Eat to Beat Jet Lag

By: Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.  |  March/April 2017  |  Can I eat to beat jet lag?

Jet-setting across two or more time zones can throw your body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, out of whack. Hello, jet lag! Expect symptoms like fatigue, trouble concentrating, insomnia and moodiness. Here's how to beat jet lag.
You can prevent jet lag from worsening by staying ­hydrated en route. Airplane-cabin humidity hovers under 20 percent (lower than the typical 30 to 60 percent in your house), so you lose ­water faster.
Related: 6 Best Ways to Stay Hydrated
Melatonin (a hormone that signals your body when to sleep) is a popular remedy—and an effective one. Once you arrive, taking a 0.5 to 5 mg supplement at your destination's bedtime has been shown to lessen those time-travel symptoms. Melatonin is in foods like tart cherries, oats and bananas, but in tiny amounts. You'd need to eat 1,600 cups of tart cherries or nearly 60,000 bananas to get an effective dose. And no research shows eating melatonin-rich foods quells jet lag.
Recipe to Try: Chocolate Banana Oatmeal
But when you eat can prevent you from missing a beat. Because mealtimes are in sync with our circadian rhythm, fasting can trick your body into adjusting. Emerging research suggests fasting for around 12 hours may switch your internal clock from its origin time to your new time zone. Time your fast so you break it with breakfast in the new time zone.
For the frequent flyer (or if your trip is short), planning ahead to keep your meal times on a regular schedule (e.g., your home schedule) instead can help, says a January 2017 Psychology & Health study of flight-crew members.

Bottom Line:

Stay hydrated and be mindful of when—not what—you eat.

Watch: Stuck! Best Healthy Foods to Eat at the Airport

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