Working nights is a demanding schedule especially when the rest of the world operates mainly when the sun is shining. Many night shift workers complain of gaining weight and blame it on the night shift. However, with some simple adjustments, you can work to overcome it. Here are some ways to avoid the night shift weight gain.
Often on the night shift, we tend to use food as a crutch to help us stay awake. These foods are often calorie dense, filled with high fat and carbs. The reason we crave these types of foods when we are tired is the temporary relief with a boost of energy with the subsequent spike in glucose post-consumption. The spike in glucose goes to our brain for some quick energy, but it doesn’t last very long so we go back for more. These extra calories add up! Instead of using food, take a wake a walk, stretch, do body squats, or find some way to be a little more active.
Working nights means sleeping during the day, which let’s face it, it’s kind of hard when the sun is shining. However, sleep management is so very important. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each day. If you are trying to switch from a day shift schedule over to a night, try to take a nap if possible before heading into your shift. This will help to keep you more alert so you don’t give in to those tasty treats as mentioned above. Consider investing in true darkening blinds for your bedroom, change the settings on your phone to nightshift mode, and make sure the room is cool for optimal sleep conditions.
Scheduling your protein-packed meals/snacks every 3-4 hours helps to keep your glucose level steady and helps so you’re not tempted to snack. Before heading into work make a game plan of approximate times you plan to eat. This helps you stay accountable throughout the night. Things may get in the way, but try to hit these times as best as you can to avoid getting so ravenous you want to eat everything in sight.
I cannot stress meal prepping enough especially for the night shift crew! Night shift is known for having amazing potlucks, food galore, and always sweet treats. It’s very easy to fall off track if you don’t have meals prepped and ready for you. Have your meals made beforehand that way you can easily pop them into the microwave and off you go. You can stay on track and don’t have to resort to eating whatever is laying around because you didn’t bring your meals. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Plan your snacks as well and bring back up items in case there is an emergency or admission during your shift and you aren’t able to heat a meal or sit down to eat. Head Coach Karey likes to bring 100 calorie packs of almonds, low-fat string cheese, a protein bar, and an individual serving of protein powder in a Ziploc bag. Hydrate appropriately to stave off hunger.
You may find it more helpful to count your macro totals from midnight to 11:59 PM as opposed to waking hours, especially if you are switching shifts between nights and days. Yes, your meal one will end up being in the early morning hours, but on the days you’re not working the night shift your meal one can be at “normal” breakfast hour. Karey likes to then have her clients take things to the next level by having a routine and mealtime approximations for the days you work nights as well as the days you are off from work. Routines form habits and habits allow you to put your fitness goals on autopilot.
These tactics helped me prepare for numerous fitness competitions. Don’t let the night shift derail you from your health and wellness goals.