Traveling and staying fit are often challenging to balance. You are forced to change your training environment often, and eating the healthiest foods for your goals is not always possible. There is also the issue of Jetlag. Even if everything goes according to plan, Jetlag can significantly hinder many people feel under the weather.
We have put together this post to help you stay on track with your training and boost your work productivity. Below, we will go over Jetlag, what it is, and how to minimize its adverse effects. Ready? Let us dive in.
What is Jetlag, and why does it occur?
Jetlag is a temporary condition where your regular sleeping pattern is disturbed after a long flight. The body has an internal clock (a circadian rhythm) and gets used to doing specific things at certain times of the day. Wake up, eat, exercise, work, relax, and go to bed at specific times. All of these things go off balance when you change several time zones. As a result, you find yourself feeling disoriented, tired (yet unable to have a restful sleep), and mostly unproductive.
Jetlag typically goes away within a few days as the body has time to adjust to the new time zone. Interestingly, the human body can adapt to many stressors to handle them more easily in the future. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case with Jetlag simply because it is too big of a disruption to the body.
Common symptoms of Jetlag include:
- Difficulty falling asleep despite feeling tired
- Feeling disoriented and unproductive
- Struggling to focus
- Feeling exhausted and irritable
- Experiencing fatigue and muscle weakness
- Poor sleep quality and waking up multiple times
Many Jetlag symptoms overlap with things we experience when we do not get enough quality sleep. Unfortunately, there is no real cure for Jetlag, and we must give ourselves a few days to fully adjust to the new time zones, especially when traveling to distant countries. The good news is that there are tactics we can employ to reduce the severity of Jetlag and possibly speed up the adjustment process.
How to minimize the effects of Jetlag
You can feel jetlagged if you only stay in one time zone for no longer than a few days. That is not fun (and, at some point, not even coffee helps you stay awake). So here are some practical ways to minimize the effects of Jetlag for your next trip:
1. Get as much rest as you can before traveling
Jetlag occurs due to a dysregulation of your internal body clock, the circadian rhythm. But, symptoms can vary in intensity depending on how rested or sleep-deprived you are. So, one way to reduce the effects of Jetlag and start feeling "normal" more quickly is to get as much rest as possible before traveling.
Good sleep will play a pivotal role in handling Jetlag, so get at least seven hours per night. In addition, a melatonin supplement can promote better sleep, primarily if you work different shifts and sleep at various times. Melatonin has become very famous, and you will probably be able to find such products in a local store or pharmacy. Multiple studies have recommended two products you could get quickly from Amazon:
- Tablets: Natrol Melatonin Advanced Sleep
- Spray: Allergy Research Group - Liposomal Melatonin
2. Try to adjust to the new time zone before arriving
The second good way to combat Jetlag is to be proactive about it and adjust your body's internal clock ahead of time. Doing so will allow you to get used to the new time zone more quickly and experience less severe Jetlag symptoms.
For example, let us say you are in New York and planning to visit Los Angeles, three hours behind. You can start going to bed and waking up later, thus adjusting to the LA time early.
The tactic is not perfect and likely will not work when changing more than a couple of time zones, but it can be effective on trips to countries or cities that are not as far. Most people believe that Jetlag only occurs when traveling to time zones where the difference is six or more hours, but that is not always the case. I have experienced Jetlag, even at one hour difference. Similarly, many people feel "off" for a few days after daylight savings time changes.
3. Sleep on the plane
The next good way to combat Jetlag and reduce the risk of sleep deprivation is to sleep on the plane if you will be arriving at night or in the early morning. Doing so is beneficial for kickstarting the adjustment process and making it easier to establish a good sleeping schedule from day one.
Of course, depending on your work schedule, you might also need to complete some work while traveling. Or you are tempted to follow up with some movies downloaded to your tablet. I often split the time on the plane, get some work done first and then slow down to watch some Netflix and/or take a nap.
4. Hydrate yourself
Staying hydrated is one of the healthiest and most practical ways to feel better and maintain sharp cognitive function. Good hydration is also necessary for battling Jetlag.
Ensure good hydration by drinking plenty of water before your trip and as you travel to the new destination. Most guidelines suggest that men drink roughly 3.7 liters of water daily (125 fl. oz), and women drink 2.7 liters (91 fl. oz). Electrolyte drinks can help because they supply the necessary minerals your brain and body need to function at their best.
5. Use an app
Another option to consider for dealing with Jetlag is to leverage an app. For example, Timeshifter is a great application that helps you develop a personalized approach that considers your sleep pattern, chronotype, flight plan, and a range of other things.
In short, Timeshifter and similar apps resynchronize your circadian rhythm more quickly, allowing you to enjoy your travels with minimal Jetlag. The app asks you some basic questions and develops a plan for dealing with Jetlag. Timeshifter tells you when to sleep, seek light, ingest some caffeine, and more.
6. Use sleeping aids
A huge reason why people often struggle to deal with Jetlag is that various things prevent them from getting much-needed sleep. Since the internal clock is upside down, even minor irritants (light, noise, etc.) can prevent you from falling asleep.
