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How to Stay Healthy on a Long-Distance Flight

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How to Stay Healthy on a Long-Distance Flight

Airport fast-food options, travel fatigue, on-board atmosphere…many factors conspire to make long airplace trips a potential health hazard; here's how to beat them.

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Plan and Prep

You know the saying: Fail to plan, plan to fail. That goes double at airports, where all sorts of overpriced convenience foods await your arrival. Plan ahead and travel with raw or dehydrated nuts, celery and little packets of almond butter, and nitrate-free jerky. “I also pack non-soy, non-dairy protein powder and a shaker cup for a fast, convenient, hunger-busting mini-meal,” suggests JJ Virgin, a fitness and nutrition expert, and author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days. Check out this app on the TSA website to search for what food items may (or may not be) currently allowed in your carry-on.

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Stay Hydrated

Drink a lot of water. It is important to hydrate your body before any long period of inactivity, says Alejandro Chabán, certified nutrition consultant and founder of the Yes You Can! Diet Plan — and the dry airplane atmosphere is particularly taxing. Drinking water before a trip hydrates your skin, oxygenates your muscles, and regulates your bodily fluids, alleviating swelling and liquid retention. Recycled air and pressurized cabins increase  dehydration, so it’s recommended that you drink four to six ounces of water per hour in the air. A great bet is to bring an empty water bottle and fill it up post-security, just before the flight. If you get bored of water, try coconut water as an alternative. Coconut water hydrates faster than water, contains five essential electrolytes, and includes as much potassium as a banana. Another option is to drink a bottle or two of water (or coconut water) en route to the airport in case you fall asleep and forget to hydrate inflight!

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Optimize Blood Sugar Levels

The right foods steady blood sugar for all-day energy levels. “My favorite plate combines lean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous green veggies, and slow-release high-fiber carbs to keep you full and focused even while everyone else becomes frantic,” says Virgin.

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Prioritize Exercise

Among its benefits, exercise can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and boost feel-good endorphins. If squats and lunges aren’t among your pre-boarding options, airport stairs make the perfect place for burst training. Simply “burst” up a flight of stairs as fast as you can, walk back down at normal pace, and repeat. Don’t let travel limit you from getting a fat-blasting, mood-boosting workout, Virgin says.

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Get Optimal Nutrients

This means a high-quality multi-vitamin plus fish oil are everyday essentials that become doubly crucial when you travel. “I also pack extra magnesium (to relax), extra vitamin D (to boost immunity), and my Green Balance powder (because meeting your veggie quota becomes a real challenge on the road),” says Virgin.

Another great supplement to bring is spirulina tablets, says nutritionist and wellness expert Jessica Sepel. They’re packed with amino acids, nutrients, and antioxidants to keep us healthy and full of energy during travel. They also help cleanse the blood and help protect us from solar radiation while airborne. Take three or four tablets between meals. 

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Drink Herbal Tea

Bring tea bags with you for the flight and once you arrive at your destination. Consider ginger or peppermint to aide digestion, and chamomile to soothe you, says Sepel.

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Don't Drink Alcohol

It may seem obvious, as we all know the effects are enhanced by altitude, but that means so are the after-effects. Nothing could be worse than being hungover and jet-lagged. You'll be fried for two days, warns Louis Altman of GlobaFone.

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Don’t Skip Your Probiotics

When it comes to staying healthy while traveling, especially on airplanes, Brooke Alpert, New York-based nutritionist and author of the The Sugar Detox, says her top tip to clients is to take a daily probiotic supplement to support digestive health, which in turn has a positive impact on overall health and immunity. Since 70 percent of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, Alpert says taking a probiotic plays a vital role in strengthening your overall health and well-being.

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Sleep According to Arriving Time Zone

This will get your meals on the right schedule as well, which keeps eating right in check. Calculate what time it is where you are going and start to set your body clock by sleeping accordingly, Altman says. Yeah, you may be the only person asleep at 3:00 in the afternoon, but in India, they have all just gone to bed. Guess who will be refreshed and ready to go upon arrival?

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Move Around

It's also important to avoid being inactive for long periods, which could lead to leg cramps and blood clots, says Carol A. Phillips, a health coach and author (http://www.healthdesignnh.com/). Get up and stretch often. Take a trip to the bathroom, even if you don't have to use it, so you can stretch your legs and circulate your blood. This is yet another great reason to limit or avoid alcohol, as excessive alcohol can suppress your defenses. Some airlines are getting into the spirit and making it easier for passengers to stay active onboard. For example, EL AL Israel Airlines provides Flying Fit, an in-flight exercise program from Danny Musico, who is known for training celebrities such as Tobey Maguire, Jessica Simpson, and Kevin Connolly. Musico designed the program to alleviate muscle aches, poor circulation, and fatigue associated with flying by offering various exercises that can be performed onboard during the long-haul flight.

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Save Your Splurges

Don't waste your first vacation splurges on a snack attack at the airport or on airplane food. If you're going to indulge, do you really want it to be on something you purchased at an airport newsstand? Katie Lara of TravelingPanties.com packs healthy snacks that will tide her over until she reaches her destination. “I always bring fresh veggies, and individual hummus packs, raw nuts, almond butter and crackers, or organic popcorn are great for salt cravings. I've even brought an avocado before, peeled it and ate it. This way you arrive at your destination ready to indulge on splurge-worthy goodies!” Lara says.

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How to Stay Healthy on a Long-Distance Flight