Life and Work
Stay healthy and energized when travelling for work
Three experts give advice for dealing with a gruelling work travel schedule
A doctor’s advice
Frequent flying and regularly crossing time zones disrupts your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, and causes jet lag. You’re knocked out of sync with your environment, making you tired and wired at the same time. Symptoms include headaches, irritability, brain fog and low energy.
In the days before your flight, maintain a consistent sleep schedule to set a pattern for your body. While on board, drink at least two glasses of water every hour to combat dehydration caused by the plane’s dry air. Keep moving to improve circulation and prevent swelling. If you land before noon, head outdoors. Exposure to sunlight in the morning helps move your circadian rhythm forward.
During long flights, try to sleep using blindfolds, sunglasses, earplugs, neck support and pillows for maximum comfort and to ensure you have an uninterrupted rest. Use over-the-counter melatonin, a hormone that’s thought to help induce sleep, a half-hour before you settle in for the night. Other effective natural remedies include valerian, passion flower and L-theanine.
Dr. Zoltan Rona practises complementary medicine in Toronto, edits The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis and the best-seller Return to the Joy of Health.
A dietitian’s advice
Consider a grocery stop your first order of business when you land – hotel vending machines often only carry salty, sugary or fatty foods. Maximize mental focus by eating your main meal of the day before going to your work meetings, and pack healthy snacks, such as nuts, seed bars and 70 percent chocolate, to enjoy throughout the trip.
Research suggests that the rhythm of meals you’re used to gets disrupted when you switch time zones, so some travellers swear by the rule of eating very light during the flight and immediately adhering to the eating schedule of their destination to keep themselves on track.
Once you land, stick to high-protein, high-fibre meals. Try a quinoa salad, veggies and bean dip, or almond milk mixed with flax or chia-based granola. Eat every hour hours to keep your good sugar and energy levels stable. Try natural energy boosters such as coconut water, honey bush herbal tea and vegetable juice. When you’re ready to tuck in for the night, snack on foods containing melatonin, such as sunflower seeds, almonds or cherries.
Toronto-based certified nutritionist Julie Daniluk co-hosts the reality cooking show Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network and is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation.
A fitness instructor’s advice
Exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re drained from jet lag, but it does help – and you can start on the plane. Stay refreshed and prevent muscle stiffness by occasionally moving around the cabin, if it’s allowed, and doing seated stretches by straightening your legs and pointing and flexing your toes. At your destination, keep active to help reset your circadian rhythm. Weather permitting, exercise outdoors, as the natural light will help you adjust to a new time zone.
Evidence suggests the timing of your workouts might make a difference. When flying east, take a brisk walk or jog earlier in the day, if possible. Travelling west, go in the afternoon. However, any movement helps, including walking around the airport on layovers. If you’re groggy, keep workouts moderate as you adapt to your surroundings. ANother reason to exercise when travelling for work: it reduces feelings of stress than can exacerbate jet lag.
Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics, is a Vancouver-based certified fitness instructor and author of numerous books, including Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom’s 9-Minute Fitness Solution.