Stressful travel days are the worst – last-minute packing, rushing to make your transfer or wolfing down a fast-food meal at the airport. Make a plan the day before, and I can’t emphasis enough that this should include what and where you will eat, whether it’s bringing your food with you or choosing an option at the airport that meets the needs of your Energy Plan.
2. Day of Travel
For our athletes a short, sharp training session before travel is always part of the plan. Factor this in if there’s time; it’s a good idea to get some physical activity before a long period of sitting, and it may also offer some stress relief. The main thing is to avoid long, heavy training sessions, which can reduce your immunity and increase your risk of infection. Something like a jog round the park or a session on a static bike is perfect.
Give yourself time to eat your preferred meal at the airport. This will allow you to avoid eating your main meal on the plane and minimise the need for unnecessary snacking.
Remember your goals
Travel days often mean less exercise, which means you need less fuel. It’s easy to get swept up into a holiday mentality along with everyone around you at the airport, with all of its temptations, from fast-food outlets to a bar where you could have your first celebratory drink of the trip. Take your own snacks on board to meet your goals, and most importantly have the mindset to stay on track, especially if the culmination of that important goal is just around the corner.
3. During Travel
Get on local time
Set your watch while still on the plane, as soon as you know what the local time will be, and try to align your sleeping patterns with your destination. If it’s night-time there while you’re flying, sleep on the plane, using an eye mask, earplugs, a neck pillow and whatever else you require to help you get some rest. If it’s morning there and you feel tired, try not to go to sleep – consider having some caffeine to keep you awake and alert during the flight. As per the TTA model on page 62, the Timing of your food (both on board and on arrival) is important to support your adaptation to the new environment.
The in-flight menu
The Argonne Diet and the Harvard Fast are two approaches widely discussed in the US. One involves feasting and fasting in the days before the flight, the other fasting during the flight and using a big meal on arrival to help with adaptation. While the evidence is limited, it is true that fuel requirements for the body definitely reduce during travel because even the lightest training plan would be difficult to achieve in an economy-class seat (so carbs won’t be doing you any favours). My general recommendation is that your travel day is a low day (see the planners on page 108), unless you have trained pre-flight or, as in the case of many of our athletes, are fuelling for an event the following day. Although the temptation will obviously be there, it’s important not to eat the snacks on offer on the flight. Bringing some protein-rich snacks on board will help you avoid making ‘bad’ choices.
Constipation can also be an issue on long-haul flights. Important steps to consider here are increasing fluid intake and including plenty of fibre-rich foods with your meals such as fruit and vegetables. Exercise also aids gut motility, so it’s important to get active before and after your flight, as well as getting up to stretch your legs during it.
The cabin pressure and dry air will dehydrate you on board (we lose moisture as we breathe the drier cabin air at altitude), so make sure you take on plenty of fluid. Think about the type of drinks you’ll take on board with you – it’s worth noting that some flavour or electrolytes can promote voluntary drinking, meaning you are more likely to stay hydrated.
Refer back to ‘Water’ on page 41. If you’re going to the toilet regularly and your urine is a light colour and plentiful, then it’s a good sign that you are adequately hydrated.
Move and stretch often
Some athletes wear compression leggings when they fly. This might be a bit extreme for your needs, but compression socks are very common and widely available. However, your first priority should be loose, comfortable clothes – even clothes you feel comfortable sleeping in, if you’re planning to sleep on the plane – and you should also get up and move regularly to avoid lower-limb swelling.
Let there be light
Increasing or restricting light exposure is the most important intervention for resetting your body clock to destination time. If you’re travelling west, seek light in the evening; travelling east, restrict light exposure if you arrive at night-time and seek it out in the morning. Restrict blue light from phones and tablets before sleep.