Originally published by the Argonne National Laboratories. Used since the 1980s, highly recommended and transcribed by Tom Haworth.

Many airline travelers are learning to prevent jet lag - or at least speed up their recovery times - by using a diet plan developed at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago.

The diet grew out of studies of circadian rhythms, natural body cycles controlled by molecular "clocks" found in every cell of the body. Besides aiding travelers, this research has important implication for helping shift workers. Many nuclear power stations are using shift-rotation programs based on this research to help reactor operators adjust quickly to continually changing work shifts.

Anyone traveling across three or more time zones, such as coast-to-coast across the United States, can benefit from the anti-jet lag diet.

Left to its own devices the body normally needs one day to adjust for each time zone crossed. But proper use of this Argonne diet can help the traveler make the change in one day. Thousands of people can attest to its efficacy.

Jet lag is a feeling of irritability, insomnia, indigestion and general disorientation. It occurs when the body's inner clock is out of synchronization with time cues from the environment. The Argonne diet uses some of the same time cues that create jet lag to prevent it.

Time cues include meal times, sunrise and sunset, and daily cycles of rest and activity. These cues can keep the body on schedule and healthy. The Argonne diet uses a combination of time cues to speed the traveler's adjustment to a new schedule.

The diet requires a planned rescheduling of mealtimes, meal contents and social cues to help reset the body's clock. The trick is to prepare for the adjustment a few days ahead of time by carefully watching the amounts and types of food eaten at mealtimes. On the day of arrival, the body's clock is reset by assuming the schedule of meals and activities appropriate for the new time zone. 

A traveler planning a Sunday flight from West Palm Beach to Paris, for instance, faces a ten-hour flight across six time zones. The traveler plans to arrive Monday at 10a.m. Paris time, and wants to advance his or her body clock so it is not still set for 4 a.m. south Florida time upon arrival.

The traveler begins the anti-jet-lag diet on Thursday, three days before the flight. Thursday is a feast day, to be followed by fasting on Friday, feasting on Saturday and fasting on Sunday. (The day of the flight is always a fast day.)

On feast days, the traveler eats three full meals. Breakfast and lunch are high in protein. Steak and eggs make a good breakfast, followed later by meat and green beans for lunch. Protein helps the body produce chemicals that wake it up and get it going. I've been lazy and eaten sliced turkey, salami, and cheese with no bread, and had good success.

Supper is high in carbohydrates. They help the body produce chemicals that bring on sleep. Spaghetti or another pasta is good, but no meatballs - they contain protein.  And don't forget the dark chocolate for dessert!

On fast days, the traveler eats three small meals. They are all low in carbohydrates and calories to help deplete the liver's store of carbohydrates. Argonne does not fully understand the reasons, but this seems to speed the shift to a new time zone. Acceptable meals on fast days would contain 700 calories or less and might consist of skimpy salads, thin soups and half-slices of bread.  I throw in baby carrots and peanuts, too.  I used to make beef bullion, since it had so few calories.  Then I got high blood pressure and started looking at sodium content.  Holy cow! 

Whether feasting or fasting, the traveler drinks coffee, or any other drink containing caffeine, only in the afternoon. This is the one time of day when caffeine seems to have no effect on the body's rhythms.

Sunday evening, the traveler boards the plane about 6 p.m. and begins the first phase of speeding up the body's internal clock to Paris time. He or she drinks several cups of coffee between 9 and 10 p.m., turns off the overhead light and goes to sleep.

About 1:30 a.m. Orlando time, (7:30 a.m. in gay Paree) the traveler wakes up - the coffee consumed before going to sleep may even help to do this - and takes the final steps that reset the body's clock to Paris time.

First, he or she eats a high protein breakfast without coffee - perhaps last night's airline supper. I've had good luck with airlines (with the exception of course of Northworst Airlines, but thankfully Delta has saved us all) if you tell the cabin attendants as soon as you board the plane that you'd like the high-protein (if you have a choice) dinner served to you at arrival city's breakfast time. This way they can put it aside and won't start heating it up before you tell them to save it for later. This meal helps the body wake up and synchronize itself with the Parisians, who are having breakfast at about the same time. Fortunately, Northworst Airlines used to be so late in taking off, that by the time they were serving dinner, it was BREAKFAST TIME IN EUROPE.  So even though they are incredulous when you ask to have your meal "saved", you can go ahead and eat their dinner. 

On Alitalia recently, dinner was at 8p.m. Florida time and I figured that since it was 2+ hours past my normal dinner time, what the heck.  Alitalia, pasta, sleep -- sounded good to me.  (do I sound like an early-bird diner?)  So I didn't stay on the fast, but still outlasted my travel companions in Rome the next day!!!

Once you've had breakfast, STAY ACTIVE to keep the body working on Paris time. The other passengers are asleep, but you are walking the aisles, talking to the cabin attendants or working on your laptop PC. Heck, the aroma of a steak dinner being consumed early in the morning will generate a lot of questions and can keep you busy explaining your new diet!  Or if you've landed, don't be tempted to hit the hotel for a nap!

Monday afternoon in Paris, the traveler has a high-protein lunch. Steak is a good choice. That evening, he or she eats a high-carbohydrate supper - crepes, for example, but with no high-protein meat filling - and goes to bed early. Tuesday morning, the traveler has little or no jet lag!

On the return trip the procedure is reversed, with one change. Going from East to West, the traveler wants to turn the body clock back six hours so that arrival at say, 10 p.m. Miami time the body's clock is not still set at 4 a.m. Paris time.

The same feast-fast-feast-fast procedure is followed as before, except that plenty of coffee is consumed the morning before flight and the morning of the flight, but avoided in the afternoon and evening of both days.

After boarding the plane, the traveler again coordinates his or her schedule with that of the destination. The fast is broken with a large high-protein breakfast at about the same time Floridians are eating theirs.

The diet can be flexible, but best results are obtained by closely following the rules. But avoiding Parisian food on fast days ... ? At the very, very, minimum just fast on the day you leave, and break the fast with lots of protein at breakfast time of your destination. Follow as many of the cues as you can.  I have always had the worst case of jet lag of anyone I've traveled with.  An Australia trip one time had me incoherent for days.  This diet has been a Godsend for me; the closer you stick to its' rules the happier you'll be!  Trust me!


1. FEAST-FAST-FEAST-FAST. Start four days before destination breakfast time. On day 1, feast; eat heartily with high-protein breakfast and lunch and a high-carbohydrate supper. No caffeine except between 3 and 5 p.m. On day 2 fast on light meals. No caffeine except between 3 and 5 p.m. On day 3 feast again (protein, protein, carbohydrate meals). On day 4, fast; drink caffeine in the morning if traveling west, or between 6 and 11 p.m. if going east.
2. Break the final fast at destination breakfast tine, wherever you are. No alcohol on the plane. If the flight is long enough, sleep until destination breakfast time, but no later. Wake up and feast on a high-protein breakfast (not croissants). Stay awake and active.

It really works -- bon voyage!

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