Five Minutes with Dr. Amy Lee: How to Indulge Wisely and Still Get the Most Nutrition While Traveling

by Martin Ramirez on August 8, 2023 in Lifestyle, Wellness,

Preparing for a vacation, or even heading out on a small getaway, often involves a lot of work before arriving at your destination. From early mornings to rushing across terminals, starting a vacation is like showing up at the office. It often means skipped meals, vending machine breakfasts or lunches, or overindulging on gas station sustenance; all of which leaves a gastro impact that can dampen your time off.


To help you avoid stomach upsets and get the most nutrition on your travels, we sat down with Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific, and asked her advice on how to prepare for the long road ahead and enjoy your vacation with minimal disruptions.

A good protein sustains you on your long days of travel. Photo by Nature Zen on Unsplash

I like a protein rich diet because it’s filling, provides you with longer-lasting energy, and sustains your body for longer periods of time with nutrient density. What are your recommendations for ensuring you get enough good protein while traveling—via car or plane—without consuming too many preservatives?

 It’s all about preparation and planning ahead. Oftentimes, when you are traveling, you end up just “being in a hurry” and find yourself settling for whatever options are available.  I don’t know about you, but I always end up at the most mediocre, diner-like restaurant and end up paying 2x the money and still walk away feeling dissatisfied. It is more common than not that even salad options are limited. So what I typically do is just bring a good protein bar with me that is dense and frankly, a great meal replacement.  Protein bars have a good amount of protein (typically 12-30 grams/ bar) to really cause satiety, plus they have built in vitamins and minerals.  And depending on how long your flight/travel time is, you may want to bring a few.

Black coffee is your best bet for clean energy. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

What is your go-to for clean energy? Something that gets you up for those 5 a.m. flights or picks you up in the middle of those eight-hour road trips?

 I am a big fan of a good cup of black coffee.  The 5 a.m. flights often trigger my fight or flight as it is, but overall I cannot do without my daily cup of hot coffee derived from fresh beans. If you can locate a good espresso stand, get a couple of shots and just enjoy black coffee.  Most people who end up adding flavors, milk and sugar may find themselves crashing shortly after due to the sugar so be careful with that!

Be sure to hydrate and rest the night before you leave for your trip. Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.

If you know you have a long day ahead, whether it’s something physically exerting like hikes, bike rides, and daylong walks in a quaint old town, or maybe just a full day of connecting flights, what do you do the night before to prepare?

 Stay hydrated and go to bed early. The most painful part of having to exert oneself is doing it with no energy and being sleep deprived. Sleep is so important in general and as we grow older, our quality and duration of sleep begins to decrease so people wake up earlier with more nighttime awakening which disrupts REM, or the deep restful night sleep. The body also metabolizes more effectively when it is well hydrated and rested. 

Opt for drinks made with fresh ingredients, not syrups or premade mixes. Photo by Kaizen Nguy on Unsplash.

Everyone enjoys a good craft cocktail, especially when relaxing by the pool or sitting on the beach and watching the sun set into an endless ocean. But how do you indulge while ensuring you are getting the best ingredients minus those sugary mixes?

 I love my alcohol, but I also know where I can tweak things to mitigate potential side effects such as a hangover, water retention and unwanted weight gain.  First, ask for the skinny version of any drinks. That is as simple as asking your bartender to hold the sugar or syrups. Order a drink with fresh ingredients and/or juices so you know it is not sugary and processed. And then after you are done partying, make sure you consume water plus electrolytes so you can reverse the diuretic nature of alcohol and help the body replenish what was lost.

Vitamins and hydration are the keys to getting over a hangover. Photo by Kayla Maurais on Unsplash.

Sometimes, at the end of it all, you still party a little too hard. After a carb-rich dinner followed by one too many lagers or glowing margaritas made with bottom shelf tequila and enough yellow #5 food coloring to slow down traffic, you find yourself trying to rally and make the most of your hard-earned vacation. What can you do to recover?

High amounts of Pedialyte and a good daily vitamin would be my go-to. I would also consider looking for a wellness clinic and/or mobile IV hydration service who can come and stick an IV line in to infuse a high dose of vitamins and minerals quickly to help you recover from any feelings and symptoms of a hangover.  Some even give an anti-emetic and/or anti-inflammatory medication for that pounding headache. Also, it might help to flush out all the toxins of alcohol so you start feeling better sooner than later.

Dr. Amy Lee is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, a member of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists and the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Courtesy photo

Dr. Lee Amy Lee is an expert in weight control, obesity, and nutrition. She has given talks for HBO, Hulu, PBS and UCLA’s famed “Vital Signs” series and has had work on weight control methods published in the medical journal, Nutrition & Metabolism.


 Cover photo by Janice Lin on Unsplash

Martin Ramirez is a brisket-eating, Shiner-loving, road-tripping enthusiast of all things Texas. This Dallas-born writer / adventurer is ready to take his ‘78 El Camino to find the best in food, fun, and fitness throughout the Lone Star State.