Professional sport is demanding for the human body in many ways. The increased volume, intensity and frequency of the training routines put the body under tremendous stress, and it is our job to find and use the appropriate recovery techniques to allow our body to work at its best capacity.
Another thing we must not ignore and something we should pay attention to is adjusting our body to the new location and time zone. In the past few years, the number of karate tournaments dramatically increased, putting the athletes’ bodies under constant stress due to the various stress caused by changing time zones and environments.
Many physiological and biological processes regulate the work of the human body on a daily basis. All physiological and biological processes, together with different rhythms of behavior and gene expression are aligned with the light-dark cycle or so-called body’s circadian clock (biological clock). Different physiological systems such as ventilation and central nervous system, body temperature, metabolism, circulation, digestion, and endocrine system, have their biological clock, and they all have to be synchronized for optimal performance. All these circadian rhythms of different physiological systems are controlled by one part of the hippocampus, together with the pineal hormone melatonin and neurotransmitter substance serotonin.
The circadian rhythm can be disturbed by an unhealthy lifestyle, irregular sleep pattern, sleep deprivation and crossing time zones when traveling. The changes and fatigue experienced after changing time zones is something known as jet lag, and in this post, we are going to share effective strategies for successfully avoiding and adjusting to the new time zone.
Symptoms of jet lag include fatigue onset, lack of mental clarity and inability to concentrate, difficulties to sleep at night and decreased overall performance ability of the body. This means that it can hurt your sports performance as well.
Jet lag is something many athletes and people in general struggle with. However, there are many ways to mitigate the adverse effects when traveling and crossing different time zones. Today we are going to talk how to reset and resynchronize your circadian rhythm and adjust it to the new time zone through the use of technology, light manipulation, diet and drug administration.
Blue light blocking glasses (my first and least expensive choice)
Blue light blocking glasses is a fantastic tool that everyone should be using if doing late night work in front of a computer. The idea behind this is that every screen, whether that be a computer, your mobile phone, home lights, and every freaking gadget, emits blue light (446-477nm) which is a portion of the visible spectrum. This blue light is directly responsible for melatonin suppression. Suppressing melatonin in the morning is fine, but the real problem arises when it gets suppressed in the evening when it is supposed to be at the highest level.
Now, this is in context of sleep improvement and late-night screen time. When it comes to avoiding jet lag, blue light blocking glasses have been successfully used by athletes (Canadian Olympic Team) for adjusting the biological clock to the new time zone preventing the light-induced melatonin through light manipulation. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us to establish a good sleeping pattern and is one of the key rhythms generated by the hippocampus, or more precisely the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
Besides blue light blocking glasses, specific apps use algorithms to create eating, exercising and light exposure schedule. This algorithm depends on your destination. By following the schedule for light exposure, athletes can accustom to the new time zone more efficiently and avoid the symptoms of jet lag.
When it comes to what glasses to get, this is a great article where you can find reviews of most popular brands for blue light blocking glasses. My personal experience is with the Uvex blue light blocking glasses (see picture), which, not taking into consideration the ridicules design, I have been using successfully in the past two years.
I do not have any experience with using an app and following a particular schedule. However, I use my blue light blocking glasses when traveling, and this is who it looks like.
If I fly in the evening, I will put my glasses at the airport, while waiting for check in, heading to the boarding gate and waiting to get inside the plane. When I get in the plain, I would keep my glasses on and try to avoid any exposure to screen light. The only thing I would focus on is finding a way and good position to sleep. At 6-7 a.m. final destination time I would try to expose myself to daily light or blue light (screen light). At this point, I stop wearing my glasses.
During long trips and changing many time zones, e.g., Beijing – Skopje, Macedonia, which is 6-7 hours’ difference, I pay attention at the destination time. In this situation, if I can’t fall asleep during the trip, according to the new time zone, I start wearing my glasses and try to decrease the exposure to light. If a choose to watch a movie, I am wearing my blue light blocking glasses to protect me from unwanted blue light. Now, this is an entirely unscientific approach, something that is based on my personal experience and experimentation. For more scientifically based approach you might try some of the applications available for mobile devices or use the Jet Lag Rooster.
Diet and fasting for avoiding jet lag
Nutrition can help mitigate the negative symptoms of jet lag when changing many time zones.
Here we are going to talk about to approach where altering between feasting and fasting can help to synchronize your biological clock with the time at the new destination.
The Argonne Anti Jet Lag diet has been shown to be successful in adjusting travelers bodies’ internal clocks to the new time zone. This diet was developed by Dr. Charles F. Ehret and was successfully used in jet lag prevention in the deployment of troops across nine time zones. A study shows that those soldiers who did not use the diet had 7.5 times more chance to develop jet lag, that those who used this diet protocol.
This diet alternates days of feasting and fasting, four days before departure. During feast days, the breakfast and lunch are protein based, and dinner is high in carbohydrates. On fast days, you need to limit your calorie intake at no more than 800 kcal in total.
