How to Beat Jet Lag Like a CIA Agent

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Bodies are weird.

The key to beating jet lag is all in your diet, at least according to well-traveled members of the CIA. When these agents hit the road, they stick to a special miracle diet that purportedly keeps you from falling into a time zone slump after you land. But you’ll be pretty hungry in the meantime.

How Does It Work?

The short answer? By tricking your body. The diet, (appropriately) called the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet, was developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to fool your body clock into aligning with your new time zone so you don’t feel like a zombie that’s several hours ahead or behind of its old one.

How Do I Go on This Diet?

Well, first up, the only thing you’re allowed to have at the airport or on the plane is water—apologies if you’re a huge fan of airline food. Why? According to the diet’s developers, fasting is the best way to adjust your body clock to a new time zone. When you land, you have your next meal at local breakfast time in your destination (not breakfast time back home).

When you are ready to eat, you can eat as much as you want. The frequent fliers at aviation website God Save the Points recommend consuming a high-protein breakfast to get your strength back. During the rest of the day, they also advise travelers to avoid carbs, stay in well-lit environments and get plenty of exercise, “or fresh air at the very least.” If you find yourself in need of caffeine (take note, coffee drinkers), grab some before 3 pm. Finally, to get an ideal night’s sleep, consume a carb-heavy dinner.

So, What’s With the CIA?

INSIDER TIPIf you can’t wait that long, count backward 14 hours from breakfast time in your destination. Stop eating then. Or use an online jet lag tool to do the math for you.

Reportedly, this diet was designed for “agents” (aka…spies?) who travel a lot. We’ve shared the diet that most non-secret agent frequent fliers use. The “extreme” version of the diet (or the original version, used by maybe-spies) requires you to fast for days leading up to your departure as opposed to roughly a dozen hours.

Agents start four days before they travel by following the “feast” portion of the Argonne diet (eat a high protein breakfast on your next time zone’s schedule) for one day. Then they fast the next day. They continue their feast, fast, feast, fast cycle until it’s time for them to have breakfast at their destination. The idea is that, instead of simply resetting their stomach (as mentioned above), they’re training it.

Does It Actually Work?

Science and anecdotal evidence say “yes.” This diet was so popular with the CIA that eventually even civilian frequent fliers began to use it. And, according to a 2002 study published in the medical journal Military Medicine, travelers who used the Argonne diet were seven times less likely to kick jet lag when traveling west and 14 times less likely when they were traveling east.

Our Advice? Make Sure the Diet Works for You Before You Try It

Even the simple version of this diet is a little extreme. If you do decide try it, take your personal health into account. Fasting, for example, changes your blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous for people who are pregnant, have diabetes, low blood sugar or kidney problems, per WebMD. If you do have the medical all-clear, go for it. This diet does reportedly help reset your body’s internal clock.