Diet Tips To Beat Jet Lag
“When crossing a number of meridians, the natural body clock fails to adjust adequately with the change in environmental factors”
Travel fatigue is often associated with disturbances in the normal body clock or circadian rhythm and is heightened with dissociations in the normal light-dark cycle, especially during multiple time zones. This abnormal synchronization is termed as jet lag.
Grogginess over landing and stress of getting efficient work done (for travelling professionals) leaves one disturbed. Although work is usually manageable, it is the jet lag that is not! Being over exhausted, tired and sleepy is not how one should be for work or for a competitive schedule, in case of an athlete. To some extent, these feelings are unavoidable but there are definitely ways by which one can reduce the degree of such fatigue and lethargy.
The body clock needs to adjust as per the environment for which certain nuclei called suprachiasmatic nuclei in the body have to synchronize with the solar day. Natural day light/artificial light in hibits hormone melatonin secretion, causing enhanced alertness. Melatonin on the other hand, is responsible for drowsiness as it is secreted in dim light. When crossing a number of meridians, the natural body clock fails to adjust adequately, with the change in environmental factors.
Food And Circadian Rhythm
Eating pattern and drinking schedule has been one of the essential external factors influencing jet lag, as it has an effect on gut motility, digestion and absorption of foods. Gastric emptying and blood flow to the gut are lower at night, than in the day, resulting in delayed absorption of food at night. Thus, heavy meals consumed late evening can make one feel bloated and may disrupt normal sleep.
Eastwards Or Westwards
Pharmacological as well nutritional changes to reduce symptoms of jet lag have been studied. For at least a couple of days before departure, it has been suggested to go to bed earlier than usual, when traveling eastwards and sleep later than usual when traveling westwards.
The majority of flights towards the east such as America to Europe, Europe to Asia and Australia are overnight. This allows a late meal and short night sleep. Westward flights on the other hand, involve more day time, thus jet lag is less severe and adjustment is faster in this case.
The diet has four phases involving alternate feast and fast days. On day one, the traveller should eat a high protein breakfast and lunch including eggs, beans, soy, sausages, bacon, hamburger etc. and a high carbohydrate dinner involving rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes etc. On Day two, travellers should observe a fast by consuming only light fruits, fruit juices, light soups and salad preparations. On day three, one can feast again while on day four, the traveller should repeat the fast.
Cafteinated beverages are allowed in the morning when travelling west and between 6-11 pm when travelling east. Avoidance of alcohol on the plane is mandatory and the traveller is advised to break the final fast on arrival, with a heavy protein-rich breakfast.
Dry air in the flight often whisks away all moisture content of the body and hence, a hydration protocol of consuming fluids every 15-20 minutes can ensure water balance. Dehydration on the other hand, can often aggravate symptoms of jet lag with heightened malaise.
Changing time zones also has an effect on renal function. Hence, care should be taken to avoid consumption of too much fluid late evening so as to avoid repeated disturbances in sleep for urination purposes.
The Role Of Insulin
Research also recommends consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal in the evening that would induce tryptophan production responsible for sleep during flight time. On arrival, especially if it is morning in the destination country, a protein- rich breakfast is advised. This would increase blood and brain tyrosine levels for increased sense of wakefulness and arousal.