All athletes have felt the effects that air travel has on their physicality and readiness to perform. There are several reasons why air travel affects your readiness to train and most require a period of acclimatization before you are ready to perform, again.
Why is it so...
Sports performance has been shown to have a "time of day" effect, where people are accustomed to performing at certain times of the day. Any change from this can mean that your body is not primed to deliver optimal performance.
Any time zone change has been shown to affect performance for at least 24 hours. Flights crossing 3 time zones, or more, has longer lasting effects on performance.
A change of time zone conflicts with your normal Circadian Rhythm, due to a change in the following elements of daily life,
- Daylight hours,
- Meal times,
- Social hours.
How your behaviours can help...
Time for acclimatization to a new time zone is needed. To assist this process, the following
behavioural changes can be implemented.
- Within 24 hours of travel, shift your sleep and wake times by 1 hour closer to the destination you are traveling to.
- Consider avoiding or exposing yourself to daylight, as outlined below.
- Before traveling eastward – wake earlier and get out into the sun.
- At an Eastern destination – avoid evening sunlight to stimulate the natural
process of needing to sleep, earlier.
- Before traveling westward – Sleep-in longer and stay away from early
- At a westward destination – Stay out later in the evening sunlight to delay
the process of needing to sleep.
- Consume extra water to combat the dehydrating effects of air travel.
- Avoid caffeine at unnatural times, based on the time of day it would be at your destination.
- Time your big meals on the travel day, to your destination's time zone. Eat smaller meals around that, if needed.
- Consider a high carbohydrate meal before bedtime on the first night at your destination, to
- Control your social hours so that you have your "normal" amount of quiet time before
needing to sleep.
- Sports Nutrition for the Traveling Athlete
- Nutritional Considerations for Training at Altitude.
- On-Board Stretches — stretching guide for on the plane.
- Hemisphere Hopping — staying fit and healthy while travelling across the world.
- Dietary Tips for Traveling — general tips for any traveling sports person.
- Staying Healthy While Traveling