When talking about getting in shape, the process of working out is usually the first thought that pops up in most people’s mind. While this is not wrong, a proper nutrition does also play a crucial role. When pursuing a professional career, however, the time available to dedicate to a healthy nutrition becomes limited which in turn increases the challenge on following your fitness goals. In this article I want to share a basic framework for a healthy and fitness-conscious nutrition to go – a framework that I have developed during the recent years as a management consultant traveling on a weekly basis.
Starting Right: Set Your Goal
Goal setting is the initial step of your nutrition plan. Before planning a weekly nutrition routine and preparing food, knowing why you focus on your nutrition determines the details of your plan. To keep it simple, you can focus on 3 basic nutrition goals:
- Losing weight
- Maintaining weight
- Gaining weight
No matter which one you choose, keeping the goals in mind helps to execute the nutrition routine. While setting the goal early on is a great support for you, it also has to be said that adjusting goals depending on your personal situation is fine and also a part of structured nutrition planning. However, bear in mind that changing goals too often will not be target oriented.
Knowing The Basics: Calories and Macronutrients
To get started, it is helpful to get a basic feeling understanding macronutrients (which include carbohydrates, proteins and fats) in your food (Wikipedia provides detailed information if you want to know more about what macronutrients are). Especially in the beginning, knowing the amount of calories and the distribution of macronutrients in your food helps enormously to get started and achieve your nutrition goal.
Personally, I used MyFitnessPal from Under Armour to track my calories and noted down each of my meals for a period of four weeks. After a while you will notice that getting a feeling for a healthy composition of your food is not too difficult. Once you feel comfortable with what you have learned, you can also stop using the calorie counter and control your diet purely based on the gained knowledge.
Being One Step Ahead: Planning Is The Key To Success
Planning ahead is important if you do not want to worry about your nutrition during a busy work week. Thereby, it is not too difficult to think about how many meals there are and where they will be taken. This transparency gives you an initial understanding of when you can enjoy your own meals and when you are dependent on others.
To give an example: After having started as a management consultant, I had to travel hundreds of kilometers a week. During that time, I typically lived 4-5 days per week in a hotel, which was extremely challenging with regard to a healthy nutrition. However, proper planning enabled me to stick to my nutrition goals. Here are my 5 tips that should help you make nutrition planning easier.
Pro Tip #1:
Canteens are usually a challenge to eat healthy due to budget reasons and (unfortunately, but most likely also) the demand for delicious meals of many colleagues. Therefore, I recommend avoiding canteens if possible.
Pro Tip #2:
Most hotels are somehow surrounded by various eating options. Among those options, there are most certainly also restaurants with healthy kitchens or supermarkets where you can by fresh food. Although this sounds like some effort, after a few weeks you have created a first list of relevant touch points.
Pro Tip #3:
Integrate your lunch meetings into your calendar as time for lunch usually tends to become limited which will increase the temptation for fast food. If time for lunch is limited already beforehand, organize the lunch in advance (e.g. in the morning or the evening before)
Pro Tip #4:
Equip yourself with healthy snacks such as nuts and fruits. The long intervals between main meals increase the risk of eating candies as there will mostly be a candy tray in the office’s kitchen.
Pro Tip #5:
Be aware of external dependencies. If the new boss invites you to a burger restaurant for dinner, plan a little less for breakfast and lunch and leave room for the additional calories in the evening. In case you increased your daily calorie goal, a workout session the next morning will get you back on track (you can find potential exercises in the article “Get In Shape – My Top 3 Fitness Exercises With Resistance Bands“).
Preparing Food: Keep It Short And Simple
When it comes to food preparation, I always advice to keep it short and simple. Choose a maximum of five snacks that you like and which are easy to transport. A 30-minute planning session at the weekend should be sufficient to prepare snacks, meals and eating schedule for the upcoming week. Doing that is always focused on the individual nutrition goal and keeps the amount of calories in mind.
Showing Consistency: Everyday Is Challenge
Staying healthy while being busy is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the biggest difficulties is maintaining a consistently healthy diet. With all planning, it is still easier to access fast food on the go. Time constraints, lack of understanding from work colleagues, and laziness will always tempt you. It is therefore important to keep your goal in mind. An open exchange with colleagues about your individual attitude towards sports and nutrition can be of help.
While sticking to your goals and following your nutrition plan, it is also important not to be too hard on yourself. If your standard is a healthy nutrition, then it is also totally fine to have days when you enjoy a delicious pizza or burger. We all know that this has a positive effect on our souls, so there is no reason to skip it entirely 🙂
Get started: It Is Not A Rocket Science
Staying healthy on the go is not a rocket science. In the beginning it is important to generate a feeling for what your body needs. If you start dedicating some time into planning and structuring your nutrition week, you will find the right mix of food quickly. I am sure that you will find more and more motivation for a healthy nutrition from week to week.
I hope this article was helpful for your nutrition while being busy at work. If you have additional questions or want to get further insights on that topic, feel free to leave me a comment. I look forward to a lively exchange with you.