“That’s when I’m most productive,” Porzingis said this week as he mimics mobile typing. “I review my notes, I delete this, I do everything. I organize my life.”
Porzingis will have plenty of time to organize when the Wizards travel to Japan this week for two pre-season games against the Golden State Warriors on Friday and Sunday. The team’s charter flight takes off from Dulles International Airport at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday and is scheduled to land just after 5 p.m. in Japan on Wednesday, meaning that Porsingis, his teammates, and the rest of the organization’s nearly 100 team members will spend more than 14 hours. in flight.
Spending that long time trapped and breathing recycled air is a pain for anyone. For Wizards players, how well they can tolerate dehydration, disrupted sleep and jet lag can make a difference on the field — both in Japan and, crucially, when they get home and play a couple of extra games before the start of the season. How well they travel is a matter of competitive advantage.
That’s why Sue Saunders Bouvier, who serves as a nutritionist for Wizards, Mystics and Nationals, and Mark Simpson, vice president of player performance at Monumental Sports, have been working for months to plan Washington’s trip to T.
“We gave specific advice on when to wear their eye masks during the flight,” Simpson said.
The overall message that Saunders Bouvier and Simpson have given to the players is not adapting. The Wizards are on Earth in Japan for only four full days, so any attempt to get into Japan’s time will do more harm than good on the other side of the journey.
To help the Washington players trick their bodies into thinking they’re still in DC time, Simpson provided everyone with a step-by-step infographic showing when, exactly, during a 14-hour flight they should wake up and eat their meals, open the shade on the window seat and try to rest. The team consulted with sleep specialist Chris Winter to determine the amount of sleep needed. Ahead of what Simpson and Winter decide to be the perfect bedtime for players, the team will serve up sleep-enhancing food and lower the temperature in the cabin.
“There is a certain set of variables – we call them zeitgebers – that our brains use to figure out where we are in time,” Winter said. “The light, the meal timing, the social interaction, the exercise … it’s really about thinking about and manipulating that kind of sensory input so the brain doesn’t actually feel like it’s gone to Tokyo.”
Saunders Bouvier’s meal planning can help with that.
A successful journey, from a nutrition point of view, starts from the moment the players board. Players will be surrounded by food from then on to make sure their bodies are adequately fueled during the long journey and on the long bus journeys the team will have once they land in Tokyo. The Saitama Super Arena, where the games are held, is about a 25-mile drive away in Tokyo traffic.
“The theme for this trip is ‘Snacks on a Plane’,” said Saunders Bouvier, who began his planning five months ago with a simple question, ‘Is Gatorade in Japan? (No, but there are alternatives.)
Saunders Bouvier tries to keep everything but sports drinks intact.
“It’s so routine. It’s not just about what time you eat the meal, it’s what your meal looks like – it’s a little Pavlovian.” “Having breakfast at dinner time might actually be beneficial in Japan because it’s dinner in Washington, D.C., and having a little delicious breakfast that coincides with the time we usually have dinner, these are the things that reduce the disruption of being the clock completely reversed for seven days”.
Consider eating steak and eggs for breakfast instead of scrambled eggs and crepes instead of rice as a starch for dinner. But when talking about carbohydrates – watch out for those. Eating a lot of dinner on the plane will energize the body and can disrupt sleep. Saunders Bouvier encourages players to eat a protein-rich meal before rest, and offers enough options—crab, shrimp, steak, chicken, and vegetarian options—to make anyone want to skip menus altogether.
But even with careful planning of all the support staff, not everything is under their control. Players and coaches will spend time on board the way they choose, whether it’s Porzingis filtering his inbox or striker Tag Gibson’s favorite way to pass the time.
Gibson, 37, doesn’t sleep well on planes anymore. But he has a plan for that.
You can open some wine, relax and start telling stories,” Gibson said with a smile. “This is the whole process of being on board. Get comfortable, because we will be around each other a lot.”