Any athlete who has traveled a long distance for a sports competition has undoubtedly faced jet lag. Add in some of the stresses of travel – cramped flights, finding local transportation, sleeping in a hotel – and it is not surprising that sports performance can suffer.
Here are some ideas that could help you perform at your best when competing away from home.
Perform physical activity while on the flight. That activity will probably decrease fatigue caused by sitting for long periods on the cramped plane.
Arrive with enough time to adjust to the new time zone. One day is usually required to adjust for each time zone crossed. Allow more time if traveling from west to east. If your team must travel from the west coast to the east (or overseas), you might think about traveling a few days earlier than normal to adjust.
If possible, change practice or training times before you leave to the time of the competition. For example, a California team might practice at 5 PM local time for a few days if they will play at 8 PM in New York.
Theoretically, fatigue and decreased concentration could lead to injuries. Limit training and exercise to moderate intensity in the first few days after arrival.
Avoid long naps during the adjustment period. A long nap reinforces your natural sleep cycle based on home time schedules. Short power naps might be acceptable.
11 ways athletes can avoid jet lag
Tips for teams and athletes preparing for international travel
Adjust meals as needed. Getting on a regular schedule of meals based on the new time can be helpful. Try high-protein breakfasts to increase arousal and high-carbohydrate dinners to increase drowsiness.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol could increase dehydration through its diuretic effects. Plus it might decrease the quality of sleep.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key for sports performance generally. Athletes might be dehydrated after long flights. Plus, if you are traveling to a warm destination, the heat could add to the dehydration from travel.