When to eat when you fly – it’s all in the timing

When we fly we need to pay extra attention to what we put into our bodies, as the decisions we make about when we eat are as important as what we eat. 

Our bodies operate on circadian rhythms - approximately 24-hour changes governed by our internal clocks that determine many physiological processes. New research suggests that by delaying mealtimes, we can also delay our blood sugar rhythms by the same time frame, demonstrating that mealtimes help synchronise our internal clocks that control rhythms of blood sugar concentration.

So what does this mean for flying? Well, you might want to consider timing your meals to resynchronise your body clock so that you land feeling ready for your new time zone. Meals help to regulate your underlying rhythms so try to stick to the mealtimes of your destination time zone, also skipping the in-flight nightcap because alcohol can act as a stimulant. This could mean skipping a meal or asking staff to eat at a different time so you’re aligned with mealtimes at your destination.

Preparation before you fly is key. When possible choose a night flight so you’re more likely to sleep on the way to your destination. Also, if your flight is under 5 hours, eat before you get on the plane and avoid eating when you’re on board. Choose whole foods, vegetables, lean protein, eggs, nuts, antioxidant rich food and the well studies benefits of beetroot juice for an extra boost. If you travel frequently have your vitamin D levels checked regularly as travelling between time zones can lead to a reduced exposure to daylight. Vitamin D deficiency is common and linked to a range of health risks, including many cancers. There is also a genetic predisposition to not having effective Vitamin D metabolism this can be tested remotely and at The Aviation Nutritionist Clinic.

Avoid sugar rich products such as soft drinks, processed foods, bakery items, sweets and non-fibre carb foods like white bread, and limit your caffeine intake. At night time, stay away from foods that are high in iron (such as red meat) as they can disrupt the livers circadian rhythm and cause it to be out of synch, enhancing glucose metabolism problems.

Staying hydrated on flights is also important as the pressurised cabins cause increased fluid losses. Symptoms of dehydration may include headaches or slight constipation. Take extra fluid on the plane with you as you don’t get served enough water on flights so your intake will often be inadequate. Electrolyte drinks which also include the jetlag preventative ingredient pine bark like 1Above make an excellent choice as they help balance the body’s natural salt balance and decrease urine and nutrient loss. Aim to drink approximately 1 glass minimum per hour during the flight. Think about if you intend to go to sleep for a majority of your flight that you don’t board the plane dehydrated so minimizing diuretics such as tea and coffee.

Some other tips to help make a smooth transition between time zones:

  1. Aim for  three satisfying meals  across a 24-hour  period

  2. Avoid large meals for 1-2 hours prior to sleep

  3. Eat  breakfast before sleeping in the day  to avoid waking due to hunger

  4. Be mindful of what you’re eating – eat because you’re hungry and avoid the emotional pattern of eating through boredom when travelling

To really feel good when you fly, it’s important to try and maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle with exercise, regular meal times and good sleep patterns all the time. We’re all individual so have different requirements when we fly, but trying to understand that timing is as important as what we eat can help improve the challenges around travel and jetlag.


The Aviation Nutritionist talks to frequent flyer & former world no.1 golfer Lydia Ko.

Her Competitive Edge May Lie in Her DNA

Ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies Scottish Open,  we met with sports and travel hydration recovery drink 1Above ambassador former world no.1 golfer Lydia Ko. 

Lydia regularly travels on private jets to reduce fatigue and meet her busy schedules. Sports professionals on top of their game have to look after what they eat and drink to effectively recover from their unique challenging lifestyle and to keep them on the top of their game.  

The Aviation Nutritionist understands the multi factors needed to be considered to improve an athlete's competitive edge, working with in-flight caterers who supply food to the world's top sports professionals to minimise travel associated fatigue.

Dietary intervention is effective if achieved on a personalised individualised approach, and giving athletes tailored dietary and other performance-related information based on their genetic makeup is part of a growing new field.

Genetics play a critical role in determining how athletes respond to foods, nutrients and supplements, as demonstrated by recent research in the emerging field of “nutrigenomics” – the science that seeks to explain how genetic variation alters our response to diet, which impacts general health and athletic performance. Lydia has agreed to share her results and we explain how she can optimise her performance by personalising her foods and supplements based on her unique DNA.

Lydia’s extensive report has 5 key summarised areas below which if not considered may impact on her performance, recovery and her elite sports professional status. 

