Foods That Can Help You Beat Jet Lag

Jumping time zones? What you eat on the way to your destination can help reset your body clock and sync you up so you don't miss a beat.

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA MAY, 2018: Steward working inside Easy Jet airplane at Gatwick Airport.pio3/Shutterstock

The anti-jet lag diet

Circadian rhythms or your body's natural internal clock, have been the focus of a great deal of research lately, as science unearths their role in everything from weight gain to depression. But they're also responsible for a pretty well-known phenomenon: jet lag. By some calculations, 93 percent of travelers will experience this condition, also known as time change syndrome or desynchronosis.

"Jet lag happens when your sleep pattern is disturbed," explains Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com. "Generally our internal clocks tell us when to go to sleep at night and when to wake up in the morning, but when crossing time zones, our body rhythms get out of sync." While the effects of this tend not to have a serious or lasting effect on health, they can be disruptive for up to several days.

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sleepy businessman with travel pillow and newspaper waiting for flight at airport lobbyLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Why diet matters

Exactly how jet lag takes a toll varies from person to person, but symptoms often include extreme fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite. Why so many diet-related issues? Research shows a close connection between circadian rhythms, daylight, and food—it's one reason shift workers tend to have weight problems.

So it makes sense that what you eat, as well as when, can make a difference in the kind and severity of symptoms you experience when jumping time zones. Here are some other things that can make a difference.

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Young man enjoys big and tasty breakfast at downtown cafe, prepares delicious sandwich or toast with avocado spread and smoked salmon on top. chia seeds with yoghurt for dessertDe Repente/Shutterstock

Adjust meal times

There is actually a diet specifically developed to beat jet lag. It was developed in the 1970s, by a biologist who worked for the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. A 2002 study published in Military Medicine found that following it made travelers 7 to 16 times less likely to experience jet lag, depending on whether they were traveling west or east, respectively. But while effective, it is an undertaking: You're supposed to start four days before your trip and alternate feasting and fasting days. Intermittent fasting has other proven benefits, even if you're not travelling.

The shorthand version, though, is to start adjusting your schedule so you're eating meals close to the times they occur in wherever your plane is landing. Breakfast tended to be the most important meal to sync up, so aim to eat a hearty one at the local time, even if you're still on the plane when you eat it.

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