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5 Tips for a Successful Flight

Like most busy travelers, you probably want to arrive at your destination feeling strong and refreshed. You’ll need enough energy to hit the ground running when you arrive. Whether you’re heading to an office, an off-site meeting or a conference, you have to look and feel as if you can conquer anything.  Easier said than done when you’ve just stepped off a red-eye, though, right?  Not necessarily. 

Follow these 5 tips to ensure a soft landing no matter where (or how far) you travel:

1.  Stay hydrated.  From boosting energy levels to improving cognitive performance, staying hydrated is a must, particularly for travelers.  Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue (especially during midday), poor concentration, joint pain, slow metabolism and nutrient absorption – all things any traveler wants to avoid.

Air travel is inherently dehydrating. Think of all that recycled air you’re breathing in and the lack of humidity in the cabin. Fend off dehydration by drinking more water than usual the day before you travel. An extra glass or two is a good start. On the plane, accept water every time it’s offered. Ask for another during your trips to the restroom. Better yet, pack a small container of Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt in your carry-on and add a sprinkle to your drink. These salts are rich in minerals and trace elements, which help replenish electrolytes, keeping you better hydrated. To learn more about the impact of dehydration and how to combat its effects, read this post.

2.  Don’t eat. Let’s be honest, no one really likes airplane food. But why does it smell so inviting when it’s being reheated in the galley? And why do we often feel hungry soon after settling into our seats? Turns out stress is to blame. When we’re stressed (e.g. rushing to make a flight, get through security and board a plane) our stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and insulin) become elevated. In addition to increasing our heart and breathing rates, they also increase our appetites, making even gross airplane food appealing. Food and drinks taste different when we’re in the air. The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of our taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%.(1)  To combat this, airlines add significant amounts of salt and sugar to their mass-produced foods.  The result: we feel more bloated and dehydrated after eating airplane food than we did when we boarded the flight. My advice: skip the onboard meal – you won’t enjoy it anyway. Instead, use your flight as a time to practice intermittent fasting. Read my post to learn more about intermittent fasting here.

Not a fan of fasting, or worried you’ll get peckish before you land? Pack a small bag of sprouted nuts (Living Nutz is a brand I love) and/or some olives.  The healthy fats will keep you satiated and feed your skin and brain during the dehydrating flight.

 3.  Minimize or avoid alcohol and caffeine before and during your flight.  Did you know that both alcohol and caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee and soft drinks) are diuretics? That means they can further dehydrate you, undermining the effects of drinking all that extra water. These drinks also disrupt sleep, which can make it even more difficult to catch essential zzz's when you’re flying across time zones.  Read more about drinking alcohol during your flight here.

4.  Prioritize sleep Always choose a window seat. Whether you’re seated in first, business or economy class, a window seat, gives you more privacy and the ability to prop your head against the wall or window, which will make it easier to doze. Another bonus: you’ll have  control over the window blind, which allows you to  lower it whenever you want to decrease light (and radiation if you are traveling during the day) and ensure you get a better sleep. Another tip: Skip the food. Tell the flight attendant you don’t want to be awakened for the meal so you can sleep right through.   

5.  Take time to breathe.  Travel can be stressful.  As I mentioned earlier, when we are stressed, our adrenals pump out the stress horomone, cortisol, which in turn provides an energy boost to help us deal with the added pressure.  It does this by increasing blood sugar, and suppressing the immune system to save energy for important things (like running to catch the flight). Ultimately, this stress response leads to a break down of our stores of protein and carbohydrates. , The downside: sustained high levels of cortisol can lead to chronic disease.  Don’t worry, this is easy to reverse – with a little help from relaxed breathing. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is an easy way to help lower cortisol levels and relax your body from the comfort of your seat. Here’s how to do it:

- Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth.
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Softly open your mouth and breathe out for a count of 8.  Repeat 3 to 4 times. Then, resume normal breathing and activity. 

References:

(1)  http://www.dw.com/en/lufthansa-investigates-the-science-of-airline-food/a-6114748

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