Nutrient Metabolism  

Vitamin D

Having enough vitamin D is really important especially when exercising. It increases bone mineral density, reduces the risk of stress fractures, and could also play an important role in heart health, immune function, muscle recovery and muscle building during intense training. Although Lydia gets enough vitamin D on the US circuit her DNA results show she is susceptible to having low levels, as we know in Scotland the sun doesn't always shine so she needs to be mindful of this when recovering. Optimal levels of vitamin D are difficult to obtain from the diet alone, so

Lydia should take a supplement that incorporates an appropriate fish oil to support her performance and recovery.


Iron is a mineral which we need to help our bodies form red blood cells to transport oxygen in the body. Low iron stores can lead to anaemia which is associated with fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness and reduced aerobic capacity, therefore leading to poor performance.

Lydia’s genetic predisposition shows she needs to focus particularly on getting enough iron so we’d suggest she consumes good amounts of dark green leafy vegetables, beans, red meat or seafood, plus enough vitamin C which helps support the absorption of iron. Tannins found in tea can prevent effective absorption of iron so should be consumed separately.

Cardiometabolic Health  


Globally, caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant with many athletes having it to enhance training and performance. Research on the impact of caffeine on cardiovascular health and athletic performance gives varied results. For example, Nanci Guest’s research showed that fast metabolisers of caffeine saw significant improvements in endurance after having caffeine compared to taking a placebo.

Slow metabolisers however experienced no benefit, often performing worse compared to their placebo endurance test. They are also at higher risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure when consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine (2 small cups of coffee or 3-4 cups of tea) per day.

Lydia’s results show she is particularly sensitive to caffeine, as is 50% of the general population, so she should limit her intake and monitor her performance after drinking it to note if it impacts her endurance or focus on the course.

Food Intolerances


Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products which must be broken down by the enzyme lactase to be properly digested. Some people don’t produce enough, or any, lactase, so the lactose passes through the intestines undigested, leading to unpleasant side effects including bloating, cramps and diarrhoea. Individuals who consume a lactose-free diet are at a greater risk of inadequate calcium and vitamin D, both of which are important for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, and reducing the risk of low bone density and stress fractures that often occur in athletes.

Lydia’s ancestry could explain why she has a limited ability to tolerate lactose: 9/10 people of Asian descent are lactose intolerant compared to 3/10 of people of European descent. Optimal levels of calcium and vitamin D can still be achieved through fortified milk alternatives such as soy, almond, and rice beverages but she should check the label to confirm that she’s choosing products that include them.

Physical Activity Performance

The report also includes tailored information on fitness and physical activity, allowing us to make some insights about the risk of injury and other indicators of physical performance.  

Lydia had one genetic marker which will give her a huge advantage on the course: a high pain tolerance. Pain is triggered by the nervous system and there are substantial differences in the degree to which people feel pain. Lydia’s tolerance to pain gives her an advantage to train hard and push herself which could be why she’s has been the world number 1.

You can get your own DNAviation report by contacting Sarah Anderson at her London UK, Harley Street Clinic.
Article Published in Golf New Zealand - Aug 2017

Nutrigenomics References



The Aviation Nutritionist  & Sarah Anderson Nutrition



The Aviation Nutritionist talks DNA test results & nutrition to frequent flyer & former world no.1 golfer Lydia Ko.


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What are antioxidants and why are they so important when we fly? 

As we launch our new private jet in-flight menu with Absolute Taste, we look at what antioxidants are, why they’re important to our diet and how you can make sure you’re having enough when you fly.

An antioxidant is something that reverses or stops ‘oxidation’, the chemical reaction that takes place when a substance gains oxygen. Imagine a freshly cut apple or avocado turning brown, a nail becoming rusty or a copper statue turning green - these are everyday examples of oxidation.

Oxidation occurs within all of us, however it can become harmful when it creates free radicals - unstable molecules that negatively impact cell membrane health, proteins, lipids and DNA which can trigger a number of human diseases including cancer and heart diseases. We also take in free radicals from our environment, for example they are in burnt and fried foods, chemicals including pesticides, personal products and various other exposures in our daily lives. These free radicals need to be caught before they cause us damage.

This is where antioxidants can come to the rescue. Our natural protectors against the damage that free radicals cause, antioxidants can help us age better, reduce the severity of chronic disease, improve our cognition and mental health, and improve and maintain our general wellness. The nutritional content of natural whole foods is just what our body needs to negate the effects of our own, sometimes damaging, biochemical processes.