Good ways to promote sleep are to use aids like earplugs, an eye mask, and comfortable travel pillows and blankets. Additionally, use blackout curtains if your room has them and put the air conditioning at 65 to 70 degrees F (18 to 21 degrees F) for optimal sleep. You can learn a lot more about the importance of sleep and why "snoozing" is bad in our guide.
How to train if you are jetlagged
While training is inherently stressful for the body, it can be beneficial if you are jetlagged. Training releases endorphins, which could make you feel better for the rest of the day. Further, exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and get the much-needed rest. Here are four tips on safe and effective training while dealing with Jetlag:
1. Warm up well
A good warm-up is necessary to optimize your training performance, get in the mood for training, and reduce the injury risk. Warming up well is even more critical when dealing with Jetlag because it gets your blood flowing and ensures that you perform better in your training.
You can begin with a few minutes of low-intensity cardio: walking on a treadmill, jogging in place, or similar. Then, proceed to dynamic stretching in the form of arm and leg swings and other helpful activities.
The above sequence should take you no more than ten minutes. Once you do that, proceed to your workout by increasing the intensity gradually over several bouts of exercise. For instance, if you plan on doing the bench press as the first movement, start with an empty bar for a set and gradually add weight plates.
2. Reduce the intensity
You need to avoid pushing yourself too hard if you want to have productive sessions. Instead, reduce your regular workout intensity and volume by 10 to 30 percent and focus on training with proper form and feeling the correct muscles activate.
For example, let us say that a traditional workout includes 20 sets spread across six movements. You can reduce the sets to 14-18 and reduce the loads you are using by an average of 20 percent.
Taking a step back and having a few less challenging sessions can be a tough pill to swallow, but it offers benefits. For one, you will still get sweaty and keep the momentum going. Any exercise will also boost your mood and make you feel better. Second, less challenging workouts present the perfect opportunity to examine your training form and see if anything needs improvements.
3. Train in the morning
Let us say that you wake up early and can not fall asleep. Why not use that time for a refreshing morning workout? It might be a fun experience to exercise alone in a hotel gym at 5 AM. Of course, you should check the opening hours beforehand; not all gyms work 24/7. If the gym at your hotel does not work in the early morning, you can have a great session outside, provided the weather allows you to. For instance, you can have an outdoor running session at the beach or in the park.
Here are a few simple tips to optimize your morning workouts:
- Hydrate yourself as soon as you get out of bed in the morning
- Have a cup of strong coffee to wake up and improve your performance
- Have a small meal consisting of some protein and carbs; alternatively, train in a fasted state but keep in mind that your performance might not be great if you are not used to it
- Have an extra long warm-up, and don't touch heavy weights until you have mobilized all the joints and muscles you will work during the session
4. Try matching your training time
Finally, try to train at the same time you usually do. For instance, if you live in New York and typically train at 6 PM, try having your workouts at 6 PM local time, regardless of where you are. Doing so would allow your body to adjust to the new time zone more quickly. This of course, can be a challenge if you are in Los Angeles and your training time would become 3 PM.
A simple and effective Anti-Jetlag Workout you can do anywhere
The following is a simple bodyweight routine you can do anywhere, even if you do not have access to any training equipment. You can do the workout in a hotel room, outside, at the beach, or somewhere else.
- Jumping jacks (30-60 seconds)
- Plank hold (30-60 seconds)
- Push-up or knee push-up (30-60 seconds)
- Bodyweight squats or jump squats (30-60 seconds)
- Sit-ups (30-60 seconds)
- High knees (30-60 seconds)
- Wall sits (30-60 seconds)
- Alternating lunges (30-60 seconds)
- Side plank hold (30 seconds per side)
You can load the workout "Anti-Jetlag Workout" also into your Fitbod app.
The objective is to perform these exercises back-to-back with no more than 10-15 seconds of rest in-between. The session is structured in a way that allows you to train different muscle groups and avoid overworking one region of your body. For instance, push-ups work your chest, shoulders, and triceps, but the next movement (squats) works your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Once you go down the list of movements, you can take two minutes to recover before doing another round.
A few notes on the workout:
- Do one to three total rounds per session. You can do up to five if you are more advanced but avoid pushing yourself to your limits.
- Start with 30 seconds per movement to avoid overwhelming yourself. Doing exercises for 60 seconds might seem easy initially, but it will get increasingly challenging as you work down the list of movements.
- Maintain a steady tempo throughout each movement and avoid rushing repetitions or stalling. Since you are doing each exercise for a specific time, you need to be disciplined about your approach and avoid slacking.
- Warm-up well before the workout. You can do a bit of light cardio (e.g., jogging in place) and some dynamic stretching before proceeding to the workout. Doing so is necessary to prepare your body, improve your performance, and reduce the injury risk.
Jetlag is an unfortunate part of working out. However, changing time zones will always impact you somehow, and you need to be prepared for it. Luckily, you can do several practical things to reduce jetlag symptoms and adjust to the new time zone more quickly.