13.5 Tips for Nutrition, Training and ENJOYING Vacation

For the majority of us, one of the things we look forward to the most every year is vacation, myself included.

In fact, as I write this I am sitting on the beach in the Dominican Republic soaking up the sun…well, more like hiding from the sun but you know what I mean.



We work hard and take care of business in order to pay the bills (or do well in school for our youth athletes) and live a life with less worry. This can be extremely draining, both physically and mentally.

I am fortunate as every day I go to work, I enjoy positively impacting the lives of those athletes who I interact with and coach…yes, that includes the adult athletes too! Some of us are not so lucky.

But nonetheless, I along with the other TOP Fitness coaches work long hours, and over weeks and months, a few days of vacation sounds pretty nice.

Although vacation is a time to relax, enjoy good food, great company and rejuvenate a bit, it can also be a stressful time for those of us who take pride in our nutrition and training.

The environment changes, the food options can easily be less than stellar, and a quality training facility is likely not available.



This sounds like the perfect recipe for gaining excess body composition (FAT), losing training momentum and taking a giant leap backwards with your health and performance.


It doesn’t have to be that way!

You could pass on all of the wonderfully tasty food that is available to you.

If you are of age, you could refuse to attend social events and/or abstain from drinking any alcohol.

You could get up early to crush a 90 minute training session, and go to bed early in order to ensure adequate recovery so you could again repeat the process over the next few days.

You could do all of this, and in the process give up the chance to enjoy new foods, have some fun with friends over a couple of drinks and experience the night life in a different environment.

How does that sound?

If I’m guessing correctly, it sounds like you want to X out of this article immediately while you flip me the bird (or at least give the computer the finger).



And I don’t blame you, nor do I expect you to (or want you to) attack your vacation this way.

Instead, take a look at the following strategies in order to enjoy your vacation without falling completely off of the nutrition and training bandwagon.


  1. Make a plan.

Whether you are on vacation or not, the first principle to staying consistent with your nutritional efforts is to have a plan.

As the common saying goes, “Fail to plan and plan to fail.”

The biggest thing is that while on vacation, you may have to deviate from the plan a bit. But as long as you stick to your main principles (keep reading below) you should be just fine.

I am planning on having a good breakfast with a little something I want (likely a pancake with some real syrup), but for the most part it will be comprised of eggs, veggies and fruit.

For lunch I will have some meat, veggies and quality carbs such as rice, potatoes or beans…and the same for dinner.

And for each meal I am allowing myself a bite or two of a “treat” whether that is actually a sugar laden baked good or a handful of cereal…whatever I am in the mood for.


2) Protein and veggies are king!

As you noticed above, my meals will be focused around protein and veggies.

If you can make it a point to eat your protein (meat, eggs, fish, etc.) and veggies first (any veggie in any form except drowned in butter or other creamy sauce), you will not only signal your “full hormones” in order to prevent overeating of the “not so healthy stuff,” but you will ensure that you are prioritizing the nutrients necessary for continued muscle growth and health.



After your protein and veggies you can consume an appropriate amount of carbs, which all depends on your size, sex, activity level for that day and overall goals…(I have a complete guide for this if you want it, so just let me know).


3) Have a little something.

You are on vacation, so you should be able to enjoy your food, and as touched on above, you should be able to have a little something you want.

Whether that is a pancake at breakfast, a cookie at lunch or a piece of cheesecake at dinner, you should be able to eat these guilt free. The key is to eat an appropriate amount.


                           Choose one!


One small pancake with a little maple syrup, one cookie and a couple bites of cheesecake thought the day will not destroy your physique or health…especially if the rest of your meal was quality protein and veggies.

Just don’t think you can crush a plate sized pancake that is submerged in syrup,  an entire sleeve of cookies or a pound of cheesecake and not experience any unwanted side effects (the walking jiggles for example).

Remember, a little something!


4) Be aware of your liquids.

Again, this is another principle that should be used all the time, not just on vacation, but is especially useful when you are allowing yourself a bit more leniency with your food.

Try to eliminate your intake of sugary and overall calorie laden beverages.

Unless a glass of wine or beer is your little something, you should focus on consuming only water, tea and coffee (free of cream and sugar) throughout the day.

Try to stay away from fruit juices, sodas, creamy/sugary coffee or tea.

This will help to keep your overall caloric intake, as well as the amount of sugar or other processed ingredients to a minimum, which again gives you a little more wiggle room for everything else.


5) Eat a protein rich snack before a meal.

By consuming a protein rich snack (protein powder in water/low fat milk, beef jerky or other jerky, nuts, etc.) you are providing your body with nutrients that will provide a sense of satiety for little calorie.



This is helpful before a meal as it will help signal fullness and help you prevent overeating.

Not only that, but it will again help you ensure that you are consuming the protein necessary to support your health, performance and physique goals.


6) Use protein powders.


Piggy backing the previous point, making good use of protein powders is a powerful way to keep nutrition consistent while on vacation.

I am not a huge advocate of replacing whole foods with protein powders, but if you are planning on consuming larger than normal meals later in the day (or have already consumed one or two), downing a protein shake with some veggies on the side is a good choice to replace a meal.

Just make sure that the rest of the meals during the day provide other quality nutrients you find in whole food options.


7) Bonus: Fast?!

This strategy is one that is of complete preference.

If you enjoy having larger meals less frequently, fasting (not eating for long periods of time but then consuming larger meals in a small window of time), may be of use.

Again, this is helpful if you plan on having a larger than normal breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Some example may be skipping breakfast in order to eat a larger lunch and dinner. Or the opposite, eating a larger breakfast and lunch and skipping dinner.