However, we sometimes struggle to obtain sufficient antioxidants due to variety of factors. Many of us live in nutritionally deficient societies where urbanisation, overuse of agricultural land, intensive farming, stress-fuelled lifestyles and easy access to processed foods are prevalent and mean we may not provide our body with the essential nutrition we require.

So what can we do to protect ourselves?

•    Eat organic and/or local produce as often as possible.


•    Base your diet on whole foods (fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains,       plus try going gluten, wheat and dairy free when you fly)


•    Minimise and ideally eliminate processed foods which are usually void of any     antioxidant nutrition.


•    Keep a healthy mind by staying hydrated, happy and stress-free. Try 1Above hydration support drink.


•    Include key nutrients in your diet that help support high antioxidant activity, such as:  Turmeric: containing the active ingredient curcumin, this spice is known for killing cancers, improving cognition and reducing the signs of ageing.


•    Vitamin C: improves immune cell function.


•    Vitamin D: enhance innate immunity and inhibits the development of autoimmunity.


•    Probiotics: along with their benefits for digestive and immune health, the friendly bacteria in our gut have been associated with reduced oxidation and inflammation.

How we can we get enough antioxidants when we fly?

Working with Absolute Taste we’ve developed our new private jet in-flight menu to support optimal performance as well aid digestion and recovery after travel.  

High dietary antioxidant intakes are associated with decreased DNA damage in airline pilots with those getting the most vitamin C from food, B carotene from food, cryptoxanthin from food, and lutein/zeaxanthin from food, seeing the most significant results. Studies show that a diet consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables provides a natural source of these antioxidants as well as potentially offering other protection against cumulative DNA damage and radiation exposure. The results are especially relevant to flight crews, astronauts, and frequent flyers.

Some highlights from our menu show how you can take in these vital antioxidants when flying.


Taster of the In -Flight Menu avaialble with Absolute Taste

Chicken tagine with grilled aubergine, almond cauliflower couscous and pomegranate seeds

Rich in antioxidants and fibre, cauliflower counteracts the sluggish digestion brought on by altitude and supports effective liver function and detoxification. Vitamin C and potassium packed pomegranate support a healthy heart, aided by the anti-inflammatory effects of the spices.

Macro salad with quinoa, butternut squash, beetroot, avocado, sauerkraut, dulse seaweed, kale, baby chard and pumpkin seeds with a miso and fresh ginger dressing

Radiation when flying stresses the immune system and the seaweed and kale in this salad provide iron and calcium to support it, working in tandem with sauerkraut, which promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut. Beta-carotene from the butternut squash meanwhile promotes skin health.

Pan roasted cannon of lamb with butternut squash, charred apricots, coriander and toasted coconut

Butternut squash is a great source of energy sustaining carbohydrate and fibre which supports healthy digestion whilst maintaining a relaxed nervous system. High levels of vitamin A support impaired cognitive function, helping to manage the physical stresses experienced at altitude.

Chocolate and avocado mousse with red berries, cacao nibs and fresh basil (v)

Cacao is high in magnesium which helps to relax the nervous system at altitude. Avocado is also an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats, nourishing for the skin and protecting for the cardiovascular system. This is a tasty, satisfying dessert designed to help balance blood sugar levels.

Some pick-me-ups

The Aviation Nutritionist energy protein balls (v)

Packed with flavour and natural sweetness, these protein balls ensure stable blood sugar for consistent energy levels. They contain chia which is full of antioxidants to boost the immune system, and combined with blood sugar-balancing oats, is also high in protein and omegas to aid digestion. The magnesium in cashews helps reduce the chance of headaches, and supports immunity and lower blood pressure at altitude, while the beetroot is rich in nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow.

Immunity juice: Beetroot, carrot, fresh ginger and turmeric

Rich in nitric oxide to dilate the blood vessels and improve circulation in-flight, beetroot also provides natural sweetness to this juice. Ginger helps to aid digestion, whilst turmeric provides an effective anti-inflammatory to counteract the stresses on the body whilst in the air.

Booster shot: Apple, lemon and fresh ginger

Rich in antioxidants, this booster also provides excellent digestive aid from the pectin in the apple and ginger. The vitamins from the fruit will give you a natural immunity boost, while the ginger contains gingerols and shogaols which relax the intestinal tract, helping to counteract motion sickness and nausea.

2 simple steps to minimise the harmful effects of travel

1.   Ensure you consume enough antioxidants before, during and after the flight.

2.   When you arrive at your destination have a recovery bath before you go to sleep and help reset your body’s rhythm. Just mix a cup of Epsom salts with baking soda or Himalayan sea salts and you’ll really see the difference.



