I'm writing this as I am flying on a 17 hour flight from Dubai to Auckland. This is the second leg of my epic return journey from London where I attended the Health Optimisation Summit over the weekend.
London is 18,500kms from where I live in rural New Zealand, meaning I have over 24 hours of air travel time while crossing 11 time zones. If there was a perfect time to tap into the world of biohacking (utilising diet, supplements and technology to optimise health) a long haul trip would be it.
So, as someone who is rather obsessed with optimising my health and who does a lot of long distance travel, what tricks do I use to soften the blow of these cross world journeys?
Below I have listed my top 15 health optimisation strategies to help:
Red light therapy has been a game changer for my health, recovery and performance. And the science is very clear - red light helps with everything from lowering inflammation, improving thyroid function and recovering faster (2).
The only issue is the red light panels most people use to tap into these benefits are very bulky and not suitable to take with you when travelling.
I found out first hand the downsides of not being able to use red light when travelling for a week to Finland. Those aches and pains that my daily red light exposure had resolved soon started to return as I was away from my panels for 8 days.
However, this is no longer a problem with the handheld Target Light by Red Light Rising (use code ALEX to save 5%).
The Target Light is a portable red light therapy device that emits either 660nm light and 850nm light.
Throw this in your carry on bag and you know you have access to high powered, therapeutic red light wherever you are in the world.
This target light costs only $99 and uses both 660nm and 850nm light, but it is not battery powered so you will have to plug it in to the wall. Though if you use your red light device in hotels or airports when travelling (like I do) this won't be a problem.
(Note, for more on red light therapy read THIS, and be sure to use promo code ALEX if you order either of these products)
One of the biggest factors behind jet lag is the change in light cycles and the impact this has on your circadian rhythm (3).
For me, travelling to Europe from New Zealand is the absolute worst - when it's day time in New Zealand it's night in Europe and vice versa.
We now know that a stable, consistent circadian rhythm is essential for optimal health (4), and thus travel across multiple time zones is extremely disrupting to our health.
I've covered the role light exposure plays in determining our circadian rhythm in THIS article, so I won't go into too much detail here. But in a nutshell blue light signals to our brain when it is day time and lack of blue light signals night time.
Wear these glasses when the sun sets in your new destination to quickly adapt to the local time and reset your bodies circadian rhythm for optimal well being.
I also travel with Swannies day time glasses - I wear these when working on my computer or watching TV screens when travelling. These glasses protect the retina from damage by filtering our harmful light (4).
Another way to help adjust to your new time zone is with the HumanCharger.
The HumanCharger tagline is 'A sun in your pocket'. And that's what this device is - a small pocket sized unit with a set of earphones attached.
But these earphones don't play music, instead they sign bright full spectrum light into your ears.
What is the reason behind shining light into your ears?
Bright light exposure in the morning is important for sleep later in the day, proper hormonal function and stable energy (I cover that in detail HERE).
The HumanCharger uses a patented mechanism whereby the light passes through the ear canals and stimulates photosensitive receptors of the brain, impacting neural circuits via the bodies neurotransmitters.
Pretty much the HumanCharger allows you to biohack - or stimulate - the body into thinking it is the day time and the sun is up and shining brightly.
When flying at altitude, the aircrafts cabin pressure is much lower than the air pressure at sea level.
This causes all sorts of potential discomforts for those of us that live in low altitude climates.
The lower air pressure can lead to altitude sickness and hypoxia (5).
Even though the percentage of oxygen in the air is the same as that at ground level, due to the lower air pressure, there is less oxygen being inhaled by the body.
One remedy I have found to be very useful to counter this issue is the Nasilator.
The Nasilator is a small, discrete piece of plastic that expands your nostrils increasing air flow.
In fact, studies have shown that the Nasilator increases nasal air flow more than the popular nose strips (6).
Nasilator market their products to athletes and people who suffer from sleep apnea or snoring issues, but I have found it to be a great product for air travel.
It is hardly noticeable to others when you are wearing it, but if you don't like the idea of walking around with something up your nose, just use it when you're trying to get some sleep.
You will notice a huge difference in how you breathe and reduces the build up of nasal congestion. Plus if you partner it with the SomniFix mouth strips (which I'll cover below) I find those headaches that often occur when travelling soon become a thing of the past.
Mouth taping is one of the best things you can do to optimise your sleep.
If you've never heard of mouth taping, be sure to check out my article Mouth Taping And 5 Other Unconventional Tips To Improve Your Sleep Quality.
In a nutshell, mouth breathing when sleeping is linked to gum disease, poor jaw development, tooth cavities, bad breath and worsened sleep apena (7).
