Traveling is fun! I was blessed to be able to do that a lot lately. I am having a fun NBA playoffs vacation and I'm actually writing this 10.000+ ft. in the air on my way to Cleveland for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Once you are in the city and relaxed, everything is great. But with the amount of traveling, things can get a bit messy. So far, I've been to 7 different cities (except where I live) and have been on 30+ flights. In the first round, I attended Games 3 and 4 (Cavs at Pacers) in Indiana, Game 3 (Celtics at Bulls) in Chicago, and Game 4 (Warriors at Trail Blazers) in Portland. In the second round, I attended Game 2 (Raptors at Cavs) in Cleveland, Games 3 and 4 (Celtics at Wizards) in Washington DC, Games 3 and 4 (Warriors at Jazz) in Salt Lake City. In conference finals, I attended Games 1 and 2 (Spurs at Warriors) in the Bay Area. And now, during the NBA Finals, I've been to Games 1 & 2 and I'm on my way to Games 3 & 4 (By the time I am editing this I’m back in Oakland for Game 5 and I hope that this is the last game as I miss my bed). With this much traveling, my health (especially gut) suffered a little bit. There are few major contributors to the problem. One is flying. Even though I feel like I got used to flying, I believe my adrenals tell otherwise. I think my cortisol, and inadvertently my blood sugar, fluctuated too often and in the wrong times. This, then disrupted my circadian rhythm and made me have a low-quality sleep. Second is sleeping. For the reasons above and more such as not sleeping on my own bed, sometimes uncomfortable and not dark enough bedrooms in Airbnb, layovers, very early and nighttime flights; my sleep has suffered big time. And for a guy that believes that sleep is crucial to optimal health, this has been a major problem. Third is gut health. I think there has been two major contributors to having gut problems during traveling. One is obviously traveling too often and having a bad cortisol rhythm. Second is not having access to high quality nutrition at all times. I can generally deal with some bad meals. But when you add them on top of the other problems, they become a little more disruptive than I wish. But here in this article, I will share some of the little things I do to minimize the damage, my little bag of tricks if you will. Let’s go over a few of them, shall we?
· Bring a melatonin supplement: I bring a melatonin supplement with me when I travel, especially when I know I’ll be changing time zones. During this trip, I made both east-to-west and west-to-east trips. When you travel east, as you know, you “lose” some time. For example, if I travel to EST (Eastern time) I need to have some melatonin. Local time 10 pm is only 7 pm my time. So, at the time I should go to bed, I am used to finishing up dinner. This is why my body clock does not realize that I should sleep. This is when melatonin, as low as 1-1.5 mg can be helpful. Combining melatonin with wearing blue-blocking glasses about 2 hours prior to bedtime is a total game changer and it will definitely help you go to sleep more easily. I like using the melatonin spray from Onnit.
· Bring a pair of blue-blocking glasses: This technological birth-control tool is a must to have. You absolutely need blue-blocking glasses during travel, even if you are not changing time zones. If you are not changing time zones, but if you have evening flights, you should wear them all the time at the airports. The amount of light at the airports on top of the stress caused by the flight will trick your circadian rhythm. This will, then, make it hard for you to go to sleep. I personally use them as soon as I step in to airports and I only take them out as I am going through security checks. You can also utilize these glasses when traveling from east to west. Let’s say that you have an early flight at 6 am EST. The flight time is technically 3 am PST (Pacific time). At this time, there is no sunlight at the place you are going, but the sun may have risen at where you are taking off. To make the transition easier on your body clock, you can use blue-blocking glasses when you wake up and have them on until the sunrise time at where you are going. Limiting the blue-light exposure until the sunrise at where you are going should help you shift your body clock much more easily. I own a pair from the company Swanwick.
· Bring a bottle of digestive enzymes: This one is relatively simple to explain. You may not always have access to quality food or you may be eating at times when you are not used to eating. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement with meals can aid you in digestion while minimizing the stress on your gut. A simple and cheap one you can get is sold by Now Foods.
· Bring your own coffee packs: Another reason I love using Four Sigmatic coffee is that they are instant and high quality. Instead of drinking the terrible burnt coffee at airports, I simply ask for hot water in to my travel mug, open 1-2 coffee sachets, dump them in and stir them. Voila! You have a great tasting, high quality coffee everywhere you go. Additionally, the Cordyceps/Chaga coffee from Four Sigmatic can help you with adapting to stress better (thanks to Cordyceps) and help you with immune health (thanks to Chaga). If you feel weird about asking for hot water without buying anything, you can simply purchase a bottle of sparkling water and ask for hot water. But in my experience, none of the coffee shops had any problems with it. Before I forget, you probably know this by now but, you can use the code “balabanmb” at Four Sigmatic website to get 15% off your purchase anytime.
· Eat an antioxidant rich meal everyday: Due to high stress caused by flying (and some other things), eating at least one meal of high-antioxidant food that contains a good amount of polyphenols, vitamins and minerals can help you. The damage can be caused by ROS (reactive oxygen species), high-altitude and radiation and it is easier to deal with them if you have what you need.
· Utilize fasting: Fasting, when done correctly, can help you with blood sugar regulation, healing and recovering faster. It can also help you save some money at the crazy expensive airport stores. Furthermore, since you will not be eating anything during a fast, it can help you further with avoiding additional blood sugar swings caused by food. If you cannot fast, I suggest eating low-carb meals which means no starch (rice, noodles, pasta, potatoes), no bread, no dessert, no fruit, etc. The reason I suggest this is pretty simple. You are likely to get blood sugar swings caused by cortisol anyways. Therefore, you do not want to overload your system and cause further blood sugar swings.
This article took longer than I expected which is a good thing. I am not holding any information and tricks back. So, what I will do is to continue this article in a future post. I promise! But for now, you can use as many as these tricks. What are your tricks that you want to share with me and others? Please let us know in the comments. Until the next piece, stay healthy folks!