As pilots, we often face very long days, on both short-haul and long-haul operations. Staying seated for so many hours is a non-natural position for the human body and the effects can be easily felt: loss of concentration, drowsiness, fatigue, muscle stiffness, headaches, etc. We all have encountered this before, but how to avoid it? Let’s find out!
The average human body ideally needs around 3.5 liters (male) or 3 liters (female) of water a day, especially if you are looking at losing that extra weight accumulated during lockdown (doesn’t your uniform feels slightly tighter recently?).
The airplane is a very dry environment, and some airplanes are worse than others (for example, the Boeing 777 is notorious for being very dry while the Boeing 787, with its lower cabin altitude and cabin humidifiers, is much better). But regardless of the aircraft type you fly, you can easily start being dehydrated without really noticing it at first. Therefore, to avoid dehydration, you should drink up to 5 liters of water a day as a male pilot or up to 4 liters as a female.
If you fail to do so, the first signs you will feel are headaches, tiredness or loss of focus. So, if you drink more water, you will not only avoid these unpleasant feelings during the flight, but it will also force you to stand up more often to pay a visit to the bathroom. This brings us into the next point!
Ask your colleague to take control, stand up, and stretch your chest, your back, your shoulders and your neck. This will be very beneficial as it will improve your blood circulation and avoid muscle stiffness and cramps. Standing up regularly will also keep you more alert on long sectors!
Crew meals unfortunately contain a lot of fat and salt to help conservation. If you can, avoid crew meals or reduce your consumption by either bringing your meals from home or looking for a healthier option onboard (business class left-over salads, soups etc). Stay as far away from the passenger soda’s trolley as you can! Drinking water is much better for you.
The problem with nuts is that they are often presented to us on the crew meal tray and they are very hard to resist! However, nuts contain a very dense calorie concentration and just a handful can contain easily 200 calories. If you combine these with the crew meal and no movement for several hours, this is a recipe for cardiovascular disaster!
Enjoy your time down-route, meet the crew and visit places. Stay active and avoid crashing into bed as soon as you arrive until pick-up the next day. If you comply with the previous 4 tips, you should start feeling much better as you enter your hotel room.
Take a shower, refresh, and go for a walk or a visit. You can of course have a drink and a nice meal! However, don’t fall into the trap of doing too much cardio as you arrive at your destination!
Going systematically for a very long run session at the hotel gym is not a good idea. After a flight, a long run is extra stress to your body and cardiovascular system, and it will deplete your energy level even further. Cardio exercises should be done with great moderation!
If you’d like to hear more great tips about how to stay fit as a pilot, listen to CAE Pilot Podcast episode 10: Get Fit To Fly with Andrea Biundo health here.
You can also visit Andrea’s website BeFit2Fly.
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