But for airline travellers, mouth breathing lowers the amount of oxygen your lungs can absorb. Given you are in an environment with low air pressure, getting adequate oxygen is already an issue when flying.
Mouth taping in such an environment simply makes matters worse.
The best way to restrict mouth breathing when flying (or even at home when sleeping) is with the specially designed Somnifix strips.
Simply put this on when you're attempting to go to sleep and for optimal results use the Nasilator to help open your nostrils. Yes this is all very geeky stuff, but these things work!
You may not know this, but your gut health is closely linked to a stable circadian rhythm (8).
Research has also shown that our gut microbes influence our circadian rhythm (9), so protecting your gut health should be paramount when you are embarking on a cross time zone, circadian rhythm disrupting trip.
There are many things you can do to help nourish and protect your gut health, colostrum powder is one, bone broth is another (check out the handy bone broth travel products by Kettle & Fire) and 'Restores' humic substances is a third recommendation.
Though all of these things will help protect and nourish your gut microbiome, I personally went with a forth option - and that was the Seed Daily Synbiotic. This is a revolutionary pre and probiotic capsule with a wide range of scientifically proven bacteria strains shown to help protect and improve your gut health.
Even better the Seed probiotic comes with a handy travel container, which is a big reason why I didn't bother with the other products on my recent trip and just took a weeks worth of Seed.
On one of my epic 17 hour flights I needed to sleep when we were flying during the middle of the day. Most passengers had their windows up and so the cabin was very bright.
Fortunatley I had packed my Swannies sleep mask and I was able to get some solid sleep despite the brightness.
In an ideal sleep environment you would not be able to see your hand in front of your face - i.e. the room is pitch black. But with the windows open, screens flashing and cabin lights on, this is never going to happen on an aircraft.
Therefore an eye mask - and a mask that is comfortable on your head - is essential for biohacking your next trip.
I've already explained the benefits of red light therapy and why I like to travel with a red light device, but I actually travel with two red light devices. The panel for external use as mentioned above, and the Vielight intra-nasal pulsed red light device (I use the 655 Prime - use code ALEX10 to save).
Yes this another thing to put up your nose, but there is a good reason for this, the Vielight shines bright red light into the nasal cavity - targeting an area rich in blood capillaries.
The 655nm Prime what I use when traveling, is great for full body and blood irradiation benefits, in particular, it allows more oxygen to flow around the body and to the muscles whilst also reducing fatigue.
You can see why it is part of my biohacking travel stack!
For more on the vielight read my review HERE and you can use discount code ALEX10 to save on these units.
Now I will admit - at the time of writing I haven't done an in-depth review of the new Eternus product (stay tuned though, it will be coming, be sure to join my email list for more).
But I know a lot of time and expertise has gone into the Eternus formulation so I am confident it is a decent product.
You can think of Eternus as a multi-vitamin for your bodies cells. Designed to lower the stress load and increase energy output at a cellular level it is touted as being a very powerful anti-aging supplement.
I'm not too worried about anti-aging, but I do know my body is going to be under a heap of stress with all this travel. So, Eternus is my go to supplement to support my body through these times of high stress.
I will admit though, it is an expensive product, so if you decide to purchase a bottle of capsules (or the powdered option - which I used for my trip) you may decide your budget only allows you to consume it on such stressful long haul journeys.
I always pack my SomniLight when travelling domestically or internationally.
Pretty much whenever I will be staying in a house other than my own I have this light.
Why? Because it's the perfect 'biohackers' bedroom light.
The SomniLight has been designed to only emit warm amber light that is void of blue light. Meaning it's a perfect way to light up a room without any melatonin suppressing blue light.
Best of all, this light is small (it is sold as a reading light for books, but I found it too big for that and instead of clipping it to books I click it to the bed or use it as a torch), it's battery powered (no cables needed) and has 2 flexible lights affixed to a strong clamp.
So you can clip it on to a surface and bend the lights to shine where needed (i.e. on a book or magazine you may be reading).
This is much better for your sleep (and eye health) than the modern white lights that seem to be used on air planes and hotels these days.
You can purchase these lights from SomniLight.
I know my diet may not be perfect when away from home, but rather than packing synthetic supplements, I prefer tapping into natures food sources to optimise nutrient levels and wellbeing.
For this I go with Alpha Dynamics Mushrooms. They have signal serve sachets that are perfect for travel. I pack 1 sachet of 'Activate' (a blend of cordyceps, lions mane and chaga) for every day I'm away.
Mix it in some water and you have a 3 gram blend of nutrient rich organic dried mushrooms. These mushroom extracts act as 'adaptogens' helping the body with energy, focus and best of all - immune system support.
