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Traveling bodybuilders rarely have a hard time finding a place to tear up some muscle fiber these days. Hotel and local gyms are common in many parts of the world, and portable travel-specific equipment makes it convenient to get a good pump even in exotic, far-flung destinations. A more difficult task is feeding your muscles once you’ve put them through your on-the-road workout.
Protein, like a gym, isn’t hard to find, but controlling variables such as fat may not be as easy. Family or resort restaurants and fast-food joints are fonder of butter and deep fryers than hypertrophy and low bodyfat.
Perhaps most difficult of all is maintaining your supplement regimen. Offering a side of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) with your chicken sandwich hasn’t caught on anywhere, and finding more obscure supplements like beta-alanine is, well, fuhgettaboudit. Fortunately, the on-the-road supplement dilemma is something we’re faced with all the time here at M&F. So, over the years, we’ve compiled a list of the best ways to travel with these invaluable muscle-builders to keep your hard-earned gym results from melting away in the tropical sun.
Even if you don’t plan to work out while traveling this summer, consider this: When you take a break from training, protein becomes even more important in your battle to maintain size. In a study of bedridden patients, researchers found that those who were given a protein supplement during convalescence maintained more of their muscle mass than nonsupplementing subjects. And if a break from the gym isn’t in your plans, you’ll still need your protein supplement. But don’t stop there. If you’re serious about maintaining your gains, you’ll also want creatine, a nitric oxide (NO) booster, BCAAs, glutamine and, yes, beta-alanine on hand. These are as critical as protein pre and post workout, and helpful even if you don’t plan to hit the gym on the road. As with protein, keeping up your dosing of these vital supps will help you better maintain your muscle mass and strength, and when you resume training, you won’t be starting in the supplement hole.
SEE ALSO: A Bodybuilder’s Traveling Checklist
Solution: Test Tube Protein Shots
Remember test tube shots, the nightclub rage of the ’90s? Well, today you can relive those feverish, drum-machine-fueled moments with a test tube shot of protein. Some companies offer single servings (about 20-50 grams) of concentrated whey protein in 3-ounce tubes. They’re a great option for those times when you don’t have fluid or a cup in which to mix dry protein powder. Three or four of them fit conveniently in a carry-on bag or briefcase. When flying, remember that the Transportation Security Administration requires you to transport liquid in a 1-quart zip-top bag.
Solution: Single-Serving Powder Packets
Supplements sold in this form make it easier for you to get vital nutrients as close to your workout time as possible, and the convenient packaging makes them ideal for travel. Many protein manufacturers offer packets that hold 20-40 grams of powdered protein. Most make them as single-serving meal replacements that provide a good dose of carbs and some fat as well. That’s great if you’re stuck somewhere without access to food, or if you’re in an all-out mass-gaining mode and a little bodyfat doesn’t bother you. For most guys, however, especially those trying to stay lean while on vacation, we suggest you look for brands that have few or no carbs. A variety of protein types – whey, soy, casein and even egg – are also available and will help you take advantage of the unique benefits of each. If you’re on a flight for four hours or more with nothing to eat but Rold Golds, be sure to pack a few servings in your carry-on luggage. While protein is likely the most common single-serving supplement you’ll find in a packet, creatine, arginine, BCAAs, glutamine and even beta-alanine are also available. If you can’t locate one that’s particularly important to your meal plan, here’s a tip: Most supplement companies package samples to give out at bodybuilding shows. Try to pick up some before you travel, or go to your local supplement shop and see if they can give you any samples. If not, e-mail, write or phone your favorite supplement manufacturer and ask if they’ll sell you some samples or just send you some for free to take on your travels.
Solution: Zip-Top Bag Trick
When all else fails, the frugal bodybuilder can simply pour his favorite protein powder into a quart- or gallon-size zip-top bag. Just calculate the number of days you’ll be gone and how many scoops of protein you’ll need. We suggest you add a few extra scoops in case you get delayed on your trip. Toss the scoop in the bag, zip it closed and throw it in your luggage. If you don’t want the hassle of scooping powder out of a zip-top bag, downsize to a sandwich bag and make single-serving packets for yourself. This also works with other powdered supplements. Since they tend to require less powder (a scoop is usually 2-10 grams as opposed to 20-40 grams), you can probably fit a vacation’s worth into a quart-size bag or even smaller. Or again, just make your own single-serving sizes.
