In planning for my trip to Florence for the summer (the term "planning" being used very loosely here) I knew one thing for sure: I did NOT want to deal with jet lag. Even though my stay there was long enough for me to consider myself living there for a bit, I didn't want to miss even a few days of the excitement due to a whack sleep schedule. Yes, I just said "whack." It's hip. Whack.
Luckily for me, I happened to see one of Ben Greenfield's talks at Paleo f(x) 2016 a week before I was supposed to leave. If you aren't familiar with him, Greenfield is essentially the definition of a "biohacker". This basically means he likes to find ways to enhance his health and athletic performance using the things available in this era, without disregarding evolution. Self-proclaimed biohackers tend to have a few things in common, including: an interest in paleo or pseudo-paleo diets for optimal food intake, alternative workouts that promote fitness AND wellbeing, mental health practices like meditation, all-natural products for body care. But they still tend to include breaking-edge technology to track their health statistics to see which variations of all of the above are really helping improve their health.
I can dig it.
So when Greenfield gave us his top 10 latest methods he's been using to biohack his performance, my ears perked up. One of the items included on the list was hot-cold therapy. This can be done in cold chambers and saunas if you have access to them like he does, but it works just as well in a shower that can change temperatures quickly. Greenfield claimed this was the way he beats his jet lag every time he travels... which is a lot of the time.
That same weekend, I also finally got to meet Sarah and the other lovely people of Vital Proteins. While chatting it up with them, I asked if they thought any of their products would potentially help with jet lag. Sarah immediately handed me a bottle of their Beef Liver Capsules. I didn't know it at the time, but the B-vitamins in beef liver are actually great at easing digestive issues, like...
Travel constipation (1). I know, TMI, but I always have to deal with this. It's apparently not uncommon, either (2).
From personal experience, I know the way I feel is also hugely influenced by how well I treat my gut. If I'm not eating pre- and probiotics regularly, I feel it. And as it turns out, I'm not wrong in drawing the connection between that and feeling less-than-stellar while traveling. Sitting for long periods of time can apparently cause clogging in the large intestine, where most of your gut bacteria lives. A normal amount of daily activity moves you around enough to prevent it, but you can't exactly get in 10,000 steps on a 10-hour flight (3). So I decided to pack the Primal Probiotics that I won a while back from Primal Blueprint Publishing, since I wasn't sure what the situation with those would be like in Italy.
And lastly, my dad is a seasoned overseas traveler. Upon his advice, I was to try and sleep as much as possible on the way to Europe, and try to keep myself awake for the even-longer trek back to the states, when the time came. So with my knowledge from Greenfield, a bottle of beef liver, a container of Primal Probiotics, and Woj's best words, I set foot on my first 20-hour journey across the big pond.
Sleeping on the plane over was easy enough with the free wine offered on the ride. Sorry not sorry about that. It was still strange stepping off in Munich to see that it was somehow morning again, but I can get on board with a time warp here and there. Once I made it to Florence, I made sure that the first few things I unpacked were the beef liver capsules and probiotics. I took a serving of each and was #blessed to avoid the travel constipation that evening.
I didn't shower until the next morning, because my luggage had been lost on the flight over so I didn't have a change of clothes. Luckily, my rockstar roommate (s/o to you, Hannah!) let me borrow the essentials to wash the world off my body. I tried the hot/cold therapy tips recommended by Greenfield: 30 seconds of cold water, 10 of hot. Switch back and forth like this for several minutes and your nervous system will be hopping so much, your body clock suddenly decides you're fully awake. And it worked just as promised! I faced a day full of the labyrinth that is Florence without much of an issue. That morning and the following few began this way, plus a serving of beef liver right after the shower. The probiotic capsules helped me out each night, as I took one right before bed until finding some yogurt I trusted enough to ease me off those capsules.
On my return trip, I knew things would be trickier. Staying awake for 24 hours is never a good idea when you're me. Mama needs her 8 hours. I'm basically the worst college student ever.
However, I took a dose each of the beef liver and probiotics again before bidding "ciao!" to my home for the summer, and managed to stay awake with lots of coffee help until I made it back to Austin. I passed out for the night, and made myself take another hot/cold shower the next morning. I was tired that next day from the travel, and I let myself be lazy but avoided napping. I managed to make it through a full day back on Texas time awake and my body clock was reset by the second day after I returned home!
So, the list of things to do (which is probably the only thing you came to this article to read anyway, yes?):
- If you're traveling to a time zone later than yours (east on a map with the Atlantic ocean at the center), sleep on the way there and stay awake on the way home. If you're traveling to a time zone earlier than yours (west on a map with the Atlantic ocean at the center), do the opposite.
- Utilize hot/cold shower therapy to wake yourself up when you want to be awake in the new time zone.
- Supplement with Vital Proteins Beef Liver capsules & quality probiotics, like Primal Probiotics, to avoid travel constipation.
Oh, and remember to ENJOY your trip! :)
(1) Holland, K., Carter, A. (March 25, 2016). 5 vitamins that can relieve constipation. Healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/vitamins-for-constipation#1
(2) Monastersky, Konstantin. (2016). What causes traveler's constipation?. Gut Sense. Retrieved from https://www.gutsense.org/constipation/travel.html
(3) Bloudoff-Indelicato, M. (December 28, 2015). The science behind vacation constipation. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/all-i-got-for-christmas-was-constipation/422046/
(4) St. Pierre, B. (n.d.) Eliminating jeg lag: strategies to reduce, even avoid, symptoms. Precision Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-jet-lag
(5) n.a. (n.d.) Setting up your shower valve: a smart solution for your bathroom. Delta Monitor Shower Faucet. Retrieved from http://deltamonitorshowerfaucet.net/setting-up-your-shower-valve-a-smart-solution-for-your-bathroom
(6) Elizabeth, H. (June 15, 2016). #STOP. Facebook.