Some people can get off a trans-Atlantic red-eye flight and feel completely fine. And then there's the rest of us. If you've tried everything — coffee, vitamins, trying to stay awake to get on local time — to no avail, there are actually some foods to help combat jet lag and give you a boost while you're travelling.
If you've ever travelled across multiple time zones and gotten off the plane feeling as tired and cranky as the babysitting behind you, it's totally normal. I get terrible jet lag, so the idea that I can eat certain foods to feel better fast is welcome news, and I had no idea this was even a thing.
The Mayo Clinic noted on its website that "jet lag disorder is a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones." What's more, the more time zones you cross, the worse you feel. "Symptoms are likely to be worse or last longer the more time zones that you've crossed, especially if you travel in an easterly direction. It usually takes about a day to recover for each time zone crossed." No one wants to spend their vacation recovering from jet lag, and the Mayo Clinic cited staying hydrated as one of the most important factors in reducing jet lag. This means not imbuing in all of the those free drinks on the plane. If you want to further increase your chances of feeling better, try these foods to combat jet lag.
When You Eat Matters
When traveling internationally, you've probably been told to get on your new time zone as fast as possible. However, a study published in Current Biology found that changing your meal schedule is the fastest way to adjust to a new time zone. By fasting before you fly, and delaying your meal time when you arrive at a new destination, you can actually help your body adjust to the new time zone faster. The research "indicates for the first time that feeding patterns may be capable of synchronizing human peripheral clocks." When you do eat, choose from the foods below to ease your body into your new time zone. In other words, don't go straight for the doughnuts.
Eat Your Veggies
Aside from fatigue, gastrointestinal distress is one of the worst symptoms of jet lag. On his website, Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, recommended eating plant-based foods before your trip. "It can help fend off jet lag-related digestive troubles, whereas low-fibre, carb-heavy meals tend to stress the digestive system, even more so when you’re crossing multiple time zones," he explained.
Pick Protein & Healthy Fats
While you might be tempted to indulge in your favourite comfort food before you travel as well as when you're on the plane, Dr. Lipman advised against it because even though it might make you feel good in the moment, it will do the opposite later. "In the air, traditional comfort foods slow your body’s ability to adjust by using up valuable energy (which could be used elsewhere) to tend to the business of breaking down your food," he explained. "In other words, keep food as simple and healthy as you do on the ground, with lots of veggies, good fats, and protein."
Try Trail Mix
Travel is stressful, which means you might be tempted to satisfy your hunger at one of the eleventy-million fast-food restaurants at the airport before you board your flight. Don't do it. Dr. David Greuner, a cardiovascular surgeon with NYC Surgical Associates, told Lisa Jackson for Sky Scanner that it's best to opt for low-sugar, slow-burn carbs with moderate protein. "I’ll typically bring hummus packs and grain crackers, vegetables that won’t perish easily, homemade trail mix, and a protein bar to hold me over until my next meal.”
Sip Citrus Water
OK, good luck getting any type of water past security at the airport. However, drinking citrus water before and during your flight can not only keep you hydrated, it can also help promote healthy digestion, Registered Dietitian and Certified LEAP Therapist Stacie Haaga told Jackson. Bring a pre-sliced lemon or orange with you to the airport, then buy a bottle of water when you get through security. If you forget your fruit, you can usually go into any sit-down restaurant and ask for a lemon.
Recent studies have found that cherries just might be the world's most perfect food, and they have myriad jet-lag fighting properties. From fighting inflammation to promoting gut health to regulating sleep patterns, Montmorency Tart Cherries cited more than 50 studies that outline the health benefits of the flavonoid compounds in their tart cherries. I've tried these cherries, and they are definitely a go-to for me when I'm feeling blah.
Pack Protein Bars
Protein bars are a must when taking a long trip. They're easy to carry, and they can give you a quick boost while also satisfying your hunger. What's more, they won't lead to a sugar crash. My favourite protein bar that I always carry in my purse — because you never know when you're going to get hangry — is GoMacro. They're organic, vegan, and macrobiotic, and they taste good too.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you're travelling out of your time zone for the first time, and you don't know how jet lag will affect you, do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Drink a lot of water in the days before your trip, eat a healthy, high-veggie, low-carb diet, and get plenty of sleep. Make sure to pack jet-lag fighting foods in your carry-on so you're not tempted to make poor choices on the plane. If you're a seasoned traveller, but jet lag takes you down every time and makes you cry like a baby at baggage claim (me all day), try doing the same. Because little things can make a big difference. #TheMoreYouKnow