Going to Indonesia as a surfer is the equivalent of going to the Promised Land. It is the ultimate surf destination. Warm water. Consistent surf. High-quality waves. An international airport. Decent roads to access multiple beaches. Plenty of boats ready to shuttle you to nearby reefs.
In the surfing world, it is as good as it gets. But traveling to Indonesia is another story. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be coming from neighboring Australia, getting to Indonesia can induce some serious jet lag, and we all know dealing with jet lag sucks. On a surf trip to Indonesia a few years back, I wanted to spend less time recovering from jet lag and more time hitting the surf. So I tested out a little self-experiment to see if I couldn’t minimize the damages of jet lag. Here’s how I made it happen.
The Perfect Storm
Looking over my travel itinerary, I thought, how the hell would I do this? It was 30+ hours to Indonesia, and I’d be crossing 8 time zones ending up with an exact 12-hour time difference from start to finish (HK and Indonesia share the same time zone). My trip schedule looked something like this:
1. Depart New York at 10 AM.
2. Take a 17-hour flight to Hong Kong, arriving at 2 PM Hong Kong time / 2 AM EST.
3. Spend 20 hours in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong. (By the way side note, holy crap, Hong Kong is expensive!)
4. Hop on a 10 AM flight to Bali arriving at 3 PM local time.
5. Stay in Bali for three days, and then take an 11 AM flight to Kupang, Timor.
6. Spend the night in Kupang, then spend one hour by car and two hours by ferry on the way to the island of Rote.
7. Finally, ride 1.5 hours by car to the village of Nembrala, where there is an abundance of epic waves and few people surfing them.
If you’re not familiar with the science of jet lag, it’s simply a physiological condition that occurs when your circadian rhythms, or body clock, get thrown out of whack. Changes in sleep routine and travel across multiple time zones can disrupt this process causing jet lag symptoms such as excessive sleepiness, fatigue, and brain fog.
Digging a little deeper, I discovered 4 main components that I could alter in order to minimize the effects of jet lag.
Light Exposure: The natural rhythm of your body is affected by the amount of light you’re exposed to, and when. Keeping your internal body clock functioning properly requires exposure to natural light in the morning and avoiding light at night. However, getting the right exposure while taking multiple flights was a bit out of my control.
Food Clock: Regulating my body’s food clock was something I could control. And the timing for my jet lag experiment couldn’t be better—I’d already been experimenting with intermittent fasting (or short bouts of conscious fasting to help build muscle and lose fat).
As it turns out, fasting can be a powerful tool for resetting your food clock. The idea here is to completely turn off your digestive tract and digestive hormones. This way, when you consume your first meal at your destination, you’ll easily reset your food clock for the new local time.
Immune System: Keeping the immune system in check is also huge for hacking jet lag. Exposure to so many bacteria while traveling can really compromise your immune system and throw off other metabolic processes in the body. To prepare for my trip, I loaded up on vitamins and minerals.
Hydration: Staying well hydrated is crucial as well. Even mild hydration can cause the physiological effects of jet lag to set in. I skipped the booze en route to Indo and quenched my thirst with H2O instead.
In order to prevent the effects of jet lag, I devised a “fasting plan” for my long-haul trip.
Beginning Friday morning, I ate a normal breakfast pre-flight, then consumed NO solid food until I arrived in Indonesia. I continued my uptake of vitamins and minerals throughout the flight via Airborne® packets and greens powder, plus I drank black coffee or tea to combat the hunger.
Here’s how it worked for me (all times are in EST):
9 AM: ½ cup green juice. 12 oz. black coffee. Bacon and cheddar omelet, potatoes, 1 piece of toast. Normal breakfast.
11AM: 1 pack of airborne vitamins.
1 PM: 2 scoops greens in water.
3 PM: 1 pack of airborne vitamins.
6 PM: black coffee. 1 Litter of water every few hours. I’m going to the bathroom often. I have new flight attendant friends now.
9 PM: 2 scoops greens in water.
2 AM: Arrival in Hong Kong. Local time is 2 PM. More vitamins and green powder for the next four hours, plus lots of water.
6 AM: Normal-sized meal at local time (6 PM HKT).
I went to bed a few hours later around 9pm local time. I slept through the night and woke up at 6 AM for next leg of our journey well rested. I felt great. Although 6am HK time was really 6pm NY time, it felt like morning. I had some black coffee and an omelet and charged the day full speed ahead.
This feeling was a stark contrast to other experiences I’ve had with flights across times zones. A simple cross-country flight from NY to CA would throw me out of whack for a few days. Now I fast during the flight and try to time my meals around the local times the best I can. This strategy has worked wonders for me.
Minimizing the physiological side effects of jet lag is possible—it’s all about easing your body into the new time zone. Once you understand a little bit about how the body works, you can experiment on your next trip and see what works best for you.
Try fasting during your next flight. Trust me, you won’t be missing out on any gourmet meals either! Don’t eat any food during the flight, and then eat a normal meal during the local mealtime. This should help you get over jet lag quickly.
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