It’s not just professional athletes that travel the world to race - amateur athletes also travel for marathons, triathlons, ultras and training camps. Jet lag can seriously impact athletic performance, so learning how to avoid it is key to reaching your potential
Heck, even if you’re “just” going on holiday, you still don’t want to spend the first couple of days in a dopey haze. This advice will see you arrive at your destination firing on all cylinders, ready to rumble – whether that’s running a marathon or hitting the beach energized with the family.
Jet lag and athletic performance
Jet lag is the result of the body’s circadian rhythm falling out of sync as it tries to adapt to a new time zone. Knocking your natural sleep patterns off balance have serious implications and can be the difference between a PB and a pitiful plod.
You’ll have felt the symptoms of jet lag:
- Loss of energy and mojo
- Disrupted sleep
- Emotional instability
So, how do you avoid jet lag?
Don't let jet lag affect your performance
Beat jet lag before you take off
- Plan your logistics. To decrease stress and cortisol – that performance-wrecking hormone - ensure you leave plenty of time to be where you need. For triathletes dragging a bike box around the world, add a little extra time for every transfer!
- Shift your sleep patterns. Gradually alter your sleep cycle to coincide with that of your destination in the few days preceding travel. As a rule of thumb, if traveling eastwards go to bed 30-minutes earlier and rise half an hour earlier a few days before departure. Travelling west? Then go to bed 30-minutes later and wake later in the three or four days pre-departure
- Utilise light exposure. Exposing yourself to light around 5am will delay your circadian rhythm and boost adaptation. Delayed exposure to light will have the opposite effect
Struggling to sleep? See our 9 lessons for improved sleep.
Beat jet lag in the air
- Hydrate. Forgetting to drink on a flight is easy. Keep a water bottle to hand and sip when needed. Best steer clear of caffeine and alcohol – at least until the return journey - both of which disrupt melatonin production and sleep
- Adopt your destination's time zone. From the moment you board, utlise ear plugs and an eye mask to reduce light and noise in order to shift to your destination's time zone
- Keep moving. Stand up, stretch, flex and get the blood flowing as often as possible
- Eat well. What happens at 30,000ft stays at 30,000ft…right? Wrong! Just because you’re high above the Atlantic, it doesn’t mean those high-calorie sugary snacks won’t land. Save it for the journey home!
Plane food isn’t all that nutritious!
Beat jet lag the moment you land
- Do some exercise. As soon as you can, perform some light exercise to stretch the heart and lungs. It’ll also help shift your sleep patterns. Save more intense efforts for 36-48 hours post-travel.
- Switch your mealtimes. As soon as you land, adopt your destination’s mealtimes.
- Cut caffeine. Reduce consumption to find your new natural rhythm quicker.
Beat the jet lag – conclusion
Travelling for a training camp or race can be confusing for our bodies, and jet lag is one consequence that can disrupt our flow, but we hope these tips will help you avoid it next time.
It’s important to ensure that you nail your nutrition pre-travel so you’re ready to hit the ground running.
Our Ultimate Daily Greens are a fantastic travel companion (just check that your destination will let you bring these ingredients into the country!). The pack is small, doesn’t weigh much and the ingredients are so potent you only need one spoonful per day to benefit.
Ultimate Daily Greens – a great travel companion