Rugby fans in New Zealand for the World Cup will probably find themselves facing a phenomenon familiar to travellers worldwide: the holiday 5kg. The creeping weight gain that comes with eating out regularly, not sticking to exercise regimes and generally taking it easy while on holiday is probably the only souvenir that isn't so fun to take home with you.
But trainers and nutritionists say that there are lots of ways to combat the problem of holiday fitness (or lack thereof). Aaron Adams, of K'n'A, says the first step is to set an achievable goal before you even leave home, and stick to it. "If spectators are here for a four-week period, they should set a clear goal to maintain [their current level of fitness]. Don't think 'I'll have a four-week holiday and then get back into it' because nine times out of 10, you don't."
He says people should aim for three or four workout sessions a week of 30 to 45 minutes, and diary that activity into their trip.
But it is what you eat that is responsible for about 80 per cent of your weight loss or gain. Adams says people travelling around the country for the Cup should eat as little junk food as possible. If you are out and about, drinking, you should try to reduce the amount of pies, wedges and sour cream you eat and go for healthy options like kebabs." He recommends cutting carbohydrates, such as bread, rice and pasta, and eating a lot of green vegetables, peas and beans.
Catherine Sissons of Nova Nutrition is less keen on the idea of cutting all carbohydrates but says people should be more aware of what kind they are consuming. "Eating foods that are closer to their natural form such as potatoes and rice in comparison to flour-based foods can be helpful in keeping energy levels sustained. Carbohydrates can be kilojoule-dense." She recommends adding protein to help keep you feeling full for longer. "Water content of food is important, so by eating foods closer to their natural form the body can be more likely to sustain hydration and prevent tiredness." If you know you are going to be eating out a lot, choose your foods wisely. "Choose foods that contain fresher ingredients. Flavoured milk or vitamin waters are an easy way to keep hydrated when there is limited water-based food available."
Adams says taking running shoes on holiday is a good way to explore a new town as well as get some fitness in. He recommends going for a 10 or 15-minute brisk walk or jog, then heading back to your hotel room for some strength training. You don't need any weights to get a good workout.
"Most hotels will have a stairwell or fire exit, go up and down that several times." Then do 12 to 15 reps of press-ups, tricep dips off a chair, then go back on to the stairs for a minute. Repeat three times. For your lower body, go through a routine of squats and lunges before running the stairs again. He recommends some core exercises, such as sit-ups or planks, as well. "Vary it to keep your heart rate up." If there is a park nearby, sprint back and forth across that instead of running up the stairs.
Sissons says people can prepare their bodies for an evening out where they might be tempted to overeat or drink alcohol. "Eating foods that are lower in kilojoules and filling earlier in the day can be helpful in offsetting the negative effects of drinking alcohol and eating kilojoule-dense foods. The meals need to be balanced with enough protein, carbohydrates, fibre and water content to help offset the extra kilojoules and keep the body hydrated. Foods that contain fibre such as bran, apples, celery and pears require the body to work harder to get the sugar from them so can help minimise unstable energy levels. Eating foods that contain vitamin C such as oranges, blackcurrants and kiwifruit may help detoxify the body from the negative effects of alcohol."
Even if you have had a big night, Adams says it is important to stay in something like your normal routine to keep your body in sync. Get up at 6.30am and go for a walk. If you feel truly awful, have a nap in the afternoon. Cut out sugary food the day after.
If you know you are going to spend a lot of time in the car on a particular day, stock up on healthy snacks to stop you being tempted by petrol station sweets. Sissons says: "Cars and buses can be warm environments that cause water loss so it is important to keep water topped in these conditions. Foods with a high water content such as apples, mandarins and pears are easy to carry. [They] can also help to maintain energy levels for a longer period. Be careful of caffeine and alcohol intake while travelling because these can promote water loss from the body. Minimise foods that have a high sugar content [as they] may contribute to unstable energy levels. Dried fruit and nuts are not ideal snacks for travelling because the water has been removed from the fruit and nuts are from the fat food group so are very kilojoule-dense and easily stored as fat."
Get your exercise over with early, if you can. A short, intense burst first thing in the morning will be enough to get your metabolism running - an after-dinner walk can quickly be surpassed by more interesting things. A pedometer is a good way to keep track of whether you are moving enough - 10,000 steps a day is your goal. If you struggle for motivation, download a workout video or get some fitness apps on your iPhone. If there is no gym at your hotel, see if any nearby gyms are offering free trial memberships.
Be in to win
Win a Steinlager giveaway pack worth more than $500, including a chiller chair, scarf, cap, ice bucket, T-shirt, and limited edition NZ Rugby World magazine. To enter, go to nzherald.co.nz/weekend enter your details and the key word "Steinlager giveaway" by midnight Wednesday September 28.