The habitual use of caffeine robs most frequent fliers of potential benefit when it comes to jet lag. The therapeutic use of caffeine can be a good thing for frequent fliers. Our love affair with caffeine has a long history that has benefits and disadvantages depending on how you use caffeine. To be precise it has benefits and disadvantages dependent on the TYPE of caffeine used.
Caffeine is naturally present in coffee all the varieties of Tea, Yerba Mate (a South American evergreen tree from the Holly family) and the Sub-Saharan Kola nut. It is a psychoactive (affects the mind) and CNS (central nervous system) stimulant. Caffeine is the same wherever it is found; responses and reactions depend on other nutrients it is with and individual tolerances.
The habit of reaching for a cup of caffeine first thing in the morning lies at the heart of our discussion. In the West it is probably a cup of coffee or black tea. Caffeine is an enervator as such it taps into your emergency supply of energy. While this can be useful for occasional use it is not a good habit to cultivate especially if it is the wrong type of caffeine and if you are a frequent flier.
The energy caffeine taps into needs replenishing. The mechanism used to produce the desired effect uses the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are part of your flight or fight mechanism. The regular use of this mechanism in this way wears them down and can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Using caffeine from superior sources like Green Tea and Mate can blunt this draining effect.
The problem in most cases is one of dependency. The caffeine habit leaves you with nowhere to go when you really need that burst of energy to complete a project or concentrate. A lot of caffeine drinkers have got themselves to a place where they can’t function without their daily dose. Sometimes bordering on addiction. When these people fly they don’t get the effect they were after and need even more. For some it becomes a slippery slope to using pharmaceutical aids instead.
A slight adjustment and a little knowledge can rectify things and allow frequent fliers to use caffeine therapeutically for jet lag. Coffee and black tea leach minerals from the body. As minerals are at the center of enzyme systems in the body preserving them is important. Switching from coffee and black tea to Yerba Mate and Green Tea which have their nutrients intact is a good idea.
Another difference between these two groups is that coffee and tea are more processed than Yerba Mate and Green Tea. The degree of processing makes a difference so by the same token caffeine laced soft drinks should also be avoided. Caffeine’s borrowed energy must be paid back. If it is not you face diminishing energy returns and your adrenal glands pay the price. Using caffeine sparingly in your daily diet allows it to have a full effect when used to combat jet lag.
The way to use it in the context of jet lag is when you are off the plane not on it. While the scientific community debates whether caffeine has diuretic properties or not its contribution to conditions that favour dehydration on a plane is not in question. If you have abstained from caffeine before your trip and use it as a “pick me up” on landing you will get the desired effect. Choosing a variety that has its nutrient content intact (especially theanine) will give you the alertness you want without the jitters.