Have you noticed that you're not as sharp after business travel? A recent Time article, Why Jet Lag Is Worse than You Think, discusses the effects of jet lag on mental and physical performance. Based on data from more than 40,000 baseball games, players that traveled two or more time zones had fewer stolen bases, double and triples, and were subject to more double plays and pitchers gave up more home runs.
Traveling from west to east has more of an effect than traveling east to west because you gain time traveling west and lose it traveling east. Eastbound travel has a bigger impact on your circadian rhythm or internal biological clock.
If traveling across two or more time zones affects major league baseball players' performance, do you think it has an impact on your performance? In addition to jet lag, travel has other potential risks such as increased exposure to communicable disease, blood clots from extending sitting, and exposure to cosmic radiation.
The recommendations for traveling professional sports teams is to travel a day or two early to give their internal clock time to adjust and minimize any impact on performance. Unfortunately, most business travelers don't have that luxury.
Following are 11 hacks you can do to be on top of your game and mitigate health risks when traveling multiple times zones.
1. Hydrate: The high levels of cosmic radiation and now Wi-Fi radiation is very dehydrating to your body. Pass on alcohol before and during your flight. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight.
Load up on quality water preflight and purchase a few bottles of water once you pass through security to drink throughout your fight. If you really have to performance on your trip avoid alcohol 3 days prior to flying.
2. Choose an Aisle Seat: I know, you won't get the view and you risk being woken up but it will be much easier for you to get up and move. Sitting by the window also exposes you to higher levels of cosmic radiation that we never get exposed to on the ground. If you're curious about past exposure the FAA has an app for that.
3. Walk & Stretch: Get up and walk and stretch every hour to decrease risks of blood clots. The risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) increases two to four times on flights lasting more than 4 hours. A study done by the Lancet found that 1 percent of travelers developed clots, and these clots can form during or up to 30 days after travel. With millions of long-haul flights annually, this is potentially leading to thousands of deaths not linked to air travel.
4. Get a Massage: As soon as possible after a long flight, get a massage to increase blood circulation and minimize the risk of blood clots. Most people love this recommendation.
5. When Flying West: Watch sunsets for 3 days prior to travel. This will sync your circadian rhythm or internal biological clock.
6. When Flying East: Try for an evening arrival to minimize your circadian disruption. As soon as possible after landing, take a 15-minute brisk walk or do a few sets of 50-yard sprints outside allowing sunlight to get in your eyes - no glasses, sunglasses, or contacts.
7. Watch the sunset and sunrise: Once you reach your destination watch the first sunset or sunrise and watch as many as you can while there and do the same upon your return to resync your circadian rhythm.
8. Avoid Airline Food: Most airline food doesn't taste good and lacks nutrition. Pack some fruit, sliced veggies, hummus, nuts, trail mix, healthy nutrition bars, etc. to enjoy on the flight.
9. Ground Yourself on the Seat Frame: Take your shoe off and either barefoot or with a natural fiber sock such as wool or cotton rest your foot on the seat frame in front of you. The seat frame is connected to the frame of the plane and this helps to discharge some of the radiation.
10. Ground Yourself at Destination: When you arrive at your destination walk barefoot or with natural fiber socks on the earth for 20 minutes or more.
11. Eat a Large Seafood Meal: Load up on seafood before you fly and upon arrival. If they're serving fish on the plane pass and stick with your packed healthy snacks. DHA is the most abundant lipid in your brain and flying decreases your DHA levels.
About the Author
Nathan Walz, founder of Journey to Optimal Health, provides Corporate Wellness expertise and teaches employees how to have more energy, less stress, better sleep, and improved mental performance. After a long battle with chronic Lyme disease, Walz turned his health around and made it his personal mission to help others feel their best and reach their full potential.