I get asked a lot about how to utilize IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) while traveling. Mostly because anyone who has traveled in prep knows its a royal pain in the ass to carry all your bags with you, let alone prep, prepare, package and weigh your food out previous to leaving for your destination. One thing I loved about not being in prep in the past was being able to travel more freely, the get up and go approach rather than the two days of planning and packing before every trip. However, I would often find myself off track with nutrition on those days and I would feel I was regressing because I had no strategy or plan with my food choices if I didn’t bring along my staples.
My suggestion to traveling now is this; Its never a bad idea to bring along snacks when traveling. Whether or not you need to bring along every meal though is another story. I have found more balance bringing non-perishable snacks that are easy to pack and store such as individual sized packets of almonds, quest bars, whey protein powder, etc and then utilizing IIFYM for my main meal sources.
How to utilize IIFYM when traveling:
The first and most important aspect to properly utilizing IIFYM is making sure you have set your daily macro thresholds for protein, carbs, and fats in a macro tracker such as MyFitnessPal or MyNetDiary.
When ordering out you should look at your daily totals for each macro source and see where you have “wiggle room” to eat out. For example, if you were going to dinner and had been tracking during the day and realized through your tracking app that you had 40G carbs, 32G Protein, and only 7G fat left for the day you would want to make a choice that was higher in carbs and protein than fats. So a leaner protein source like chicken or fish would be a good protein option and your carb option could pretty much be filled with any carb source that wasn’t high in fat. Then while looking at a menu, you would make your decision based off knowing this information. For example, lets say you are at Red Robin. You could order a Grilled chicken sandwich with no mayo/spreads (spreads are typically fat based) for 32G Protein/29G Carbs/3G Fat. You would then still have 11G carbs and 4G fat to use to order a side or eat more later. Many restaurants have their menu options pre-programmed into fitness trackers which makes this decision even easier.
So what do you do if a menu is not programmed for macros in your tracker?
The best thing to do is dissect the parts of the meal and enter them separately. You would want to guess on portion sizes and be as accurate as possible. So for the same sandwich above, you would make an educated guess on the ounces of chicken, the type of bread, the veggies that may be on it, etc. and manually enter each source of food that was used to build the sandwich. Sometimes a fitness tracker will have a meal close to the one your ordering that you can utilize to at least give yourself an idea of what the macro breakdown may look like as well.
This method can be used for any or all meals throughout the day when traveling. Like I mentioned, sometimes its easier to just pack a few non-perishable snacks along with you that will help you ration your macros for the meals you will be eating out while traveling. But if you find yourself in a hurry to go somewhere and forget to bring your food with you, don’t fret! You can still stay within your macro goals and make progress while on the go as long as you put the effort into tracking with IIFYM!