Athletes perform significantly worse after a flight across three time zones. Wearing compression clothes before and during the flight can prevent performance degradation. This tight clothing also enhances recovery during a flight. According to a very detailed study in which the researchers flew back and forth, within three days, with their subjects between the US east and west coasts. Anyone who has ever made a long flight knows that traveling through different time zones could result in a major disruption from the daily rhythm. This phenomenon is also known as jet lag. Jetlag also has an adverse impact on sports performance.

Athletes are therefore advised to arrive well in time before the race starts at the sport location. As a rule of thumb, athletes traveling to the west require half a day of acclimatization for each hour time difference. In the case of a trip to the east it is even a whole day per hour time difference. These advices apply to situations in which more than three time zones are passed. Remarkably, it appears that there are only a few good studies on the decline of the performance after a flight through several time zones. In addition, it is unclear whether compression clothes can help to reduce the loss of performance. A group of researchers led by the famous American scientist William Kraemer has now designed an original study in an attempt to change this.



After a flight across three time zones athletes who wear compression garments perform, on arrival and two days after, worse than before the trip. For example, the sprint performance decreases by about five per cent, measured by using different tests. In addition, the athletes according to a questionnaire have a jetlag and sleep worse after the trip. A trip across three time zones has a major impact on daily rhythm of sport and hence also performance.

Athletes can avoid this performance loss by wearing long compression pants and a long-sleeved compression shirt before and during the trip. While wearing tight clothing the athletes experience less jetlag and sleep loss, no performance loss occurs. This is probably due to the fact that compression clothes ensure a better return of the blood flow, when someone sits quietly, like in an airplane. This tight clothing provides also a better recovery after exercise. So these athletes, who wore these clothes during the flight, show less creatine kinase in their blood, an indicator of muscle damage. This muscle damage had developed after the athletes, on the day after arrival, had a simulated race in their program containing a lot of eccentric workload.

The researchers found these results after they flew with a group of recreational athletes over a period of three days back and forth between the US east and west coasts. The outbound flight was during the day and return at night.

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The results of this comprehensive study showed that athletes, even when a difference of “only” three hours it should taken into account that both jet lag and loss of performance can occur. Athletes can avoid this performance degradation by wearing compression garments preceding and during the journey to. The advices how to handle with jet lag are intended for athletes who cross more than three time zones. The results of this study ensure that the opinions also on short trips have to be adapted. Regardless of the time difference to bridge they recommended anyway to wear compression garments before and during the trip. Whether it is then necessary to wear both a compression-shirt and pants or that only compression stockings also suffice, is not clear. Incidentally, it is impossible to say whether the above is based on a placebo effect since the athletes feel that they wear tight clothes.