If you work nights or regularly do shift work then it can be really difficult to stick to a healthy schedule. You are more likely to eat irregularly, unhealthily, skip meals and probably find it hard to fit in exercise. The unfortunate fact is that shift workers are more at risk of weight gain and heart disease than those who work set daily hours. If you work nights, it is super important that you implement a schedule which is easy to follow and works for you but is also healthy. Getting enough sleep and eating wholesome foods can make working shifts easier on your body and can improve your overall health. Here are some of my top tips on how to stay healthy if you work night shifts:
1. Stock Up On Healthy Foods
Have healthy foods readily available both at home and at work. If you are tired or grumpy you can be more likely to reach for the junk because it is easier. Getting rid of junk food is the first step to eating healthier, if eating it isn’t an option in the first place you won’t get into a mind battle of “should I, shouldn’t I?”. Fill your pantry up with fruits and veggies, hummus, nuts and even homemade energy bars. If you like eating carbs , try swapping white ones out for quinoa, brown rice and rolled oats.
2. Preparation is Key
Preparing all of your meals before you start work is the key to eating healthy. If you eat straight away when you get home the last thing you want to be doing is cooking when you are tired and hungry. Cook as much as you can beforehand so that all you have to do is heat up your food when you get home or wake up later on. This can be doing things such as grilling chicken breast, steaming veggies, boiling rice and making overnight oats all before you start work. It helps to do this for a few days in advance so you aren’t spending time each night doing it, that way if you have a rough shift you can focus on getting some more sleep in. It may also be a great idea to invest in a slow cooker! You can put your favourite dish on while you are at work and then eat it straight away when you wake up.
3. Stop Unhealthy Snacking
If you are one of those people that gets sucked in by the vending machine at work or you end up driving through 24-hour takeaways during your night shift, you need to start bringing your own food to work. By packing your own meals you can choose what goes into them, meaning you can eat healthier options. It is best to pack a few small snacks rather than large meals as they may leave you feeling lethargic and heavy. Snacking every few hours keeps your metabolism going and leaves you feeling full without overdoing it. If you struggle with the temptation to eat unhealthy because you are bored and are looking for a “reward”, try to leave your bank card or money at home (if you don't need it for anything else).
4. Stick to a Schedule
Make an eating schedule that works for you and stick to it. You should still be eating three main meals a day with snacks in between. If you can roughly stick to the ‘regular’ meal times then even better! Don’t use your night shift to be eating massive meals in the middle of the night. Try eating breakfast as soon as you get home, lunch when you wake up and dinner before you start work. You can then pack healthy snacks to take to work and incorporate protein into these so you stay feeling full. Implementing a schedule and sticking to it day by day can help your body get into a routine and help your metabolism to run more smoothly if it has regular feeding times. It can be hard at first but try not to skip meals, this will only slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and grumpy.
5. Cut Down The Caffeine
The biggest killer to your health is constantly drinking coffee and energy drinks, especially throughout the night. If you are a sucker for energy drinks this is the first thing to cut down as they are filled with sugar and nasty ingredients. Replace them with natural foods that can give you energy, such as an apple. If you drink coffee, try to limit yourself to one per shift and drink it four to five hours before your shift is due to end as caffeine stays in your system for a long time and you may find it hard to sleep when you get home. Aim to gain most of your energy through healthy eating and having a consistent sleep schedule. This may take a while to implement but once you are eating right and sleeping well your body will thank you for it.
6. Exercise When You Can
Depending on what your job is try to fit in exercise when you can. So instead of sitting down for long periods of time, try standing. Find stairs at work and walk up and down them a few times during your shift. Bust out some squats or stretch when you have a chance, all of these things can make a massive difference and may also help you sleep better when you get home.
I hope these tips have helped, they are the basics of what you can do to live a healthier lifestyle when working nights. You have to adjust them to suit your individual needs but remember the most important thing is to eat adequate meals, eat wholesome foods and get enough sleep. Exercise when you can, my guides are perfect because they are only 28 minutes long so you can bust them out before you start work. Stay away from the junk food! It is easy but it is also a killer, it can make you feel lethargic, grumpy and your blood sugar levels may be irregular.