Air Travel Adding Inches to Your Waistline? 5 Tips to Beat the Bloat

by Kirby Bumpus, MPH
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Air Travel Adding Inches to Your Waistline? 5 Tips to Beat the Bloat

I travel a fair amount and sometimes I’d arrive at my destination feeling and looking a bit bigger than I did before leaving home, which left me wondering: What happened to make me feel like I suddenly gained 10 pounds?

When you fly, the increased altitude causes the pressure in the airplane to decrease and, though cabins are pressurized, they don’t maintain the same pressurization felt at sea level. As the pressure drops, your volume increases, potentially causing intestinal gas and bloating, hence, your jeans suddenly feel a bit tight when you walk through that hotel door. Embarrassing, right?

This bloating can actually make you look — and feel — like you’ve gained weight, which is frustrating especially if you’ve been putting in time at the gym and seeing results leading up to your trip.

After learning what I was up against, I became more strategic on a trip to New Orleans for Essence Fest. I amped up my workouts to stay on track pre-trip, especially because NOLA isn’t exactly known for its healthy cuisine (Read: po’boys, beignets and jambalaya). My trip wasn’t full-blown “Girls Trip” style, but it wasn’t exactly the epitome of a wellness weekend either, so the tactics below were essential before, during and after my trip.

Whether you’re traveling for work, school or pleasure, it can take a toll on your body, potentially derailing your weight-loss progress. So with summer behind us (yep, September 22 marked the first official day of fall!) and the final months of 2018 looming, now is the time to start thinking about fall and holiday travel and how to stay on track.

Based on my experience, here are some tips to increase your calorie burn, reduce water retention and keep your digestion on track during your next trip. Inches and bloat, be gone!

GET YOUR WORKOUT ON

Let’s be honest: Travel can wreck your regular workout routine. Anticipate this and get a workout in the morning of your departure or plan to work out when you land. Check out these no-equipment moves perfect for the hotel room. Studies show exercise can reduce bloating and increase circulation, which is especially important after a long flight.

A few airports even offer opportunities for exercise now. If you’re at BWI, check out Roam Fitness or if you have a layover at SFO, duck into the Yoga Room. A day pass at Roam gives you access to cardio equipment, weights and a private shower, in addition to workout clothes, so you don’t have to deal with sweaty workout clothes in your carry-on. If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to a workout facility in your airport, take an extra long walk around the terminal. You’ll be surprised at how much ground you can cover in an hour.


READ MORE > DON’T LIKE TO EXERCISE? HERE ARE 6 WAYS TO MOTIVATE


MAKE SURE YOU HYDRATE

Water is a critical component to general health and weight loss, and its especially important when you fly. The dry air and extra pressure in the main cabin is dehydrating, which can cause fatigue, in addition to digestion issues (leading to the aforementioned bloating!). Yes, it’s annoying to get up to pee during a flight, but standing up a few times also helps your circulation — an added bonus.

If I have extra time at the airport, I head to the bar and ask the bartender to drop lemon and mint in my water. Here’s another go-to tip: Toss a couple chamomile, mint or ginger tea bags in your carry-on. Once you’re on the plane ask the flight attendant for hot water for your tea. This prevents you from being tempted with sugary sodas and juice. The hot tea keeps you hydrated and improves digestion. Keep in mind that alcohol has the opposite effect, which is why it’s better to wait until you land if you really want that cocktail.)

PACK SMART SNACKS

Pack your own snacks to avoid being tempted by the jumbo bags of candy and trail mix at the airport gift shops.

I pack sliced cucumbers, watermelon, grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes and pineapple in a Ziploc baggie because they’re hydrating and easy to nosh on (plus, no cores or peels to toss).  For a hit of protein and healthy fat, pack some nuts in a baggie for an easy mid-flight snack.


READ MORE > OK. YOU GAINED WEIGHT. THESE 5 TIPS WILL GET YOU BACK ON TRACK


DON’T SCRIMP ON SLEEP

We all know sleep can impact our health, mood and weight. To help ease jet lag, try to get on the time zone of your destination ASAP. Once I’m on the plane, I set my watch to the time zone of where I’m headed STAT.

On a recent red-eye flight from SFO to D.C., I made sure to get a window seat in the exit row, and I also started wearing UA’s TB12 sleepwear leading up to my trip. Believe it or not, I felt less exhausted when I landed. Check out these additional tips to maximize your sleep even beyond travel.

ORDER WISELY

Your travel-day meals can make or break your MFP calorie goals and impede your comfort on your flight. At the airport, stay away from refined carbs and foods high in salt or sugar. Instead, order a salad with protein (avoid cheese if you can) or some grilled chicken and veggies pre-flight. Don’t be afraid to be picky: You can almost always modify your order at a restaurant or airport food court to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional goals. It never hurts to ask!

Are you a fellow traveler and with some healthy travel tips to share? Post them below for other MFP’ers!


Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery to everything in between. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Dee

    This was the best blog i have readon MFP in idk how long!!! I am traveling for the wkend and I have finally nailed down my macros to see results so I was not feeling so great about traveling. I can’t wait to institute these tips and land at my destination feeling just as good as when I departed! Thank you!!