Business Travel Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Stay Healthy

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 12:44 PM EST

Business travelers face a minefield of dietary disasters. There are the airport lounges with free booze and snacks, the butter-soaked steak dinners -- and of course, the late-night arrivals and room service. All of these can make business travel bearable, but they can also make us fat.

Nobody knows this better than Peter Shankman, the social media entrepreneur who founded HARO, a service that connects reporters and sources. He travels about 300 days a year, and despite completing an Ironman late last year, he admits to being heavier than he'd like. Enter his new blog, A Year to Ten Percent, which documents his journey to reduce his body fat to 10 percent body fat and improve all his health stats -- including weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

His main foe on the road, Shankman says, is uncertainty: "Is my flight going to land on time? When I get to the hotel is the gym still going to be open? If I miss a flight, will I have to eat the airport crap?"

Shankman's already dropping inches and pounds. So I asked him, as well as some fitness and nutrition experts, to share a few strategies for fellow frequent fliers. Here are eight ways to lose weight while on the go.

1. Eat Whole Foods You probably wouldn't grab a bag of chips and soda and call it breakfast if you're at home - so don't do it on the road. "At the airport, at the hotel, there is always an apple," says Shankman, who now brings almonds to pair with the fruit and passes up airline food altogether. Whole foods like fruit and nuts are full of fiber. That keeps you feeling full longer, so you'll eat less.

2. Stay Hydrated Instead of dehydrating alcohol and caffeine, try to stick to water when flying, says Yale University nutritionist Lisa T. Kimmel, MS, RD, CSSD. "Low humidity and recirculating air within the cabin are a set-up for dehydration, which can worsen jet lag and cause fatigue. A good rule of thumb is to drink 8 ounces of water every hour of the flight," says Kimmel.

3. Multitask Your Workout Workout and sightsee at the same time. "Running or walking is a great way to see a new place and get outdoors," says Sarah Lorge Butler, a fellow MoneyWatch contributor and author of Run Your Butt Off! Don't want to make room in your carry-on? Westin hotels now lend guests running shoes.

4. Don't Count on the Gym If it's raining and your hotel doesn't have a gym, that's no excuse to fall off the workout wagon, says Hollywood trainer Gunnar Peterson. He advises his jet-setting clients to pack a jump rope that can be used both in the traditional way and as a stretching aid. Another hotel-room friendly exercise? Push-ups. Peterson suggests doing 10-15 reps with your feet on your bed and your hands on the floor, and another set with your hands on your bed and your feet on the floor. For a guided workout, download one to your laptop before you leave and you'll be set, whatever the weather.

5. Stick To Your Regular Eating Schedule Planning ahead will keep you from ditching your diet later. "Don't skip breakfast. Schedule a wake up call to make sure that you take time to eat so that you don't overcompensate with big portions as the day goes on," says Kimmel.

6. Stay Active at the Airport If you get to the airport early, resist the urge to immediately plop down into a chair at the gate (they're not comfortable anyway, so this shouldn't be too hard). Window shop until you board, and you'll burn both calories and time. "I never take the moving walkways at an airport," says Butler. "Geez Louise, people - just drag your wheelie behind you and move your tush a little before you settle into that airplane seat!"

7. Remember That Calories Count, Even Midair Sure, you can ask for a low-fat, low-sodium meal if your airline offers them. But bringing your own food is better. "A few of my picks: homemade trail mix with whole grain cereal, dried fruit, peanut butter and jelly or honey on whole grain bread, whole wheat crackers with nut butter, or raw veggies," suggests Kimmel.

8. Make Cocktail Hour About Networking, Not Drinking Whether you're partaking in a conference's happy hour or sipping martinis with a business associate at a hotel bar, alcohol calories can add up quickly. Even worse, drinking too much will cloud your judgment when you order dinner (as well as when you're making business decisions). "Get one drink at the very beginning with lots of ice and nurse it all night," says Shankman. "Or get club soda with lime. Everybody thinks it is vodka."

How do you stay healthy on the road? Please sign in below and share your stay fit strategies. And for more career advice, follow @MWOnTheJob on Twitter.
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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