5 Dietitian-Approved Tips to Jettison Jet Lag
If you ever have traveled internationally, then you know how jet lag can be the bane of your existence. Jet lag is a real sleep disorder in which your body’s inherent timing, or circadian rhythm, differs from the external environment due to traveling across time zones. Some common symptoms of jet lag — headaches, awkward sleeping schedules and altered bowel habits — can interfere with your packed sightseeing schedule or work performance. But you can help curb that New York-to-Tokyo jet lag if you eat the right foods at the right times.
Steer Clear of Cocktails
Flying is dehydrating, but flying with a cocktail in hand is an even bigger recipe for dehydration. Although it may seem like alcohol helps you zonk out for a few hours in-flight, alcohol is a well-known sleep disrupter, leading to poorer quality rest. Instead of relying on an alcoholic beverage, invest in an eye mask and add a few drops of lavender essential oil to relax and drift off into restful shut eye.
You may be wary of airplane bathrooms (yuck!), but that’s not a reason to avoid sipping water frequently before, during and after your flight. Flying is particularly dehydrating because of the low humidity environment on-board. Dehydration can cause increased irritability and fatigue, which is not a good recipe for a long day of sightseeing or, on the flip side, getting back to work.
Skip Salty Snacks
Inactivity, dehydration and salty peanuts are a recipe for swollen legs and feet after a long flight. One way to help maintain proper fluid balance is smart snacking! Avoid salty snacks to reduce bloating and swelling so you can disembark the plane feeling much more refreshed and energized. Instead of salty snacks, focus on high-protein options such as unsalted nuts, a couple of hard boiled eggs or hummus and veggies.
When you’re tired it seems reasonable to reach for a quick caffeine boost, but how much is too much? Research suggests caffeine can effectively reduce daytime sleepiness and even properly re-synchronize hormones after eastbound flights. Make sure to limit your caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day or about two cups of coffee.
Consider a Well-Timed Fast
Although research is limited, some may find that fasting for 12 hours prior to breakfast time at your arrival destination can help lessen the impact of jet lag. Some claim that fasting activates your body’s “mealtime clock,” helping your body acclimate to the new time zone quicker. But it’s important to realize that this may not be appropriate for everyone. If you take any medication, have difficulty controlling your blood sugar or experience unpleasant symptoms when skipping meals, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional before testing this out.
Although diet hasn’t been proven to lessen the effects of jet lag, the tricks mentioned above can help your body better adjust to a new time zone. Be sure to eat when you’re truly hungry, as traveling can interfere with your hunger and satiety hormones, tricking you into sugary cravings or creating a false sense of hunger. If you stay well hydrated and consume regularly scheduled meals, you’ll get back on track much quicker than if you munch on carbohydrate-filled snacks all day.
Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN is a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in weight management, food allergies and intolerances. When not helping clients, she is developing tasty, food-allergy friendly and mostly vegetarian recipes and photographing every bite for her healthy food blog, CitNutritionally.com. You can follow Chelsey on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.