Nutrition for Travel
The UK has firmly got its travel bug back. After years of uncertainty, this holiday season is bringing with it the highest volume of airline passengers since before the pandemic began. When dealing with everything from busy airports and baggage allowances, you’ll want to do anything you can to make your flight as comfortable as possible. Not to mention feel healthy and well when you land!
One thing that should be an important part of your travel planning: what to eat before and during your flight.
Flying can be tough on the body
Whilst flying brings with it exciting destinations and adventure, many people underestimate the toll air travel can take on your body. Your digestive system, immune system, detoxification pathways and circulatory systems are all impacted when you step onto the plane, not to mention your nervous system if you are an anxious flyer. Supporting the body as best you can with healthy practices can really help to mitigate this.
How food can help
Ever felt super bloated mid-flight or even after you've landed? At 40,000 feet, the air pressure in the plane is much lower than your body is used to. As the air pressure falls, gas expands, which can make you feel really uncomfortable. For this reason, it’s best to opt for something light and easy to digest before boarding, especially if you’ve got a long-haul flight.
If you are a nervous flyer, the stress you feel will also directly affect your digestion, as our mind and gut are powerfully linked and let’s face it - we’d all like to avoid a dash to those plane toilets. Taking on practices to calm yourself before and during the flight is a great way to support the body here. Download some guided meditations to listen to or practise some deep breathing exercises. You may opt to take on board some calming herbal tea bags such as chamomile or passionflower, to drink as you fly. A calming decoction of fresh ginger in warm water can further address your digestive issues as well.
If you are already using fermented foods in your diet you may want to include a nutritious smoothie made with some kefir as a lovely choice before you travel. Your gut microbes usually love fermented foods, so if these are already in your repertoire then this can help to keep you regular, however if you haven’t dabbled with fermented foods before, trying them for the first time whilst on an aeroplane might not be the best idea!
Being in an enclosed space with so many other people can also leave your immune system susceptible. Whether travelling for business or pleasure, the last thing you want to experience is landing in your destination and feeling run down. Those of us who are frequent fliers should also be aware of the ionising radiation we are exposed to during airline travel, which can be extremely damaging for our cells. Studies show getting a boost of antioxidants, specifically plenty of vitamins C and E as well as plant nutrients like beta carotene and lycopene, can be helpful here (1). Ancient + Brave's vegan Collagyn all have a great array of vegan nutrients, including potent and efficacious vitamin C, iodine, vitamin D3 and chicory root fibre.
To get these nutrients, think of colour and freshness. Not always easy when it comes to airport or airline food, which tend to be bland in colour and low in nutrients. We suggest adding in a nourishing powder like Radiant or Inspired to a pre-flight smoothie to boost your nutrition and then carry your own food and snacks on the flight, as most aeroplane food is high in preservatives and additives.
Consuming something with protein is also optimal, so eggs or fish or even a dose of True or Wild Collagen work well. Eating protein gives your body the nutritional boost it needs to make you feel full and fuel your brain. You could have this with a salad of healthy fats like avocado and nuts which then creates a well-rounded meal. Avoiding beans and spices is a good idea in this scenario as they are known to irritate the gut further, however once safely in your destination you’ll want to get plenty of fibre to avoid any travel constipation!
Foods high in potassium can be supportive in regulating blood pressure and help ease any muscle cramps you face during a flight, so pick up a banana or some melon to pop into your airport snack bag alongside a full-fat yoghurt.
Whilst it’s not always practical to take your own food on board a long flight, some oatcakes with some nut butter and blueberries or some home-made muesli bars are easy options, or you can buy olives on board which make a great, healthy snack.
Fasting, Food and Jet Lag
If you want to bypass food altogether and cross time-zones without feeling the effects of jet-lag, then you might want to try the fasting hack used by jet-setting racing car drivers.
Jet lag can cause fatigue, irritability and sleepless nights for a few days after travelling. With clinical trials yet to take place, some scientists suspect that a 12-16 hour fast the day before and during your flight can reset your body clock (2). Jet lag is a common condition as a result of the misalignment between the internal body clock and our external environment. Although it is highly influenced by light and noticing the difference between night and day, our body clock also responds to the time we eat (and don’t eat). Set your watch to your new time zone and then fast at your normal bedtime, eating your first meal around 12-16hrs after this will help to mimic your regular eating pattern and may reset your circadian rhythm helping you adjust to your new time zone quickly.
Even for the most seasoned pro, fasting on a plane isn’t always easy though. In terms of nutritional punch, plane foods are right at the bottom of the pile and yet during a long flight you have less to distract you than normal and you’re surrounded by other people eating, which can be challenging. We’d recommend our travel sized MCT oil and collagen sachets to have in a hot drink to keep you going. But if you do give it a go and fasting doesn’t work for you, don’t worry. Plan ahead and bring some of your own carry-on snacks for when you’re ready to break your fast.
It’s more than likely that you have heard before how important it is to stay well hydrated during any plane journey, long or short. Consuming plenty of H20 on board helps counteract the drying conditions on planes that lead to brain fog, fatigue, swelling, dry and lacklustre skin and bloodshot eyes.
Research points to a loss of around 2litres of water during a long-haul flight (2) and this, alongside low air pressure and low humidity levels in the cabin, can make you dehydrated and feeling lousy. People often love a cup of coffee or glass of wine to toast the beginning of their holiday, but unfortunately these are both diuretics, leading to a further need to replenish your water stores.
Important, yet often overlooked, is the impact of dehydration on our immune system. Already with a lot to deal with on a flight, our immune system uses a key defence - our mucus membranes - to trap and filter our airborne bacterias and viruses. When we become dehydrated our mucus membranes, especially the ones in our nose and throat become dry, leaving us vulnerable. Dehydration can also cause slowed circulation, digestive issues, and fatigue, all of which further impair the immune system.
Keep well hydrated
Top tips here start with increasing your water intake with frequent sips, rather than glugging down glassfuls as the optimal choice. Some people find infusing water with herbs like mint or thyme or fruits such as berries, citrus or even cucumber make water more enjoyable whilst also providing those much needed in-flight antioxidants.
When our body needs hydrating, it’s ideal to look beyond just H20; electrolytes can also be lost when we experience water loss coupled with poor food choices. Electrolytes are essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium that play a vital role in the functions of your body. Adding a pinch of salt to your homemade concoction is a great start or opting to take some coconut water onboard with you as this naturally contains some electrolytes.
As for the booze? A great saying to find a balance whilst travelling is to make time to be good and make time to be bad! It might be best to save your celebrating for when you reach your holiday destination feeling fully hydrated, well and ready to enjoy yourself - but that of course is up to you!