Form: Custom-Ordered Supplement Packs
Regardless of what approach you use, prepping your own supplement packs can take a lot of time, especially when you’re traveling for a week or more. If you lack time but not money, you can order custom supplement packs online. ProThera Inc. (protherainc.com) is one company that allows you to choose the supplements and the dose you want for easy, on-the-road access. The drawback is that all the supplements offered by ProThera are its own brand.
Solution: Travel Organizers
Many critical supplements for bodybuilders – multivitamin/minerals, carnitine, conjugated linoleic acid, fish oil, glucosamine, green tea extract, melatonin, testosterone boosters and ZMA – come in pill form. Most that come as powders also come as pills (except for protein). For supplements that require taking a large dose (3-10 grams), such as creatine, BCAAs, NO boosters or glutamine, you’re looking at a lot of pills to swallow, which is why they usually come in powder form. For the sake of traveling, however, pills may be the easiest option. If swallowing handfuls of supplements is a problem for you, or you just don’t want to carry that many pills, you can cut your usual dose in half during your vacation. This will at least keep the supplement in your system during your time on the road.
If you do choose to travel with all your supps in pill form, the issue then becomes one of storage. (Try tucking away that many bottles in your luggage.) Fortunately, your options are plentiful. And thanks to our hectic travel schedule at M&F, we know what works and what doesn’t for the traveling bodybuilder. Go to any pharmacy or supplement store and you’re sure to find the typical pillbox with separate compartments for each day of the week. Seems practical until you consider that each compartment is about 1 square inch. That might hold one or two of your daily supplements, but if you’re up to 10 or more pills per day, it’s problematic.
The company EZY Dose makes a stackable pill organizer that has seven oval containers that screw together into one stack (apothecaryproducts.com). Each compartment is about 1 inch high, 31/4 inches long and 23/4 inches wide. The compartments are big enough to hold a decent number of various pills. The hard plastic may be too fragile to place in your checked luggage, however; consider carrying it on to avoid a mishap.
This is our hands-down favorite way to travel with pills. Available from magellans.com, the folding organizer has 16 compartments that are 3×3-inch clear vinyl, expandable pouches with a slide-locking system. Compact and lightweight, it’ll hold an entire day’s worth of any bodybuilder’s supplements. The pouches are divided into two sections: eight red-numbered pouches for daytime supplements and eight blue-numbered pouches for your nighttime dose. Even on a two-week trip, we have yet to fill one beyond its capacity. The pouches work well for single-serving doses of nonprotein powdered supplements, too.
EZY Dose also makes clear, disposable zip-top plastic pill baggies that are 2×3 inches. They’re just big enough to hold a day’s worth of supplements for most bodybuilders. Each baggy has a white writing area so you can label it with the day you need it or the supplement(s) it contains. They’re available in either 50 or 100 count from apothecaryproducts.com.
Regardless of how you pack your supplements for the road, consider bringing the following stacks along
If you’re traveling across time zones, don’t let jet lag ruin your workouts. The following supplements are proven in clinical studies to help you sleep well and reset your internal clock.
Caffeine: 200-300 mg upon waking
NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide): 10-20 mg upon waking
Melatonin: 1-5 mg 30-60 minutes before bed
It’s not always easy to find bodybuilding-friendly meals that are high in quality protein and low in fat and carbs. No problem – as long as you bring along a stack like this one that fights fat gain by blunting the absorption of fats and carbs and speeds up your metabolism.
Green tea extract: 500 mg before meals.
Chitosan: 2 g before meals.
Phaseolus vulgaris: 1-2 g before meals
Forced to hit the gym at odd hours? This can throw your body off, zapping your strength and making your workouts lackluster. Use this stack before training for all the strength and drive you’ll need.
Caffeine: 200-400 mg about one hour preworkout.
NO booster: One dose, containing 3-5 g of arginine, 30-60 minutes preworkout.
Beta-alanine: 2 g within 30 minutes preworkout.
Creatine: 3-5 g within 30 minutes preworkout
You still need to feed your body properly after training. This stack promotes maximal growth.
BCAAs: 5-10 g within 30 minutes postworkout.
Beta-alanine: 2 g within 30 minutes postworkout.
Creatine: 3-5 g within 30 minutes postworkout.
Glutamine: 5-10 g within 30 minutes postworkout