Reader Ofir is asking:
I think you should write an organized guide to the trainee traveling abroad. I’d like to see how you can workout as efficiently as you can when you’re traveling in a place like Burma for example, and how you can keep adequate nutrition without tearing your wallet.
One of my fears, and I assume of other athletes alike, is if and how a long trip can be combined with body building. Inject some motivation in your readers and convince us that it doesn’t have to be either muscle or travel – that you can have both (I hope).
Thanks and waiting for more posts, Ofir!
If you too are a viking-like man about to voyage into the unforgiving depth of travel and if you’re afraid to come back skinnier than Mick Jagger, have no worries.
Through a few effective strategies I’ve experimented with in the past few years, you’ll be able to maintain or even build muscle mass WHILE traveling the world full-time. And it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling fate-struck Burma or backpacking in the comfort of western Europe.
You don’t need any travel exercise equipment and it’s much cheaper than you thought.
The formula: HIT + IF + BUFFET
I call it The Art of Travel Bodybuilding.
High Intensity Training
HIT is a very intense form of workout, but don’t make the common mistake and think intensity means long and tedious workouts with plenty of sets. High intensity workouts actually DEMAND lots of recovery time and are preformed very infrequently (low-frequency) and with very few sets (low-volume).
Assuming you’re not on illegal anabolic steroids, expect those high intensity workouts to last somewhere around 10 minutes and demand a bull-like mental endurance. 10 minutes might not sound like much – but you’re gonna sweat tears.
The biggest advantage for travellers: YOU CAN WORKOUT ONCE A WEEK AND STILL MAINTAIN OR BUILD MUSCLE MASS. This is hugely convenient.
One 10-min workout a week, that’s right. And there’s no need for any travel workout equipment. What you got here… is… a powerful and cosmic-like workout protocol to keep you in shape even when you’re vagabonding the world and enjoying the mesmerising beauty of a tropical beach in Mozambique.
Basically, you just have to choose 2-3 compound exercises per workout, and ones that aren’t “parallel” (for example: not Shoulder Press and Bench Press – both are upper-body pressing exercises that work on the same muscles, more or less).
Make sure you choose exercises that you enjoy performing (very important, it’ll keep you motivated) and choose a working weight that’ll bring you to complete failure within something like 6-12 very slooooooooooooooooow repetitions. Opt for 80-120 seconds per set.
That will end up being something around ~10 seconds per rep (5 secs up, 5 secs down). At the last rep, you’ll fight like no tomorrow and hold the weight as much as you can – until the point where you can’t possibly hold it any longer – even with a gun to your head. That, my friends – is a proper complete failure.
This is crucial. The whole set is just a warmup to this very climactic moment. This point of failure is really the whole point of the exercise.
Nothing beats a good example:
I personally love doing bench press, sumo deadlifts, bent-over rows and shoulder military-presses. Say i’m traveling Nicaragua right now – what I’ll do is split those 4 exercises into two workouts of 2 each – A and B. A includes bench-press and deadlift and B includes military-press and the bent-over-row.
I’ll alternate between A and B with somewhere around a week of rest in-between – when I feel like it or when I find a gym nearby (you gotta stay flexible when traveling). The sequence, again, will be ABABABA etc.
I’ll be logging in a few basic details each workout: date, and the number of reps and weight I’ve lifted in each of the two sets. I keep the time between sets on exactly 3 minutes, to minimise variables and not confuse getting stronger with longer recovery time between sets.
Because I want to gain muscle mass, I’ll add around 10% of weight each workout and if I didn’t successfully manage to increase the number of reps or working weight – I’ll be examining if I had enough nutrition. If I did – then I didn’t properly recover from the previous workout and will add a day or two of additional rest between workouts.
Soon I’ll be posting a whole new guide for HIT, so stay tuned.
This is all for building new muscle mass while you travel, but if you just want to MAINTAIN your existing muscle mass – you don’t even need to go to failure or increase your working weights. Just make sure you keep working with the same amount of weight you’ve been working with before. Eat enough, and you’ll come back home just like you left.
IF is a well researched and well known technique for extending lifespan. Practically, we’re talking about replicating the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors who lived from one long fast to feast and vice versa. Imagine yourself looking for food in the jungle all day – catching a wild boar and ending up feasting on it savourily for a few hours over fire at the camp at night.
Or if you’d like it more simple: zero calories during most of the day and devouring your whole daily caloric intake condensed in a few hours. Scientific research in recent years proves the effectiveness of IF when it comes to metabolic efficiency, hormonal balance and life extension.
You and I, on the other hand, are going to use it to dramatically save time and decrease food bills while enjoying long and savoury nights in Japanese buffet restaurants around the world. Which brings us to the next point:
Yes, I’m talking of course about eat-as-much-as-you-can restaurants.
If you’re doing IF as discussed above – you’ve got a few hours a day to shove in tons of food to preserve or build new muscle mass. Is there anything better – both culinarily and financially – than an eat-all-you-can buffet restaurant to satisfy your hunger and make you a happy man?
If you don’t have any budget issues (making money online when you travel?) – you can go for luxurious restaurants, which are also quite cheap in tropical countries. In Manila (capital of Philippines) I used to go with my ex-girlfriend to a Korean buffet that only seemed to attract the rich and ‘high-class’ of the city.
Inside the menu? best sushi I’ve ever had, fresh fish, gourmet Korean foods, Kimchi and other fermented foods (good for the digestive tract and bacterial balance), dozens of colourfully fresh fruits and veggies, beautiful deserts and other aromatic and exotic foods. The cost? $12. Calories devoured? more than 3000.
That, my friends, is efficiency.
If you’re a budget traveler – you can certainly opt for cheaper and more local buffet restaurants. They’re significantly cheaper and give you the opportunity to get the best caloric bang for your buck. You can easily find restaurants like that for $4-8 in Asia. Intermittent fasting saves you a lot of money, but if you can’t shove-in so much food in one meal – you can add another one in a few hours, or just prepare a huge meal replacement shake from cheap local ingredients.
That’s it! One very intense travel workout a week, excellent buffet restaurants + Intermittent fasting (especially if on a budget) – and the problem is solved. You can gain massive amounts of muscle on-the-road while spending minimum cash.
If you don’t know what exactly to eat or avoid – take a look at my muscle building guide for skinny guys and scroll down to the section about nutrition. There’s everything there.
Note on Intermittent-Fasting
There are a couple of ways to implement IF into your lifestyle. In my experience, the most practical and suitable form when you travel is skipping breakfast and dinner altogether and visiting the buffet in-between for a couple of hours.
Many intermittent-fasters skip breakfast and eat in an 8-hour window, usually from 12PM to 8PM. Fasting for the rest of the time is easy: you go to sleep for ~8 hours and skipping breakfast is actually intuitive and more convenient for most people.
If you can’t shove-in enough nutrition in one meal, you can definitely do it in an 8-hour window and still reap the health benefits of IF.
Positive side effect: Intense workouts + tons of good food and waxy cholesterol will give you a constant supply of testosterone that’ll cast a submissive groin-opening spell on every blue-eyed blonde Scandinavian you’ll meet on your travels.
good luck and stay safe on the road