Primal Road Trip: Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Road TripThis is a guest post from Steve Kamb of


Are there two greater words in the English language?

Well, yeah probably. I mean, “free money,” “Royal Rumble,” and “grassfed steak,” just off the top of my head. But work with me here!

Anyways, everybody loves a good road trip – piling your friends into a car, picking a far-off destination, rolling down the windows, and singing Katy Perry at the top of your lungs (no on the Katy Perry? Okay cool, yeah me neither).

Whatever reason you have for putting rubber to the road, it’s important to not fall into the dreaded road trip trap that would make Grok weep: a backseat full of empty Red Bull cans and Funyun bags, enough candy wrappers to make Willy Wonka legitimately concerned, and the flexibility of a steel girder.

Let’s learn how to turn your road trip into a Primal adventure that would make Fred Flinstone proud.

Plan Ahead

Before going on a long road trip, you probably have a list of things to do:

  • Clean out the car
  • Get gas
  • Plan the route
  • Pick places to stop and places to stay
  • Load up the road trip playlist on your iPod
  • Make sure somebody feeds Spike, your pet cat/dog/tarantula

But everybody forgets the “plan out my Primal meals” part!

Which is why you end up stopping at Taco Bell at 10:00 pm as it’s the only place open, which results in you spending the next day in cruise control, curled up in a ball, feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach, driving 800 miles across Texas.

(Yes, that happened to me on my cross-country trip six years ago. Good times!)

Anywho, if you’re going to road trip, it means understanding ahead of time how long your trip is and what your current fitness goals are (weight loss? mass gain? maintenance?). Once you’ve got these things planned out, you can prepare ahead of time.

Here’s a sample list of Primal foods you can bring with you, with more Primal snacks here:

  1. Fruit – A bag of apples? Pears? Bananas? Whatever floats your boat!
  2. Beef Jerky – Not that processed junk you find at a gas station, but legitimate jerky! If you’re resourceful, you can even make your own.
  3. Protein powder – Pick up some Primal Fuel or protein powder, get a mixing container and you will always have a meal. One scoop, fill up with water, shake, and chug.
  4. Almonds – I never travel without a bag of almonds these days, as they’re delicious, nutritious, and filling. They are higher in calories than normal snacks and high in omega-6s, so aim for small servings. Almond butter is a great option too – a small amount spread across some apple slices might be the best snack ever invented.
  5. Baby carrots and other veggies – Vegetables are fantastic because they’re loaded with nutrients and incredibly low on calories. They fill you up the right way.
  6. Water – Apparently this stuff is pretty important.

If you have a mini cooler, you can toss it behind your seat or in the passenger seat and use that to keep your food cold and fresh.

Know Your Restaurants

At this point I’ll assume that you won’t just be eating snacks for the entirety of your trip…You’ll also be swinging through establishments of consumption called “restaurants.”

Here’s the first rule of healthy road-tripping: If you’re getting food from a drive-through window, it’s probably not good for you. Instead, identify a few choice restaurants that you already know have healthy options, and plan your stops around those.

The best method I’ve found for healthy road tripping is using an app called iExit (for iPhone or Android), which shows you how far away you are from your favorite restaurants. Once you know which restaurants offer your favorite Primal meal (like Chipotle or In-N-Out), you simply check a box and they tell you when they show up. It’s also a great app for finding gas stations, clean bathrooms, places to stay, and more. Well worth the $2.99 (though it’s currently on sale for 99 cents).

No smartphone? Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Aim for restaurants that allow you to maintain your style of eating.

Super late night driver? Try a Walmart! It’s usually safe, open 24-hours, and often has a food section that allows you to grab a rotisserie chicken and salad. On top of that, Walmarts are generally very close to the highway and a much safer stop if you’re road tripping solo than a gas station or truck stop.

Have time to swing a bit farther off the highway? Look into a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or other grocery stores. If it’s open, try out the hot food section, grab one of their Primal-approved meals, and enjoy!

What if your ONLY option is a crappy restaurant? Do the best you can. Generally the grilled chicken options tend to be the least awful and processed. On top of that, most fast food places are starting to offer salads, fruit, and other healthy options. The toughest part will be smelling all of the amazingly disgusting unhealthy foods inside the restaurant. Instead, go through the drive-through, pick the healthy options, and move on!

Utilize Your Stops Effectively

There’s nothing worse than that stiff feeling in your legs, hips, and lower back after ten hours of driving. You walk around like a Lego character with no mobility for the rest of the day…not cool. Let’s try to avoid that.

