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How to Beat Travel Fatigue and Jet Lag

Recovering from travel fatigue and jet lag can be a challenge for athletes. The effects can cause reduced concentration, anaerobic capacity, dynamic strength, reaction time, and alertness. Increased risk of injuries is also a problem.

Follow these guidelines to reduce the effects of travel fatigue:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids. Bring a bottle of water on the plane. When the beverage cart comes along, choose potassium rich drinks such as orange juice.
  • Avoid alcohol (see exception below).
  • Get up and move around the plane. Do some light stretching in your seat or in the back of the plane when the seat belt sign is off. This will help you to avoid stiffness.
  • Wear earplugs or headphones to reduce engine noise.
  • Bring healthy snacks on your flight. Airline meals are insufficient for most athletes.
  • Request an aisle or emergency row seat in advance of your flight for more legroom.

The following simple measures can be taken to reduce the effects of jet lag:

  • Change your watch to the time of day at your destination as soon as you board the plane. You should try to forget about the time of day at home.
  • If your flight is long enough, try to sleep on the plane if it is bed-time at your destination. Stay awake if it is day-time at your destination.
  • If your new schedule calls for sleep on the plane, try having one or two alcoholic drinks to promote sleep (do this ONLY if you are used to alcohol). Avoid excessive alcohol as this can have the opposite affect and keep you awake. Wear earplugs.
  • Maybe take a window seat if you plan to sleep. You will be disturbed less by others.
  • Immediately get on to the schedule of your new time zone when you arrive at your destination, no matter what it takes.
  • For travel from the U.S. to Europe, shift your bed-time and wake up time 1-2 hours earlier than usual. Get light exposure in the afternoon and avoid light early in the morning when you arrive at your destination.
  • For travel from Europe to the U.S., shift your wake-up and bed-times 1-2 hours later and get light exposure later in the day at your arrival destination.
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