Monday, July 5, 2010

Beyond the Cave: Primal Thoughts on Corporate Travel

Primal living is easy -- beyond easy! -- when I'm at or near home. I pack large salads laden with protein and healthful fats for my midday, post-IF "breakfasts" and conjure up large roasts or pots of stew that serve as dinner throughout the week. My refrigerator bursts with eggs and vegetables, my freezer with meats, and my pantry with coconut milk and spices. I have a farm full of work and a gym full of iron at my disposal. I'm living large.

And then comes corporate travel. Most people seem to view trips to the big city as occasions of culinary opulence. What a beautiful city! they crow. So much to do! So much to eat! I seem to be the only one wondering where people who actually live there forage and hunt. (To this day, I have yet to locate a single grocery store in Washington DC.) Airports and restaurants seem quite unaware that it is, in fact, possible to construct an entire meal that contains neither grains nor frankenfats nor heaps of fruit. Hotel management is so paranoid of lawsuits that you're lucky to find a set of dumbbells in what I've come to call the "Fitless Center" with its never-ending stream of cardio-bunnies bounding righteously along on glorified hamster wheels.

Nevertheless, sometimes, one must travel. I just returned from a four-day jaunt to Chicago, where I spent my days at a professional conference. Here are my observations:

1. It is possible to locate salads -- albeit anemic, low-protein, low-fat, unimaginative ones -- in airport kiosks. However, they all come with sugar and soy/corn oil-laden dressing packs. I need to dream up some way to pack reasonably healthful salad dressings. Most likely, said dressings will need to be homemade. Leakproof. Safe at room temperature. And 3 oz or less. I'm open to suggestions.

2. Packing my own "paleo kits" was a lifesaver. In anticipation of inedible conference food, I packed a baggie of beef jerky, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, and a few home-dried apricots for each day of the trip. As the box lunches provided by the conference each contained at least as many carbs as I would normally consume over 3 entire days (mostly in the form of potato chips, sandwich rolls, and cookies), these paleo kits came in mighty useful. Next time, however, I'll pack the jerky separate from the nuts and fruit, as they all decided to exchange moisture levels in the shared space, resulting in extra-tough jerky and slightly mushy nuts. Thanks to the conference breakfasts of fruit and fried burritos, I was also glad to have packed plenty of kippered herring and unsweetened coconut flakes.

3. The primal lifestyle makes one look rather hot in summery, business-casual dress, which has the useful side effect of enhancing networking capability. Play to your strengths.

4. Speaking of strengths, effective bodyweight workouts can be squeezed in among the ridiculous contraptions (read: ellipticals and bowflexes) the fill hotel Fitless Rooms. Bonus: free entertainment in the form of disbelieving expressions when you bang out more decline pushups, pistols, and renegade rows than any of the boys. For extra fun, surreptitiously post a notice above the stack of free Tribunes: WARNING -- Working out while reading the newspaper makes you look like an unproductive idiot.

5. A few days of calorie restriction has its uses. My trip provided an interesting shakeup of my typical eating schedule. Instead of consuming my usual quantity of fuel during an 8-hour eating window, I instead consumed a reduced amount spread throughout the day. As a result, I returned home visibly leaner -- albeit ready to plow through several pounds of steak without coming up for air.

There's more, of course: Seek out greenbelts for sprinting, strategically apply a long run to drain glycogen stores if you do give in to a burger and fries, remember your supplements (including extra fish oil), keep your mouth shut about being paleo unless someone asks, focus on intellectual pursuits rather than obsessing about food, keep the bloody television off, etc.

But you know that stuff, right? Happy trails.


Funder said...

I eat a pretty boring homemade dressing on my daily lunch salad - just evoo and apple cider vinegar, 3:1 by weight, with a pinch of salt. It's not exciting, but it IS room temp stable.

Drugstores sell empty toiletry travel kits. I'd put dressing in a 3 oz shampoo or lotion bottle from a kit.

I'm sidelined at the gym cause I pulled a groin muscle. OW!

Michael said...

Very good tips...thanks for the info and heads up!

John said...

I stumbled on your blog from a link in Mark's Daily Apple today. Got quite a kick out of your thoughts on corporate travel.

I understand the frustrations of eating well on the road - I average 25 or so trips each year. I discovered the bagged jerky & nuts routine some time ago. I also take along some of my own energy bars made with the recipe at Mark's Daily Apple.

I've been known to live solely out of my packed primal's for 3 days on the road. My travel partner's wonder about me...

I haven't solved the salad dressing dilemma. Usually I just get a chicken salad (at least a bit of protein), and skip the dressing. I've thought of packing my own dressing in 3 oz. bottles, but haven't tried getting past the fine TSA folks with an unlabeled bottle yet.

In a pinch, I buy mixed nuts at the airpot kiosks. Too expensive, usually stale, but sometimes it seems like the only option as I rush between planes.

Anyway, thanks for the enjoyable column this morning.

Anonymous said...

Kind of a random question - why the 8 hour eating window? I understand IFing, but is there a specific reason for your "window"?

Annie said...

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog and recognized that fact in a post on my site today.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Funder, I think you have the right idea. I usually make a similar dressing just because it's quick and easy. The toiletry kits are a good idea! Sorry about your pulled muscle -- no fun!! Are you able to get in some long, gentle walks instead?

Hey Michael! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Welcome, John. I hear you on the energy bars...but they're so good I can eat a whole batch at once! Alas. Anyway, yeah, fat and protein on the road are tough -- 3 days out of packed food is pretty good!

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Ahh, the eating window. Well, it's not as much about eating within 8 hours as it is about NOT eating for the other 16. I've just found that I feel best when I give my system a break from constant food processing -- and there's evidence that it's a more comfortable and sustainable way to get the anti-aging, anti-disease benefits of caloric restriction while actually still consuming a lot of food, just on a different schedule. Also, even short IFs like this encourage leanness because they require the body to tap its stored resources for fuel between eating windows.

That said, I've been under a lot of stress at work for the last couple weeks and have cut back on the IFs per Robb Wolf's advice. He notes that IFing on top of stress can do more harm than good. When life settles down again, I'll go back to IFing more.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hey, thanks Annie! First ever such acknowledgement for Nightlife. :D