5 Supplements to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag

Business travel? Or maybe you're just working an 80-hour week. How to keep going when you're exhausted or jetlagged

Written by Theresa Albert

The average PROFIT 500 CEO works 56 hours a week. Frequent travel for meetings or events can push you over the edge, because it hits you in three crucial areas: sleep, energy and, to put it bluntly, guts. When you travel, you’re likely not getting what you need to stay rested, energetic and healthy. There are a few simple ways to fix that. Here are 5 little supplements that take up no more room than a shaving kit that will ensure your body sleeps, creates energy, processes food efficiently, and lets you feel good, even when you’re treating yourself less than gently.

Melatonin and Magnesium for Sleep

Each time you get on a plane and switch time zones, your brain actually goes off kilter. Do that too often and your cognitive performance become more deficient than it would be after a night of drinking. What’s more, your metabolism slows down, which can pad your waistline.

Melatonin is the naturally occurring brain hormone that makes you drowsy. When your body’s melatonin production is disturbed, your muscles lack the tool they need to relax. Ever feel your eye twitch or your legs jump? That’s nothing more than your muscles telling you they need magnesium melatonin.

A well-timed shot of this supplement resets your clock and mimics the body’s own sleep signal. Take 0.3-1 mg of melatonin 90 minutes before you go to sleep. Experiment with what’s right for you, but only take it on occasion and for no longer than a few weeks at a time. Reset your sleep patterns and let your body’s natural rhythms do the rest.

Magnesium regulates more than 325 enzymes in the body. It is literally the foundation of many other things you’re asking your body to do, including produce, transport, store and use energy. Take 100-300 mg of magnesium as a supplement before bed to reinforce that foundation.

B Vitamins for Conversion of Energy

If you’re eating all the super fruits and vegetables you can get your hands on and you still don’t feel energized, it may be because your body is unable to use their fuel.

Each of the 11 B Vitamins contribute to the breaking apart and putting back together of fuel in the stomach.They’re crucial to many physical functions, including proper nerve transmissions and the production of hormones that control our reactions to emotional and physical stress and the flight-or-fight response. When you’re tired or stressed, your body burns through the Bs more quickly than usual, which means you need to replace them.

B complex supplements come in 100 mg capsules. You can take one or two each day to give you a little zip just before an important meeting (that you may be about to snooze through).

probiotics and Chia for Gut Health

When you travel, you are subject to many new germs that want to set up shop in your gut and make finding a bathroom that much more of an emergency. With a poor balance of good bacteria in your system, you are much more likely to suffer the ills.

You’re born with a colony of good bacteria in your gut that helps break down food and establish your immunity. Your mom gave you hers for free on your way out, but you can enhance or destroy this immunity-building, food-digesting factory. Antibiotics (fed to your food and to you) as well as a poor diet and stress can diminish your stores and make you susceptible to everything from diarrhoea to low serotonin levels in the brain. Feeding the good bacteria so they can take care of the disease, yeasts and fungus that want to take you down is your best bet.

Taking probiotics helps to usher out the little gut bugs that find their way into your body before they can make you sick. Be sure to choose capsules that say “do not require refrigeration.”

One of the worst things about travel is that it can make you constipated. The dehydration alone can block you up. Add to that the typically low-fibre, low-vegetable nature of road food and you seal the deal.

Chia is a flavourless ancient grain that provides the perfect gentle fibre to move things along. It’s also loaded with nutrients like omega3s, zinc and potassium, which are missing from processed food. Chia absorbs water and draws it into the bowel, where the grain swells into a gentle, spherical gel that has been shown to not only balance bowel movements but regulate blood sugar levels.

That brings us back to where energy begins: you do not want to ride the wave of a blood sugar crash, picking yourself up off the floor, then a blood sugar spike — that’s the worst fatigue there is.

Chia travels easily and can be stirred into anything: yogurt, oatmeal, even soup. But this fibre is so effective that you want it to be a part of your daily life, too. Start at home by slowly adding about a half a teaspoon any time of day, to any food, and work your way up to a tablespoon and a half by the end of two weeks.

In the end, this simple list of supplements will fill the space of a bar of soap in your carry-on bag, but save you a week of downtime on the rebound. Now, all you have to do is remember to take them.

Theresa Albert is private nutritionist who practices like no other in Toronto: she comes to you and creates systems in your life that work. In addition to being a media commentator on CTV Newschannel, CBC and Global she has two books published in Canada and the U.S.: Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and Ace Your Health, 52 Ways to Stack Your Deck.

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