Although it has been shown that this diet is useful for preventing jet lag, I must say it might be taxing for the body if you are not used to fasting. I understand that someone who competes in Kumite category and needs to keep an eye on the weight might find this diet approach desirable, but for someone who competes in kata, and has never paid attention to the calories, or practiced fasting, this can be a real challenge.
For this reason, having your last meal 1-2 hours before departure time, and fasting during the flight can have a similar effect, as the Argonne Anti Jet lag diet. Avoid any food that you get on the plane, try to drink lots of water, avoid coffee (caffeine) and alcohol and try to get as much sleep as possible. On arriving if possible, try to break the fast with a breakfast in the morning accompanied by easy activity and light exposure. By following this protocol, you will spend 16 to 20 hours in a fasted state which has been shown in a study that helps in resetting biological clock. It’s worth trying.
Well timed meals go along well with an outdoor exercise where you get exposed to a daily light. It has been shown that light is the most potent regulator of our internal biological clocks. So, outdoor work our is a perfect way to get back on track.
On the day of the arrival, if you feel your body heavy, just staying active, combined with light activity and stretching exercises will help in better adjustment to the new time. In the afternoon you can do more intensive training, which will further help in adjusting your circadian rhythm.
One thing that might promote adjustment to the new time zone as well as to do you exercise without shoes, barefoot. In a nutshell, the idea behind walking barefoot, or Grounding-Earthing is that through the surface of the earth we absorb the natural magnetic field that helps in normalizing the circadian rhythm, hormonal cycle and absorption of negatively charged free electrons.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, and it plays a vital role in regulating the circadian rhythm by telling the body when it’s time to go to sleep. Its level gets higher after dawn, and it stays elevated until sun rice.
The secretion of the melatonin is suppressed in the presence of light, especially the blue spectrum. This is the reason why screen exposure late at night might hinder your sleep. The melatonin levels also get dysregulated when we change different time zone and get exposed to light when we are supposed to be sleeping.
For this reason, supplementing with melatonin after getting to your destination can promote faster readjustment and synchronization of your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels with the new time zone.
How to takes it:
- take from 0.5 mg up to 5 mg of melatonin for three nights (or until adjusted);
- take it one hour before a regular bedtime;
- do not take it before reaching your destination, only after;
Wrapping it up
Adjusting to the new time zone as quickly and efficiently as possible is crucial for being to able to perform at your best level. For this reason, you might take into consideration some of the following techniques to avoid the negative symptoms of a jet lag.
Use blue light blocking glasses when traveling and try to get as much sleep as possible. Try to keep the glasses on, especially if it’s night time at your final destination. If you want to make it more fan, and take your trip to another level, you can use a mobile app that will provide you with suggestions for wake and sleep, meal times, exercise time and timing for light exposure. You can also use the Rooster Jet Lag Rooster to your sleeping and light exposure schedule.
When it comes to diet, you can follow the Argonne Jet Lag diet, where you start to alternate between feast and fast days 4 days before your departure. Avoid any food during the flight. If this is too hard for you to follow, due to the “fasting day” where you limit your calorie intake to 800 calories a day, I highly suggest you go with a simple fast starting 16-20 hours before your next meal at the new destination. Break your fast with breakfast would be ideal.
During the flight drink water. Due to the dry air, your body loses much more water that you can image, which can lead to dehydration. Avoid caffeine and try to sleep. If you are not sleeping, try to move as much as possible to promote blood flow and inhibit swelling. Were blue light glasses.
On the arrival try to expose yourself to light as soon as possible, especially in the mornings. In addition to that, do a low-intensity exercise accompanied by lots of stretching. If possible exercises barefoot to use the grounding effect to further facilitate the synchronization of your circadian rhythm with the new time zone.
When it comes to supplementation, take 0,5 to 5 mg melatonin one hour before bad time for three days, or until adjusted. This will help it taking your sleep-wake cycle and meal schedule back on track.
What about you
What’s been your experience with a jet lag so far? Do you have any particular routine or use a certain strategy to avoid jet lag when you travel?
Did you find this helpful? If yes, please share your thoughts in the comments.
- Reynolds, Norman C. Jr. “Using the Argonne Diet in Jet Lag Prevention: Deployment of Troops Across Nine Time Zones.” Military medicine 167.6 (2002): 451-3. ProQuest. Web. 1 May 2018.
- Sasseville, A., Paquet, N., Sévigny, J. & Hébert, M. (2006). Blue blocker glasses impede the capacity of bright light to suppress melatonin production. Journal Of Pineal Research, 41(1), 73-78.
- Grounding the Human Body: The Healing Benefits of Earthinghttps
- The Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet – http://www.netlib.org/misc/jet-lag-diet
- Blue Light-Blocking Glasses Help Canadian Olympic Skiers Sleep Better
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