If you work a graveyard shift or any shift work, including rotating shifts you may find that the schedule is wreaking havoc on your ability to make better choices and hit your weight loss goals.
On top of that, the disruptions to your circadian rhythm can throw off your body’s hormonal balance, making you more likely to overeat high-calorie foods. Instead of entering deep sleep at 2:00 A.M., for example, you’re three hours into your graveyard shift, reaching for a Diet Coke and a candy bar to help you stay awake.
Gaining weight is a serious side effect of taking shift work.
Being awake when you should be asleep (and vice versa) confuses your body clock, including the hormones responsible for managing hunger. Shift workers tend to have lower-than-average levels of leptin, which suppresses hunger, and higher-than-average levels of ghrelin, which stimulates it.
The short answer – you get hungry but your off switch doesn’t work properly. You keep eating.
Unfortunately, you’re probably tired and sleep-deprived as well as famished meaning you’re more likely to reach for fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods to give you energy. Researchers estimate that shift workers consume about 600 extra calories per day. Multiply this by seven days and you’re consuming 4200 extra calories per week.
Don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve got some simple hacks you can implement right now to help you get your weight loss on track.
The biggest advice we can give is, don’t eat your biggest meal just before you go to bed. We know its hard because you may want to join the family for dinner, but your body won’t burn it all and store it as fat.
Instead, try and have your biggest meal when you’re most active, probably in the middle of your shift, and then have something light to eat just before you hit the hay.
The Man Shake would be your best option as the final meal at the end of the shift. High in Protein perfect for recovering after a busy shift, low in fat and sugar to keep that tummy trim and light enough to not affect your sleep.
Part of working the night shift is you can end up staying awake for long periods of time and have shifts that are only a few hours apart.
When you are awake for such a long period, you can end up grazing (eating) the whole time, especially as you get tired. Your body needs time to burn what you have eaten so keep your eating window to 10 to 12 hours max.
Choose nutrient-rich foods and snacks instead of junk food. Working overnight shifts can limit your available options; health food restaurants don’t stay open 24 hours, leaving you susceptible to whatever’s available in the work cafeteria, the fast-food menu, or the vending machine.
Packing your own lunch and snacks is a good way to avoid these fattening temptations. Healthier options include lower-calorie sandwiches on whole-grain bread, fruit, Man Bar, plain popcorn, Greek yoghurt, salad, and nuts. Choose water or unsweetened drinks over soda or caffeinated beverages.
Night shift workers tend to develop a circadian rhythm disorder created by their schedules. Because of this, your body clock may wake you after 5 hours of sleep instead of the recommended 7 to 9. Also, your sleep drive may increase to compensate for your sleep deprivation, which will make it harder to stay awake at work.
To pack more hours of sleep into each 24-hour period, you can try a few strategies. Napping just before your shift may help, if that’s possible; some workers sleep five hours immediately after a shift, then take a two-hour nap before they return to work the next day. A 15 to 20-minute nap during your shift may also help if your employer will allow this (many will, for safety reasons).
It’s time to take control of tomorrow and set yourself up for success rather than letting life smack you in the face. One of the biggest downfalls of excess weight gain is preparation.
If you have all your meals, snacks and water ready before work there is less chance of you sneaking through the drive-thru or giving in to the munchies and grabbing stuff from the vending machine.
Everyone’s shifts are different but if you can follow some core rules and make them work for you it will make losing weight, improving sleep and feeling better much easier.
Pre Shift – The Man Shake
Break 1 – Nuts or 1 Piece of fruit (or snack under 200 calories – Check Label)
Meal Break – Biggest meal of the day – High Protein (meat pref) if possible
Break 2 – Yoghurt or Man bar (or snack under 200 calories – Check Label)
Home – The Man Shake
*Hot Tip – If you normally eat when you get home before going to sleep try preparing your Man Shake before you leave work and drink on the way home. This helps avoid temptations of the drive-through and servo aisles of death.