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The Definitive Guide to Beating Jet Lag

The Definitive Guide to Beating Jet Lag

Follow this guide to arrive at your next destination feeling energized and ready for work or vacation.

Jet lag affects nearly all travelers that cross time zones. Studies have shown that professional athletes, business travelers, pilots, and flight attendants suffer from reduced energy and performance when arriving at their destination after a long distance flight.

Long flights are the same for most of us: they start off with enthusiasm and energy but end with aches, pains and lethargy. It's no surprise that this happens to us. We're stuck in a sitting position for an extended period of time, we're dehydrated and our feet are swollen from water retention in the legs.

Feeling this way is the last thing you want when you arrive at your destination, whether it's for a vacation or you're at the start of an important business trip. Wouldn't you rather arrive fresh-faced and full of energy? Follow this guide to beat jet lag and feel great when you land.

What is jet lag?

We all have internal clocks that control our body's processes. These clocks run our principal rhythms on cycles of 24 hours, called circadian, and synchronize with light and dark. This rhythm is disrupted when you cross time zones and are off your usual light and dark cycle. 

For example, if you catch a flight from New York to London at 7 p.m. and arrive in London at 5 a.m. (midnight London time), your day-night cycle would be off and your body rhythm would be disrupted. For many of us, it takes a day to fully recover from this. But there are ways to speed up that recovery or minimize the effects altogether.

Helpful Tip

Fly east early; fly west late. Think about it. If you're flying east, getting an early start will give you the entire day and plenty of daylight when you arrive. Leave later in the day when you're heading west. There's no need to lose a night's sleep by leaving early in the morning and you'll be gaining time as you go west. 

At the Airport

Before you even board, you should have it in your mind what steps you can be taking to get your body ready for the flight.

In my experience, the time between getting through security and boarding can be long and provides a perfect opportunity to prepare for a long flight. Enjoy the open space that the airport terminal provides you. Take a long walk, stretch your legs and if you're up for it, find some stairs and walk or run up them a few times.

Think about it this way: you're about to be sitting on a plane for at least a few hours so why would you want to sit some more in the airport terminal? 

Make the most of the opportunity, move around and get your blood flowing. 

During the Flight

Once you're on board, your options for moving about become much more restricted but there's no reason to think that you can't stretch out and stay loose in-flight.

Break up long bouts of sitting by taking a walk up and down the aisle. Find a corner (near the bathrooms works great) and do some air squats. 

If you don't want to get up or are looking for something you can do in you seat, try these three moves.

Another thing to consider is staying awake during the flight. This can help you fight off the jet leg and keep you in your circadian rhythm. Have some coffee during the flight. Remain productive by getting some work done on your laptop or read a book.

Avoid alcohol and sleep aids. They both will only increase the disruption to your circadian rhythm and can have additional negative effects.  

After the Flight

Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, is a 14-time world champion in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). As a professional wrestler, he travels a lot - over 200 days a year. Here's what Triple H does to combat jet lag, from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss: "When I landed, I would check into the hotel. The second we checked in, I'd ask them: 'Is the gym open? Can I go train?' Even if it was to get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes to reset things. I learned early that it seemed any time I did that, I didn't get jet lag."

The lesson here is to get some exercise, even if it's a short workout, right after you land. Once you arrive at your destination, one of the most important things for you to do is loosen up your tight muscles and joints with some stretching and a few calisthenics. It doesn't need to take long. I like to focus on opening up my hips and activating my glutes as soon as possible after my flight. 

Try these three moves for one minute each as soon as you arrive:

  1. World's Greatest Stretch
  2. Single Leg Glute Bridge
  3. Bodyweight Squats

Remember to stay hydrated. For hydration, you should always carry a refillable water bottle with you in your carry on. I like my water cold, so I always travel with a Hydroflask. It keeps my water cold throughout even the longest flights.

I also recommend that anyone going on a flight have a few important items with them in their carry on. These include deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, ibuprofen/excedrin/tylenol, tissues, band aids, and an extra set of clothes. These will help you arrive fresh at your destination and could be helpful if an emergency comes up.

Bottom Line

There's no reason why you have to feel lousy when you land after a long flight. Move around before, during, and after the flight. Stay hydrated and consider staying awake to get yourself back in the right rhythm when you arrive at your destination. 

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