An old sorority friend of mine came to visit from ye olde London last week, and she had a very urgent #AskAmanda question – how can you possibly stay healthy on (and before/after) long-haul flights?
I’ve definitely touched on healthy air travel before, as well as how to get through a bout of travel without getting sick, but I’ve never specifically touched on long-haul flying (which I’ll define here as 8+ hour flights with at least three time zone changes) and how it can mess with even our best healthy intentions.
First of all, prep it up. As they say, failure to plan is planning to fail, so as soon as you are aware of your travel plans, start to conceive your strategy. Figure out when/where you’re going to eat your meals (on the plane? before you travel? upon landing?), what hours you’ll need to sleep on the plane to minimize jetlag on arrival, purchase your in-flight support items (such as a neck pillow, travel moisturizing mask, reusable water bottle, water pills, and compression socks), where you’re going to sit (I always choose an aisle seat near the restrooms so I can stretch and “go” as I please) and what you’re going to wear for both comfort and necessity (if you’re not going straight to work upon landing, why not go straight to the gym – and wear activewear on the place so you can?).
Second, commit to finding the best quality food possible during your travel. Crappy airline snack boxes are less-than-tempting when you’re packing a decent salad from Au Bon Pain in the terminal; bringing your own food from home to avoid sodium-and-carb filled airplane food is extra credit. If you absolutely can’t plan ahead for your food, at least try and switch your airline meal – you can often pre-book low-sodium, low-calorie, or vegan meals, all of which will save you tons of unnecessary junk in your system.
Next, once you land, don’t immediately plunge into full vacation mode, especially if you’re traveling for work (which is, let’s be honest, the opposite of vacation). Google search your new surroundings for the terms “salad” or “healthy restaurant” or even “best healthy food” and commit to eating at least one vegetable-heavy, clean meal per day while traveling. And guys – hydration could not be more important on flights like these. Stick to a 2.2-3 liter per day habit, and again, get that bathroom-adjacent seat.
Fourth, stick as closely as possible to your normal routine. If you’ve found weight control success using protein shakes, stick that powder in a Ziploc and make yo’ shakes in your new locale. If you’re a runner, make sure to bring along your running shoes and gear, and ask your hotel concierge for a safe local route (rather than saying “I didn’t know where to go!” and skipping the whole thing). Pack your vitamins and supplements, continue your intermittent fasting window, sleep as close to your normal hours as possible, and don’t overdo it on booze or unnecessarily indulgent food (wine and dessert with clients is ok…if it’s not three evenings in a row).
Finally, plan for a glorious return. Even with relatively healthy habits, long-haul travel and its associated time changes, dietary changes, and often-harried schedules can leave you frazzled the moment you reach home. Put together a little detox routine (mine includes as much sleep as possible, a deep tissue massage for my swollen lower limbs, a short run or yoga class, and a giant dose of green vegetables) that you always have to look forward to as a re-energizing and relaxing treat.
For those of you who regularly travel long-haul – how do you recuperate and recharge?