I understand the importance of wanting to get wherever you’re headed as quickly and efficiently as possible. I know that sense of accomplishment you get from completing a trip in seven and a half hours when Google told you it would take eight. Swallow your pride, my dear friend, and spend a few minutes here and there taking care of yourself – your body will thank you.

Just because you’re on a road trip doesn’t mean you get to neglect your personal well-being by skipping out on your workouts. Remember that ANYTHING is better than nothing.

Fortunately, you’re versatile (right?), which means you can work out anytime, anywhere.

Road Warrior Workouts

Get your workouts done in the morning before you begin your drive. Yeah, you can do it at night once you get to your destination, but I find that an early morning workout outdoors or in your hotel room is much easier to complete than one after fourteen hours of driving.

Try one of these workouts:

In addition to that, you can also get back to nature by building a hike into your schedule. If you’re on a road trip through a particularly pretty part of the country, why not time your rest stop to coincide with a great hike? Here’s a huge searchable database of trails around the country.

Pressed for time? Try these five minute workout/stretch sessions every few hours to stay alert, limber, and strong.

The Gas Station Workout

While your gas is pumping, you can get your blood pumping too (see what I did there?).

Yes, I’m dead serious!

Who cares if everybody around the gas station thinks you’re a weirdo? You look good naked and they don’t. Follow up your workout with an ice cold protein shake and build some muscle.

Here’s the Gas Station Workout:

  • Jumping jacks or jump rope – one minute
  • Walking lunges – one minute
  • Push ups – one minute
  • Body weight squats – one minute
  • Plank – one minute

The Rest Stop Yoga Routine

Spend just five minutes doing this routine every two hours and you won’t feel like a miserable human by the end of the day. Who cares if you’re not very bendy yet! Get started now and you’ll be surprised how much progress you can make in just a few weeks.

Here’s your Rest Stop Yoga Routine, holding each for 5-6 deep breaths (learn about the different movements here):

  • Stretch and reach for the sky with your hands WAY above your head.
  • Downward dog
  • Lunge into Warrior
  • Repeat with other leg
  • Downward dog
  • Lunge into Triangle
  • Repeat with other leg
  • Chaturanga (push up position)
  • Downward dog

Alternate the Gas Station Workout and the Rest Stop Yoga Routine every one to two hours (neither of which should take more than five minutes) and combine it with healthy eating, and you are going to DOMINATE your road trip.

Other Primal Tips and Tricks

Put an emphasis on sleep and rest! Stop for your meals so you’re not always eating off your lap while driving, and switch out driving when you’re too tired. You’ll be far healthier and most importantly, a lot safer on the road.

Caffeine – Bring your own green tea bags, and stop for hot water at gas stations. If you’re going to need heavy doses of caffeine, go with black coffee…but really put that focus on only driving when fully rested and completely alert.

Practice your posture – We all have a tendency to slouch when driving, and it gets worse and worse as the hours go on. Adjust your rearview mirror once you’re sitting properly (head up, shoulders back), so you can quickly tell once you start to slouch – the mirror will no longer be aligned with the back window.

Books on tape – If you’re on a long road trip, why not exercise your brain too? Snag a book or two on tape, or some of your favorite podcasts to pass the time. Unless you want to hear “Somebody That I Used to Know” 75 times in a row on the radio. Your call.

Roadside produce – Depending on which part of the country you’re in, you might be able to find some roadside stands selling fresh produce. Snag a great deal, support the local economy, and score fresh food? Everybody wins!

Avoid “healthy” foods and drinks – Just because those Naked Juices are six dollars and claim to be healthy doesn’t mean they’re good for you. In fact, they’re terrible for you. Yeah, they might have some nutrients, but any of the good stuff is negated by the ridiculous amount of sugar. For example, the “Green Machine Superfood Smoothie – no sugar added” has 50 GRAMS OF SUGAR in one bottle, more than a can of Coke. Read those labels!

Skip the continental breakfast at the hotels – Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you need to eat it. Grab some of their fruit and maybe the eggs and bacon if they don’t look awful. Avoid the mountains of cereal, muffins, bagels, toast, and every other carb-heavy option.

Drive On, Grok On

Armed with this knowledge, you are now able to become a true Primal Road Warrior.

I wish you the best of luck – drive safe, be happy, live well.

What other tips do you have for your fellow road trippers?

What are your favorite snacks or resources?

Let’s hear it!

Flickr Photo (CC)

When he’s not doing pull ups on tree branches and exercising around the world, @SteveKamb helps nerds, desk jockeys, and average Joes level up their lives at

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