Traveling is always stressful and can challenge your body's ability to function. The seasonal changes can bring on allergies, security is tighter than ever, and more and more flights are oversold or have added layovers. Today, we can go from Frankfurt to Bangkok in just 12 hours. While that may be great news for us personally and professionally, our bodies are exposed to more than 500 different types of bacteria, viruses, molds, and fungi that it may not be prepared for in those 12 short hours. It’s no wonder that many times you feel tired, have gastrointestinal discomfort, or feel congested when you fly. Luckily, Performance Nutrition strategies can go a long way to support you during travel. They help you avoid the low blood glucose levels, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and immune system flares that typically go along with travel.
Based on scientific research, our own research and experience, and the feedback from thousands of clients, here are some go-to Performance Nutrition strategies that I bring with me on every flight.
.01 Strategically Hydrate. Bring your own empty water bottle so that you can fill it up once you are through security - the small cups provided for you during flight are often not enough to truly keep you hydrated. A great tip is to bring an insulated thermos with some sliced ginger and ask for hot water upon boarding the flight. Ginger tea hydrates you, provides some vital minerals, reduces nausea, and supports your immune system. You can also bring some Emergen-C packets (or equivalent) with you, which contain vitamin C, an array of B-vitamins, and co-metabolites to give both your brain and immune system an extra boost.
.02 Prepare High Performance Snacks. Most airline food is processed and high in sugar and salt. When your immune system is already on alert, it's more likely these foods will trigger inflammation and glucose spikes. Nuts, high performance bars, veggie sticks, and sliced fruit make perfect, easy snacks to prevent you from being at the mercy of what is being served while also maintaining your blood glucose levels during your travel. A great solution is to cut up and bring some fresh vegetables like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. These tasty foods are excellent hydrators that support optimal gut function.
.03 Support your Microbiome with a Probiotic. One of the ways you can help your system prepare for those many new microbes it'll be exposed to is to start your trip with a probiotic. This can be either through fermented foods or through probiotic supplements. These often prevent gastrointestinal discomfort by maintaining a good balance and diversity of bacteria in your gut.
.04 Salivate. That's right, keep your mouth moist. Emerging research indicates regular saliva production is one key to supporting your immune system while traveling. In fact, Qantas Airlines recently partnered with University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Center to study how nutrition can reduce the impact of jet lag through salivary support. This can easily be done by bringing some organic throat lozenges or mints with you to maintain your saliva levels. Of course, that bag of vegetables will help with this too.
.05 Recover During Travel. As we stated, travel always adds an additional load on your body. Paying extra attention to your recovery will help your immune system, support your gut microbiota, and improve your performance when you land. Since you'll already have a thermos of ginger tea, you could also throw a couple of restorative tea bags in your carry-on to help you fall asleep on the plane. Teas that contain passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, and neroli orange have been used for centuries to promote relaxation and sleep.
High Performance Travel is more than just getting from point A to point B. It's about being your best when you land so you can maximize your impact. Using your Performance Nutrition strategies can help you do this by boosting your immune system and keeping your brain and body nourished, ready to Rule Your Impact upon your landing. As always, I'd love to hear what you think.