Travel, though exciting, is often accompanied by fatigue due to the change in time zone. This can leave you feeling exhausted during important meetings or dragging through activities you’d been looking forward to. Creating a plan for how to get over jet lag fast is critical for making of both business trips and vacations and is a simple matter of planning schedules and meals in advance.

In this excerpt from Secret Food Cures by Joan and Lydia Wilen the authors share tested ways of getting over jet lag and getting on with what you need to do.


When you travel by air, it generally takes one day to recover for every time zone that you pass through. New York to California—that’s three time zones, so three days of jet lag. Actually, going east to west and gaining a few hours is better jet-lag-wise than west to east when you lose a few hours.

In terms of getting that first good night’s sleep at your destination, it seems best to plan on arriving in the evening.

England’s Royal Air Force School of Aviation Medicine (King’s College, London) suggests that when flying east, fly early… when heading west, fly late.

Surely, you’ve heard that alcohol is one of the most powerful dehydrators there is. And you must know that just being in an airplane is dehydrating. But do you know that dehydration makes jet lag worse?

Conclusion: Do not drink any alcoholic beverages while airborne. Instead, try to drink lots of water and juice—as much as possible. If you have to keep going to the lavatory, good. Walking up and down the aisles will help refresh and prepare you for your new time zone.

Natural Remedies

• A couple of days before flying, take ginkgohawthorn tincture (available at health food stores) and follow the dosage on the label. It’s been reported that taking 1 ⁄2 to one mg of melatonin right before boarding the plane has prevented jet lag. If you know that you really suffer from jet lag, ask your doctor about taking melatonin before your upcoming flight. But be careful—some studies in animals suggest that people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not take melatonin. Again, always consult with your health professional before taking melatonin.

Anti–Jet Lag Diet

This diet was developed by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, to help air travelers quickly adjust their bodies’ internal clocks to new time zones. Start the program three days before departure day.

Day 1: Have a high-protein breakfast and lunch, and a high-carbohydrate (no meat) dinner. No coffee except between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Day 2: Have very light meals—salads, light soups, fruit and juices. Coffee only between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Day 3: Same as Day 1.

Day 4: Departure. If you must have a caffeinated beverage (such as coffee or cola) you can have a cup in the morning when traveling west, or between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. when traveling east. Have fruit or juice until your first meal. To know when to have your first meal, figure out when breakfast time will be at your destination. If your flight is long enough, sleep until your destination’s normal breakfast time, but no later (that’s important). Wake up and eat a big, high-protein breakfast. Stay awake and active. Continue the day’s meals according to mealtimes at your destination, and you’ll be in sync when you arrive.

Play Make-Believe

• As soon as you board the plane, pretend its whatever time it is at your destination. In other words, if you board the plane at 7:00 p.m. in New York, and you’re headed for London where it’s 1:00 a.m., pull down your window shade or wear dark glasses and, if possible, go to sleep.

If you board a plane late that night and its already daylight at your destination, force yourself to stay awake during the flight. Making believe that you’re in the new time zone at the very start of your trip should help you acclimate more quickly.

• William F. Buckley, the late “conservative intellectual” and founder of the National Review magazine, got this remedy from a world traveler friend of a British doctor specializing in jet lag. The theory is that jet lag comes from internal perspiring, which causes a deficiency of salt in the body. According to Buckley, the doctor said to put a heaping teaspoon of salt in a cup of coffee as soon as you get onto the plane and drink it. Five hours later, drink another cup with salt and you will experience a miracle. The salted coffee will taste like ambrosia. That is your body talking, telling you how grateful it is that you have given it the salt it so badly needs.

NOTE: This salty coffee remedy is not for anyone who is watching his/her sodium and/or caffeine intake.

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