Can I beat jet lag with food?
Your body clock can be disrupted by short-haul flights and ruined by long-haul ones. Even if you’re not affected by jet lag, simple travel fatigue can lead to dehydration, illness and inferior performance. But it doesn’t have to be like that – there are easy ways to avoid these problems.
Plane cabins are hotbeds for bacteria. Anti-bacterial hand gels will help, but germs spread in the dirty recycled air too. There’s some evidence that probiotics protect you from illness so take them for at least a week before you travel.
Magnesium and zinc help to boost the immune system. They also help relax your muscles so you can sleep on the flight. Tea contains a compound called theanine, which also helps with relaxation.
Get to the airport early enough to have a meal. Broth with noodles for non-starchy carbs, chicken for protein and vegetables for fibre ticks all the boxes. Being full when you get on the plane means you can go to sleep right away and skip the dubious plane food.
Because of the dry air in the cabin, hydration is important. Pick up a large bottle of water when you’re through security and add sachets of electrolytes and salts to it to aid water absorption. Drink the water to a schedule. On an eight-hour flight you’ll need to drink three litres, so schedule your sleep so you don’t have to wake up to go to the toilet. And plane food is often low in fibre so pack some apples for the flight.
Do some exercises. Stand up, draw your bellybutton in and slowly rotate your trunk left and right for 30-second bursts every two hours.
Back on terra firma
On landing, don’t devour the first exotic-looking food you see – stick with your nutritious snacks. If you want to exercise, take it easy at first. Your back may be compromised after a long flight so your first session should be about loosening up and stretching. Build it up so you’re back working at 100% no sooner than the third day.
If you need to perform, avoid excessively spicy food that can affect your gut health – there will be different bacteria in the local food than you’re used to. Pack some familiar foods such as porridge or dried fruit, but don’t be afraid to introduce local flavours into your diet to keep it interesting and fresh – that’s what visiting new places is all about.
Glenn Kearney is head sports nutritionist for Etixx UK, the gold standard for sports nutrition. For more info, visit etixxsports.com/gb