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5 ways to combat jet lag and feel like yourself again


The next time you take an #airplaneselfie, you'll look like a star. If anyone knows how to travel in top condition it’s the Pan Am competitors, and we've got their secrets. More than 7,400 elite athletes came to Toronto, from as far away as Antigua, Barbuda and the Virgin Islands, to compete at their best. With time zone changes, cultural differences (including food), and not being able to sleep in their own beds, there's a lot that can affect the mind and body. Glow recently went on a tour of the Athletes’ Village, including the Technogym-equipped fitness facility, and got to the source of how these athletes compete at such high levels even when their daily routines are disrupted. We got their tips and tricks, thanks to Dr. Megan McDonald, a kinesiologists who's helping to run the Pan Am Athlete's Training Facilities on behalf of Technogym.

1. Exercise to get your sleep on track.
“How you fight jet lag depends on the amount of time you are gaining or losing,” says McDonald. “But the ‘rule of thumb’ is to stay up late the first night to reset your circadian rhythm," especially if you’re travelling east. Travelling west, go to bed early. "As for exercising, you’ll want to work out at the same time you normally would in your regular time zone." If that’s 8 a.m. your time, train at 8 a.m. in the new time zone. "The rationale behind this is that your body knows that it needs to be awake during your training, so this will also help to get back into a rhythm.”

2. Think about food as nutrients.
“If you’re an adventurous eater, or if you have an iron stomach, the change in diet may not affect you much,” says McDonald, adding: “But if you are a very regimented eater, travelling to different countries with different food may be difficult. One way to stay on track is to maintain the same percentage of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats – you would normally have to eat." Climate change can also affect what your body craves, so don’t forget to drink water and make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes.

3. If you need a bit of help, consider supplements.
McDonald recommends three things to get you feeling normal.
1. Melatonin is a sleep aid that can help regulate the circadian rhythm, a.k.a. your internal sleep clock.
2. Protein powder can do more than boost the protein in your diet and help with muscle repair. It can also help you get the extra calories you need if you’re not able to eat on your regular schedule.
3. Electrolytes can help you stay hydrated. Looking for a more natural solution? Try coconut water.

4. If you do anything physical, choose these five moves.
“You’ll want to work your upper and lower body, anterior and posterior chain (the front and back) and core to get the most bang for your buck when you’re on the road.” Try for eight to 10 reps for each move (or 30 to 60 second holds with static moves like planks) within a two to three round circuit.
• bench presses or push-ups
• lat pull downs, pull-ups or static holds
• squats
• split squats or lunges
• planks

5. Think like an athlete.
What can we learn from athletes who travelled to Toronto for the Pan Am Games? “Consistency is key. Training comes first,” says McDonald, who adds that  athletes will work out two to three times a day. Why? Because that’s what they normally do. So if you exercise three to four times a week, stick with it. And that means sticking with your rest routine too. When travelling you could be more active (hiking, bicycle tours, even walking the city), so make sure you get “proper rest and recovery treatments.” Why not indulge in a massage while you’re away? And last but not least, don’t use your vacation as an excuse to be inactive. “A squat is a squat worldwide. Sports and fitness is a language of its own.” There’s no reason you can’t check out a gym while you’re away. “Work hard, play hard, recover hard.”

Lisa Hannam

Lisa Hannam is Glow's health editor and unofficial guinea pig for test-driving new workouts, fitness gear and nutrition trends. When not combing through food label claims and evaluating new vitamins and supplements, Lisa can be found at her desk most days, translating the medical journal jargon into understandable English. Follow her on Instagram @lisahannam, Twitter @lisahannam, as well as on Pinterest at pinterest.com/lisahannam and tumblr at lisahannam.tumblr.com.

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