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  • Writer's pictureGio Mellos

Staying Sharp Across Borders: Mastering Jet Lag

The perks of being a professional athlete overseas are endless: exploring new environments, trying vibrant cuisine, and maybe even learning a new language.

Your entire self is immersed in various ways of life, and that in itself is incredibly fulfilling.

This can happen at the drop of a hat: one minute, opportunities are drying up and you’re training out of contract in your home country. The next, you’re on a plane to the other side of the world.

Naturally, these sudden career shifts mean fluctuating between time zones, and this can be extremely draining. 

But don’t worry!

Luckily for us, there are ways to mitigate the effects of jet lag while maintaining your level of performance overseas.

Ever wonder how footballers can play a domestic league game one day and then, just 4 days later in the Champions League, match that standard of excellence in a completely different country?

Here are 3 tips to help you manage jet lag so you can stay sharp on the pitch, even if you’re feeling sluggish off it.

1. Get a head start.

Let’s say it’s Friday, and you have a midweek cup game next Wednesday night.

On Monday, you’re required to travel with the team to a timezone that is several hours behind yours.

Why not cheat and start early?

Begin shifting your routine back gradually so the transition into the new timezone is as smooth as possible. Start waking up a little earlier or later each day, to sync your body clock with the destination.

Condition your mind and body for the new time zone.

Sure, your roommates might hate you for making breakfast at 1am, but by the time you touch down at your destination, ready for battle, you’ll have already adjusted and given yourself the best chance to perform.

2. Fuel your body properly.

The human body is capable of incredible feats. 

Navy SEALs train during Hell Week with a maximum of 4 hours of sleep. (Don’t do this).

The point is - your body will find a way. Especially when dealing with different time zones. However, if you’re putting standard gas in a diesel engine, it’s game over before you even take off.

The brain and body require adequate hydration and nutrient-dense foods to adjust to quick changes in time zones. Drink plenty of water throughout the course of your journey, as dehydration can aggravate symptoms of jet lag. Go for nutrient-rich meals heavy in animal fats and protein to keep you satiated, while avoiding heavy or spicy foods that can disrupt digestion.

Unless of course, you enjoy these foods and you genuinely feel good! Listen to your body and do what is best for you. Everyone is different, but if you take care of your body, it will take care of you!

3. Get light exposure ASAP.

Light is essential for setting your circadian rhythm, helping you wake up and go to bed consistently.

As an athlete, you can use light to your advantage.

Soak up natural light wherever possible. Try waking up at sunrise, exposing yourself to natural light in the morning, and watching the sunset to prepare your body for bed.

Around the house, try limiting bright, blue light from screens before bed, and opt for warmer tones instead.

Now, armed with these pointers, you’re ready to take on the world!

Maybe that’s a bit much, but you can definitely conquer a different time zone without compromising your performance!

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for next week’s article…

The Overseas Athlete

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