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Jet Lag Diet & Nutrition

Thousands of travelers suffer from jet lag after travelling long distances. Jet lag occurs after crossing several time zones, as the traveler’s body clock is out of sync with the time at the destination. This causes disorientation and makes it difficult for the body to adapt to the local time. Often it can take days for the body to adjust its body clock and the problem gets compounded in the case of frequent travel. A diet for jet lag can help alleviate the symptoms and the duration of jet lag.
It forms an essential part of dealing with this problem.

There are foods that are good for jet lag and there are foods to avoid. What is equally important is the timing of meals which help cue your body clock to the time of the day. Your body clock is set by cues it derives from different sources like meal times, rest times and sunrise and sunset timings. A good diet plan takes into account the time factor. It should be a balanced nutritious diet. An aircraft cabin has dry air which leaves your body dehydrated. Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of jet lag, so it is important to drink lot of fluids to keep your body well hydrated. For the same reason alcohol, tea and coffee should be avoided as these drinks dehydrate the body.

Jet Lag Diet Plan

An effective jet lag diet plan should include what to eat, when to eat, and the quantity to be eaten. A popular diet plan that has been quite effective in dealing with jet lag is the Argonne Jet Lag Diet. It helps to adjust the body clock with a few easy steps. You can start three days prior to your departure and begin with controlling your diet and adjusting your meal times. The plan calls for feasting and fasting on alternate days.
  • Avoid foods like coffee, tea, alcohol and chocolate as these affect the body clock.
  • Start three days before you are supposed to fly. The first day should be a feast day and the day of your flight should be a fast day.
  • The first begins with you feasting on savory foods.
  • You must eat three full meals, consisting of a lot of proteins.
  • For breakfast steak and eggs is a good option and for lunch beans and fish is good. Supper should be more of carbohydrates. They help the body produce chemicals that induce sleep.
  • Pasta or spaghetti are good options. Eat three small meals on the days you are to fast. They should have a low carbohydrate and calorie content. This will help to deplete the carbohydrates stored in the liver. The meal should consist of salads, soups and fruit.
  • Drink coffee and tea only between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on either feast or fast days. This seems to be the only time of the day when they do not have any effect on the body’s rhythms. If you are traveling east, go to bed and get up earlier than usual. Do the opposite if you are traveling west.
  • When you are traveling, try sleeping until the breakfast time of your destination. Once you awake, eat a high protein diet and then continue the day’s meals according to the meal times at your destination.

Nutrition for Jet Lag

Healthy nutrition for coping with jet lag is essential. Since the recommended diet calls for fasting on alternate days, care should be taken not to deprive the body of essential nutrients. Supplements can help make up for any shortfall in essential nutrients like vitamins and essential minerals. You should add herbs that are rich in nutrients and minerals to your diet.


The classic signs of jet lag include fatigue and disorientation after arrival which can continue for several days. There may be an inability to concentrate, making activities like reading and driving difficult. Simple activities could also become more difficult. It can cause interrupted sleep as well as make you sleepy at odd hours. This occurs due to the disturbance caused to the body’s circadian rhythm. An estimate by NASA shows that you may need one day for every time zone crossed for your natural rhythm to get back to normal. Other symptoms include confusion, memory lapses, and mood swings.


The causes of jet lag include stress and excitement but the main culprit is the crossing of time zones. Going east usually results in worse jet lag than going west. Children under the age of three seem to suffer less from jet lag as they are more adaptive. Adults who follow a fixed routine and have difficulty in adjusting to a change in their routine seem to suffer more from jet lag. Sleep deprivation and drinking alcohol can also compound the problem.


Diet is the most effective treatment for jet lag. Several home remedies are suggested using herbs like Arnica Montana and chamomile. Homeopathic treatments are also available but there effectiveness has not been proved. Melatonin treatment involves the manipulation of the hormone melatonin but this is a controversial treatment and research casts doubt on its efficacy.


Prevention of jet lag is difficult. The symptoms can be minimized with the right diet plan but there will be some degree of jet lag experienced, especially after really long flights. Avoid taking sleeping tablets and alcohol as these will make the problem worse.


Jet lag diagnosis is relatively straightforward. Disorientation and a disturbed sleep cycle are two of the main symptoms.

Submitted on January 16, 2014