Personally I have tried both and do not enjoy either, but I know many individuals who have had success with this strategy.

Try it if you would like, and if not, no big deal…that is why it is a bonus point!




1) Short burst sessions.

Hopefully when you are on vacation you have some fun activities planned that you want to complete each day. With this, time is likely to be limited to make it to the gym.

With a limited amount of time to dedicate to training, the best approach is to hit it quick and intense.

Full body sessions are best and you can focus on completing the session as quickly as possible, or give yourself a certain time (say 20 minutes) to complete as much work as possible.



If you are going for more of the metabolic hit, completing a few exercises in circuit format as quickly as possible is good.

If you are going for more of the strength component, completing exercises utilizing heavier weights for less than 6 reps is warranted. With this format simply do as many sets in a given period of time, resting long enough to keep the weight heavy.

Either way, make sure the session is less than 30 minutes total in order to have more time to enjoy your vacation but still crush a session.


2) Double Sessions.

You read that right, double sessions!

A little trick from the football world, modified slightly to get in a little more training while on vacation.

If you do not want to spend an hour plus in the weight room at any one time during the day, but have a few shorter blocks during the day to complete some quality work, double sessions may be the best approach.

I personally love this when I am on vacation. Not only because it allows me to keep my sessions shorter, but because it allows me to get my body into a state where I burn a little more calorie, stimulate my musculature and increase my insulin sensitivity a couple times throughout the day.

This is good as it allows me to better utilize the meals I am consuming to go towards growth and repair. Also, if you are of age and have the urge to start sipping on the adult beverages a little early, knowing you have one more short season helps you keep the alcohol consumption to a shorter period of time…usually a good thing when maintaining health, fitness and performance is a goal.

My favorite way to approach this is to resistance training in the morning and condition at night.


3) Use your body.

The majority of the time, the hotel weight room / gym is less than optimal. If you are lucky you will have a DB rack that goes up to 50 lbs and maybe a cable column. If you are not so lucky you will likely find a treadmill and stationary bike…and maybe a pair of 10 lb pink DBs or Shake Weight .



In either case, you have a great tool you can utilize to get in a quality session…your bodyweight.

Completing a session that consists of bodyweight squats, lunges (forward, reverse, lateral, walking), step ups, push ups, pull ups, inverted rows, jumps, bounds, sprints, etc. is a good alternative when you can’t  throw around some iron…or at least the degree to which you are accustomed to.

Also, by using your bodyweight to complete a session, the area needed is minimal. You can find yourself in a small room, or anywhere outside…it doesn’t have to be anything fancy which is perfect when you are on vacation and a quality facility is not available.


4) Vary your tempo for a greater training effect.

When there is not a significant amount of resistance available, sometimes it is difficult to achieve the training effect desired. For example, if you have great lower body strength, regular bodyweight squats will seem like child’s play. And the same goes for regular push ups when your upper body strength is significant.

Instead of scratching those exercises from your routine, try manipulating the tempo (the speed of the movement). Using slower tempos and pauses will increase the time the musculature is under tension and therefore increase the difficulty of the exercise. This may be something like 5 seconds down on the squat or push up, a 2-3 second pause at the bottom and 1 second on the way up.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can utilize explosive tempos / power movements to also increase the difficulty of the exercise. For example, you can do squat jumps instead of squats or power/plyo push ups where you are pushing yourself off the ground in place or regular push ups.

Slow down or speed up the movement to make it more challenging…a very efficient way to train when the resistance available is minimal.


5) Swim!

Swimming has been talked about as a great training method for those who have joint issues or are rehabbing from an injury and higher impact forces do not go over so well.

But, swimming can also be an extremely taxing and efficient way to condition when running, biking, rowing, etc. may not be available…or you just need to switch things up a bit.

And if you are someone like me, swimming is more like trying not to drown so the amount of energy expended is extremely high.



Many hotels will have a pool available, or if you are in a tropical area the ocean is a fun choice.

And a great way to attack swimming is intervals.

For example, you can swim as fast as you possible can the length of the pool, rest for 30s and repeat for 10-20 sprints (or however many you can handle).

And if you are looking for more of your cardiac output work (longer, lower intensity) you can simply swim laps in the pool for 15-30 minutes. Either way swimming is a great option for conditioning while on vacation, or really any time.


6) Choose active, well, activities.

This is not so much a training tip as it is a physical activity tip.

Again, on vacation we will likely consume a few more calories than normal. The nice thing is that while on vacation we should be able to choose our activities.

Try having fun with activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, snorkeling, playing basketball/tennis/golf/etc. or trying to crush everyone in a super intense game of darts…that was happening on my most recent vacation.


***Bonus tip (6.5): Have your wife, husband, kids, boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, etc. hold you accountable. 

The reason it has been easy for me over the past two years to stay consistent with my training, nutrition and physical activity efforts while on vacation is because my wife is extremely dedicated to her health, fitness and performance.

We help each other get up early if need be, train consistently and make sure that our little something at our meals doesn’t turn into a lot of something.

If you can find someone to help you with this it is a huge advantage!


Wrap Up

There you have it. 13.5 strategies to help you when you are on vacation.

Just remember that it really comes down to moderation with everything. You should be able to enjoy yourself without throwing all of your hard work out the window while on vacation.

And if you haven’t picked up on it yet, these principles and tips are very similar to the principles and tips that you can use during your everyday life.

Let me know if you have any questions and please pass this information along if you found it useful.

To your health, fitness and performance.


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