Unfortunatley CBD Oil is illegal in New Zealand, so I can't pack this product with me when travelling out of New Zealand.
But once I get to my destination, if CBD oil is legal (and it is in most countries) I will start using this every night to help me relax, unwind and get some quality deep sleep.
Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil is found in marijuana and hemp plants, but does not contain any of the THC which gets you 'high'.
When I'm in the US I use CBD from CBDPure (us discount code ALEX to save 10%).
For those of you who cannot purchase CBD oil due to local laws, I recommend checking out Alpha Dynamics 'Equanimity' which is a highly concentrated Reishi Spore Oil.
I know I've already listed a few supplements as part of my biohacking travel stack, but there are 5 other supplements I always take when travelling. These are:
For more supplement recommendations be sure to check out my Supplement Ebook here.
So this isn't a supplement or product that will help you with your health when travelling, instead it's a device that will measure the damage you have done to the body when travelling.
The Oura Ring is an excellent sleep and stress tracking device. You wear it on your finger and it will measure metrics such as sleep, respiration rate, heart rate and heart rate variability.
The reason why I included it in this lineup is not because I always wear my Oura Ring when travelling and at home, but because of the power if gives the user.
The Oura ring is like your personal health coach - it will tell you what you're doing well, the state of your health and what you need to work on.
Obviously your body, sleep and health is going to take a hit when embarking on a long trip, and the Oura Ring will definitely tell you this, but the real magic is the ability to see how effective some of these biohacking recommendations really work.
You can experiment with supplements, diets, or gadgets and see first hand the impact these things have on your stress levels and bodies 'readiness'.
My typical diet is rather low in water. I do drink a lot of raw milk and my water intake seems to be correlated with my activity level.
I am a big believer in drinking when you're thirsty as I have seen first hand the issues that over hydration can have on your body.
But when it comes to air travel, I drink a lot of water.
Aircraft have very dry air. Airlines could improve the humidity levels but this would require expensive machines, and carrying huge amounts of water onboard, plus the higher humidity levels can lead to corrosion and mould issues on the aircraft.
So unfortunatley all those onboard have to breath dry air.
This in turn sucks a lot of moisture out of our bodies and can lead to dehydration and headaches.
Whenever I fly - especially on the 12 hour + flights that I frequently do - I make sure to drink plenty of fluids - particularly water or sparkling water.
But not just any water, I always go for the best spring water I can find. Evian and Fiji water are two of the best (which is great as I often fly with Fiji Airways to the USA and Emirates to Europe - Emirates use Evian water on board and Fiji Airways use Fiji water).
Ideally you would source glass bottles but this can be tricky in airports and adds a lot of weight to your luggage.
For me, my rule is simple - drink up! Even if I'm planning on sleeping on the plane I still consume copious amounts of water. Having to get up to pee is better than getting off that plane severly hydrated.
Oh and for those of you that like to drink, save it for when you land. Consuming alcohol on board is just going to dehydrate you faster. Coffee has a similar effect.
Finally, I would like to give a shoutout to KTC Labs and their EMF Free Pants. I picked some of these up whilst in London so wore them on my 24 hour journey back.
At the time of writing I cannot say much about these pants - they are still under development and testing. But the designer has worked with some of the worlds most passionate EMF free health experts including Dr. Mercola and Ben Greenfield.
So I'm certain they are going to be a great product.
I will be doing some of my own testing now that I have my own pants so be sure to jump on my email list for more.
These pants are designed to stop microwave radiation - given that planes are full of wifi and bluetooth devices, I will definitely be wearing these whenever I travel.
And that's a wrap.
I started writing this on my flight home from London, and I am finishing it less than 24 hours after arriving back in New Zealand.
So how do I feel less than a day after returning from a 36 hour trip that crossed 11 time zones?
Well last night I slept 9 hours - going to sleep at 9:30pm local time (which was 1030am london time!). I had a deep sleep score of 36%.
My Oura Ring readiness score was 75 and I must admit, I feel really good given the 11 hour time difference and 36 hour trip!
I played with my son for an hour this morning before heading out to do the farm chores and then I started working on my computer - after a quick red light session of course!
So I can confidently say that these things work. But this wasn't an experiment to see what works best, these are things I have been using for years. I know they work and thats why I'm happy sharing them with you!
If you found value in these tips please leave a message saying so below.
And if you have your own biohacking travel tips, I'd love to hear them!
I have linked some other articles related to travel below. You can also read my Optimising Your Health When Travelling resource page HERE.
Plus I have listed all the products and resources mentioned in this article below.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
Join Over 30,000+ Subscribers!