Fitness in Unique Conditions - Sailing | Kyle Byron Nutrition Blog
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I’m on a Boat! (and how my fitness played out)

I’m on a Boat! (and how my fitness played out)

This post has advanced fitness tips for travelling in unique conditions.


escape plan

This is the 35 foot vessel that was my home for 10 days in July 2014. She would range far south, from her habour-mouth, and rejoice in every wave. Then race north into Michigan, and be taken home again.



map w route line


Before the trip, I had two things on my mind: the exhilaration of the inland seas we call Great Lakes, and my above-average body composition (and how would it stay that way, on such a long vacation, accompanied by drunken sailors).


The Challenges

  • How was I going to eat clean when the food was going to be processed and calorically-dense?
  • How would I respond to my comrades who take great sport in breaking my nutrition habits, and then scold me for my indiscretions?
  • How was I going to exercise where there is hardly a five foot space in her wooded walls and white decks, where I could squat?

Spoiler alert, I got leaner on this trip! I was shocked.


What I ate (I usually avoid most of this stuff)

  • Lots of sandwiches with fatty lunch meat (some had sugar added), cheese, condiments, peppers
  • Carrots and hummus
  • A few meals like meat and potatoes
  • Breakfast was sometimes instant oatmeal with meat or protein powder on the side
  • Sugar-added Greek Yogurt
  • Tuna
  • Crackers
  • Apples
  • Water
  • Gatorade


Boat Sandwiches

Boat Sandwiches on dinner rolls.













How I ate clean-ish (and drank a bunch of beers a few times)


Appetite and Calorie Awareness

  • To maintain body composition we (most of us) have to eat less than our appetite tells us to. So I tried to use appetite awareness on my trip.
  • I had to tweak the process to make up for the food being calorically dense.
  • Firstly, I only ate if I was damn-sure I was hungry! (Instead of eating when “hungry”). This strategy cut out a few hundred less calories per day.
  • If we were eating sandwiches, I would only eat one and then wait 10-20 twenty minutes, to see if I became satisfied. Instead of eating the second one, which I could have easily done each time. THIS WAITING IS PIVOTAL when eating calorically dense food!
  • Conversely, if you are eating lean meat and veggies you can have a few extra bites and it’s only a few calories.  A few extra bites of sandwiches can be 200 calories.
  • One challenge I had was not knowing when the next meal would be. Like if it was stormy. Here I ate until full, which was a meal fail. When we eat until full, our body usually makes new body fat and stores it.



You can’t always control WHAT you eat, but you can always control HOW MUCH.



I think sometimes people fail at nutrition because they don’t believe in the little victories. My compliance to my supplements on my trip was near 100% and maybe that was the proverbial straw that didn’t break my back.


  • Creatine – preserves muscle tissue when not training as hard. Also helps with things like hauling lines in bursts of power.
  • Green Tea Extract – increases fat burning
  • Carnatine – maybe helps with fat loss
  • Glucosamine – helps my arthritic joints
  • Fish oil – helps with many things, possibly fat loss
  • Multivitamins – fills in the blanks from my processed diet
  • Vega One meal replacement – for when it was too rough to make food


Meal replacement when it was too rough to eat. I later threw all this up but the crew was ok.

Meal replacement when it was too rough to eat. I later threw all this up but the crew was ok.
















In my defense, we were in eight-foot swells hitting us diagonally, and I had to be below deck making food.

In my defense, we were in eight-foot swells hitting us diagonally, and I had to be below deck making food.

“Kb you look like hell!”





















Booze – The Official Supplement of Sailing

  • We are products of our environment, and let me tell you after eight hours of freezing cold rain, on a ship full of rum and beer, even I found myself hoisting a 2 pm libation to my fortitude

After engine failure and drifting around the St. Clair river, we were towed safely in a shipping lane and did what we had to do to improve morale.
















  • I had two big nights at the race parties, and then a few beers and wine here and there
  • No wonder sailors drink a lot. You’re either miserable and lonely or having the time of your life and surrounded by women who want to hang out with you.














  • If you are healthy and well hydrated, you don’t get hangovers as bad, and you can train hard the next day.
  • I don’t usually do this, but I accounted the alcohol into my caloric needs and ate less calories to help off-set the booze
  • Ultimately I think I out-trained a lot of the drinks (DO NOT ATTEMPT).




Physical Activity

  • I was hoping to swim and train more, but it was too cold or there wasn’t room
  • I did get one awesome chest workout in
  • I also got a ton of non-exercise-attributed-thermogenesis (which is a fancy way of saying random activity). For example, standing all day can burn an extra 400 calories.
  • How about standing on a boat where you are constantly correcting and balancing, (and sometimes being violently thrown around)? I’d say there was an extra 800-2000 calories burned from that
  • Further, hauling on lines and cranking winches with hundreds of pounds of force on them was intermittent maximal output work, which we know is great for health and body composition.
  • ALSO being really really cold! I am not sure on the exact metabolic advantage but that would be a cool blog post. It was pretty damn cold.
Push ups above a seven foot drop

Push ups above a seven foot drop

Dips on ships.

Dips on ships.

















Bookending Training

  • The week before the trip I trained like an animal. Even more than usual.
  • After my trip, I was in the gym that day

I guess the bottom line here is that I chose a vacation that was activity intensive, and I used my appetite and nutrition knowledge to eat slightly less than I needed to. And that’s how I was leaner when I got back.



At the gym after my trip, I noted how habitual it was to be there, enduring another punishing workout. I thought about how few people exercise. I thought about my clients and my concern for their success.

I realized my concern for the uninitiated, or the rookie client, is not that they gain a few pounds on vacation, it’s that their habits break completely because of the vacation.

I wondered if maybe we all need to lighten up on our vacations? Or is that the wrong message to send? I don’t know. I suppose everyone is different.

I can help you figure this out and how it will impact your goals.

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Kb Nutritionist and fun guy

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