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5 Tips to Beat Jet Lag for the Travelling Athlete
If you’ve ever travelled across time zones, you’ve probably experienced the symptoms of jet lag, or maybe you’ve heard horror stories from your fellow travelers.
Jet lag happens when your body’s circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is out of sync with your travel time zone. Which usually means you’re sleepy when you should be awake and alert and awake when you should be sleeping.
For a travelling athlete, this can be a death sentence on your athletic performance. When you need to perform at your peak levels, like in a match or triathlon, your body needs to be at its best; jet lag can easily throw you off whack and mess with your performance. Despite the negatives, travelling as an athlete can be an extremely rewarding experience, regardless of how you perform. In the end, you’re creating new experiences for yourself and learning new skills along the way. It’s all about the journey!
“A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.” — Mary Lou Retton
Overcome Jet Lag With These Tips
Athletes, especially pro athletes, are no strangers to jet lag. So, luckily for you, there’s a ton of advice out there for how to beat jet lag and stay on track to perform at your best. Here are our five tips to beat jet lag.
Prep before your trip
Get a jump start on jetlag and start preparing a few days before your trip. Adjust your bedtime by a few hours, depending on where you’re travelling. It’s a good idea to do this gradually, starting with one hour to get a good night's sleep leading up to your trip. Adjusting your sleep schedule ahead of time helps your body get used to the new schedule, which means less impact on your sleep schedule when you get there.
Stay relaxed during travel
Travelling can be stressful, especially when you’re thinking about your performance, goals, and what you need to achieve once you reach your destination. First of all, start by choosing comfortable clothing for your trip; this could be your favourite pair of sweats or your favourite CoreD or HauteD set. Comfort is key when it comes to travelling! It’s also important to head into your trip expecting and accepting that things might go wrong; delays, lost luggage, and uncomfortable seats are bound to happen. The less worried and stressed you are, the more your body can adapt to its new environment.
It’s too easy to forget to stay hydrated when travelling. It’s common to be drawn to alcohol and caffeine while you travel, especially on flights where it's made very accessible to you, but it's best to steer clear since both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt your body’s melatonin production, which means worse sleep. Keep a water bottle on hand so you’re more likely to sip without thinking about it during your travels. Staying hydrated can help take some of the stress off your body and help ease the transition to a new time zone and schedule.
Stay active as soon as you arrive
You must keep your body active and moving when you reach your destination and new time zone. This can be as simple as taking a walk to explore your surroundings. No matter what activity you choose, staying in motion will help wake your body up and prevent those dreaded jet lag naps. It can be hard to stay active after a long day of travel, but seriously it’s essential.
Time your meals
If possible, a few days before your trip, try to get on your destination's meal schedule — if it makes sense; if not, start as soon as you get to your destination. What and when you eat sends your body specific signals as to when bedtime is coming. For example, when you eat a dinner meal, your body starts setting itself up for bedtime, however long that usually is after dinner time for you. Another option is to try fasting about 12 hours before you arrive at your destination; this could be starting right before your flight or earlier. Studies show this can help reset your body’s internal clock and help you adjust to a different timezone.
No matter how you prep, how hydrated you are, or how well you eat, the first afternoon to evening in a new time zone will be challenging. It might take some extreme willpower to stay awake and make it to a regular bedtime hour in your new time zone. But don’t let jet lag win! It’s all about resisting temptation, staying active, and preparing your body for the transition.
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