recent addition to my travel kit. I picked up these single serve collagen protein packets at the recent 10 Year CrossFit Affiliate Gathering and have been adding them to my travel bag ever since.

4) Mini Blender

I love this battery powered milk frother immersion blender from amazon. It comes apart in two pieces and fits nicely in the side pocket of my backpack.

*When travelling with liquids is not an option, I use these Bulletproof Instamix packets.

I have received many weird looks in the airport when I bought a coffee, added my own ingredients and pulled a little blender out of my bag. But I don't mind! My daily Bulletproof coffee keeps my energy levels stable and keeps my hunger at bay during the stress and routine-disruption of travelling. Junk food and snacks are everywhere, at every turn in airports, gas stations, and restaurants. I find it much easier to make good choices when I've started my day with fat.


Always Find Fitness

Exercise is great for Ketosis. It can help to burn off any excess glucose consumed in a not-so-keto meal (energy expenditure vs storage) and can help to mobilize fat into ketone bodies when excess glucose is not available. I try to find a CrossFit workout any where I can and it's even better if it's with friends. In the last few months I got to do benchmark workout "Kelly" at CrossFit Nanaimo, a partner workout at CrossFit Ladysmith, take in Chris Hinshaw's Aerobic Capacity course at CrossFit NCR, and enjoy an outdoor team WOD put on by CrossFit Whistler.

When dropping in to a CrossFit affiliate is not an option, I'll get a little more creative. On a family camping trip we threw a few dumbbells in the truck and did one of my gym's Outside the Box Summer Fitness Challenge Workouts at our campsite.

As Many Rounds As Possible in 16 min:

  • 16 Dumbbell Snatches

  • 16 Push Ups

  • 16 1-arm overhead dumbbell lunges

In a hotel, I found the gym and squeezed in a quick workout using a pair of dumbbells and the treadmill.

3 rounds of:

  • 10 Dumbbell Busters (Burpee + Squat Clean Thruster)

  • Run 0.25 miles on the treadmill

And in a cabin at the lake, with nothing available but an empty bit of floor, I still took a few minutes to sweat.

10 Rounds:

  • 10 Squats

  • 10 Push ups

  • 10 Lunges

  • 10 Sit ups

There's always a way to find fitness!


Longer Fasts

When surrounded by nothing but terrible food options, I always think of Jocko Willink's words on an episode of his podcast: You don't have to eat it just because it's there! One of the most freeing things about being fat adapted is that I can go hours or even days without eating and it doesn't turn in to an emergency. I normally eat for 6-8 hours of the day and fast for 16-18 hours, but when there's nothing good to eat, I can extend that period of fasting with no problems whatsoever.

When I had my DEXA scan done, it showed I have 18% bodyfat (leaner than 97% of women my age) which translates to a healthy 24lbs of fat on my body or a total of 84,000 cals of stored energy! Tapping in to that stored fuel for a day is a totally natural, normal, healthy, even productive thing to do.


Order Smart

I've experimented with all forms of "diets" in the past, and I've found keto to be hands down the easiest thing to stick to anytime, anywhere.

In a restaurant, there's no need to panic about the macros. No need to check the nutrition facts ahead of time. It's entirely stress-free so that I can just enjoy the experience of dining out. In a nicer restaurant my order is a simple yet delicious steak - hold the starchy sides, add garlic butter. Maybe prime rib, shaved if they'll do it.

In a casual situation, a burger is always an easy option. Hold the bun, add bacon, avocado, and/or a fried egg if they have it. This was a mid-day meal at Vera Burger in the Vancouver airport:

Delicious and satisfying in a way that makes it easy to walk past all the snacks and candy in the airport without even thinking about it.


Indulge strategically

I've always been clear that I follow a cyclic ketogenic diet, which means I am not in ketosis 100% of the time. I fuel myself with tasty tasty fat and protein >90% of the time, but I also enjoy the heck out of a carb-o-rific meal sometimes too.

If you view food solely as a source of energy I think you are really really missing the point. Food can be a very important cultural and social experience. In new places I love to try new foods and I'm not willing to shortchange myself on those unique experiences for the sake of some "diet". I also love the shared bonding experience with friends and family of special feasts and celebrations. But these things are special because they don't happen every day. They are rare.

Travel is great because it brings these rare experiences into my life. After a day of fishing in the pristine waters of northern Canada, you can bet I'm going to enjoy the heck out of a shore lunch with some of my closest friends. Fresh fish filleted on a nearby rock and cooked over an open fire, served with beans, corn, and fresh bannock with raspberry jam is one of my favorite meals of the year!

Knowing these great meals are coming I can plan ahead and work them in to my life in ways that 'minimize the damage', so to speak. A longer fast, a bulletproof coffee, and a bit of exercise all help to keep the balance. It's how I enjoy life, feel great, and stay lean all at the same time!

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