For the past nine months, I’ve been living as a digital nomad. Starting out in Thailand, I’ve made my way through SouthEast Asia, India, Africa, and am currently working my way up South America.
Staying healthy can be tough while you’re travelling. Especially if you’re in a small town with no gym. Even more so if you’re in a city where half the restaurants don’t seem to serve vegetables of any kind (looking at you Brazil).
But in spite of that, and with the help of one of a guy who specializes in fitness for travelers (more on that later), I’ve managed to avoid getting seriously ill, stay productive in my work, and even lose over an inch off my waist as I’ve traveled. Here’s how I’ve been able to do it:
I sleep with a sleep mask and ear plugs
Hotel rooms can be hard to sleep in. They’re often noisy, and the windows sometimes let in way too much city light. Hostels- which I’ve managed to avoid- are even worse.
Everywhere I go, I take a sleep mask and a set of ear plugs. While they don’t block out ALL light and sound, they’re good enough to make all but the worst hotel rooms about as dark and quiet as my bedroom back home.
I practice intermittent fasting
When I’m not traveling, I like to follow a daily intermittent fasting protocol in which I fast for 16 hours, and then eat within an eight-hour window. This has a few well-established benefits including weight management, reducing my risk of lifestyle diseases like cancer, and increasing testosterone and growth hormone levels.
When I’m traveling, I find it particularly helpful for controlling how much and what kind of food I eat. However, I have to be flexible about it. Some days my eating window will be 8 hours, some days it will be 12, and some days it will only be 5 hours. Sometimes I even won’t fast at all.
What’s nice about this is, I can adjust my eating window based on when good food is available. If the only breakfast available is one of those continental monstrosities with pastries and juice, I can skip it. If I want to go to bed early, I’ll have a last meal at 6 and then start my fast. If I’m going out on the town at night, I’ll extend my eating window to include some late night street food.
I take S. Boulardii
I’m generally skeptical of probiotics. They only give you a few of the many strains of bacteria that live in the human gut. Plus, most of them simply die if left unrefrigerated.
S. Boulardii is different. It’s heat-stable, so it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It prevents traveler’s diarrhea, even in countries where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. It’s also a yeast, not a bacteria, which makes it perfect for use during after after a course of antibiotics. I take a bottle with me every time I travel.
I fill up on healthy food whenever I can
In America, you can always find healthy food. Yeah, most people ignore it and go straight for the fast food, but still, it’s there. This isn’t the case everywhere I go.
In some countries, like Brazil, it’s hard to find vegetable dishes. In others, like Cambodia, it’s hard to find a dish that isn’t 80% rice. And then there was India, where it seemed like every dish had either meat or vegetables, but not both.
In places like these, I made a habit of eating healthy food whenever it found some- even if I didn’t quite feel ready to eat yet. Better that than eating a giant bowl of rice an hour later when I get hungry. I follow a similar rule in airports- if I can’t find healthy meals, I’ll eat a small bag of nuts to sate my appetite.
I use melatonin to beat jet lag
Melatonin is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for sleep onset. It’s a good thing to have when you’re having trouble sleeping, particularly while traveling. The only thing is, most people take too much.
Scientists have known for a long time that the effective dosage of melatonin is only .3 mg. And yet, melatonin supplements are almost all dosed at 3, 5, or even 10 mg. Taking far more than you need only hurts you by creating a chemical dependency and lowering testosterone and growth hormone production.
I solve this by either breaking a 3 mg pill into quarters or eights, or better yet using a liquid melatonin. However, I will occasionally take as much as 1.5 mg- either when I’ve just taken a long flight and need to beat jet lag, or when I’m sleeping in a new hotel for the first time and need to beat the first night effect. Other than that, I keep it between .3 and .7 mg a night.
I work out upon waking every morning
Every morning, upon first waking up, I do about five minutes of body weight exercises. This doesn’t seem like much- and it’s not, really- but it adds up to the equivalent of an extra workout every week, helps me wake up, and helps me burn a little fat.
I do this even when I’m not travelling. What’s nice about this is once you’ve made it a habit, it becomes scalable. If I’m somewhere where I don’t have a gym, or I expect to be too busy to make it to the gym that day, I can extend that morning workout to 20–30 minutes, using one of the body weight workouts my mentor has provided for me. While I prefer gym workouts, it’s important to have a fallback.
How to join the premium fitness program I use- for free
I’ve actually managed to get into better shape while travelling, and I owe a lot of that to Travel Strong by Will Owen. He normally charges $99 for membership to his premium membership program, but this month I’m giving away a lifetime membership.
For a chance to win it, just go here and enter your email address to be entered into the drawing. But you can also win more entries by sharing the drawing with other people- for everyone who joins using the link you share, you’ll win three extra entries.