Eat right sleep tight

We all feel the benefit from a good night’s sleep.  Getting the right amount of sleep is paramount for a healthy and productive lifestyle, but many of us struggle to get the rest we need.  Everyday stresses can lead to restless nights, and for shift workers, frequent flyers, flight and cabin crew operating in different time zones, proper sleep can be something of a challenge.

Chronic sleep loss is becoming common in today’s society, yet many people are unaware of the potential adverse health effects it can bring.  These include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression.  Lack of sleep is also believed to suppress the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to infection.  Sleep should not be considered a luxury, but an important component of a healthy lifestyle.

There are many ways to achieve a good night’s sleep and a nutritious balanced diet is an important one.

Sugar crush

Besides stress and stimulants like caffeine, the other substance that can raise the activity of the two adrenal hormones, adrenalin and cortisol, is sugar.  When blood sugar drops too low, the adrenal hormones have to compensate and start rising.

Raised adrenal hormones, important in keeping our bodies awake and for dealing with daily stressors, hinder our bodies from falling and remaining asleep.  Elevated levels of these hormones also prevent essential tissue repair, effectively speeding up the ageing process.

Talking turkey

When you start to wind down, serotonin (a brain chemical that promotes relaxation) levels rise and adrenalin levels fall.  As it gets darker another neurotransmitter, melatonin, kicks in.  Melatonin is an almost identical molecule to serotonin and its main role in the brain is to regulate the sleep/wake cycle.  Foods that are particularly high in the amino acid that creates the sleep hormones include turkey, chicken, cheese, tuna, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk.  Cherries and are one of the richest known sources of natural melatonin and walnuts help absorb the melatonin effectively into the bloodstream.

Smell the coffee

We all know that caffeine keeps us awake.  It not only stimulates the body, but also depresses melatonin for up to ten hours. This may sound obvious but as we know  It’s best to limit our intake, especially before sleeping.


Heady metals

A deficiency of calcium and especially magnesium can trigger or exacerbate sleep difficulties.  These two minerals work together to calm the body and relax the nervous system.  Magnesium is a natural tranquiliser, helping support energy levels when we’re stressed or when we’ve consumed too much sugar.  Good sources of magnesium include Brazil nuts, broccoli, halibut, oysters, edamame beans, spinach and whole refined grains.  Consider adding powdered greens (available at all good health food shops) to water or juice to increase these essential nutrients.

Studies have found that calcium levels are higher during some of the deepest stages of sleep. The study concluded that disturbance in sleep may be related to calcium deficiency.  Alcohol can interfere with calcium absorption, so cutting back on the booze is a good idea.  Many of us think that dairy products are a source of calcium, but they are not necessarily the best for us.  High-calcium foods also include leafy green vegetables, beans and pulses.  These are also low in fat and contain other vital nutrients for calcium absorption.

What will you be including in your diet next time you want a restful sleep?


Flying takes its toll on the body, but there are steps you can take to recover quickly.

The cabin environment affects your body, disrupting hormones, digestion and weakening your immune system, leaving you feeling bloated, tired and run- down. In general, your digestion doesn’t operate at its best when flying, so I’d recommend avoiding a big meal just before and during flight. But when you just can’t wait, there are foods you can eat to mitigate the effects and bounce back faster.

Every meal should contain a portion of good-quality protein and essential fats e.g. wild salmon, lean meat or flaxseed to promote good immunity, hormone balance and optimum fluid levels. And, of course, accompanied by leafy greens for a good dose of magnesium - this vital mineral relaxes the nervous system, and with it, promotes good health around the body.



The cabin’s pressure desensitises your tastebuds - which explains why curries are so popular on commercial flights. But there’s more to a well-flavoured dish than taste. I often recommend my clients flavour their meals with beneficial spices and herbs, such as turmeric to support circulation and cinnamon to balance blood sugar levels.

Try not to be tempted by dessert - sugar only stresses your body further and plays havoc with your energy levels. Instead, eat immunity-boosting foods high in Vitamin C and Zinc such as kiwi fruit and unsalted cashew nuts. Foods rich in these also promote the absorption of iron, helping your cells take on oxygen and promoting energy.

And above all - hydrate. Countless studies stress how dehydration impairs performance. Ask any experienced Everest climber and their top tip for altitude - water!

Every body is different, but with a few small changes to what you eat and drink, flying can become a much more pleasant experience.