Night shifts can be detrimental to someone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The sole fact that you are awake at night when your body naturally burns less energy puts you at risk for weight gain. Shift work is completely against human biology. Our natural circadian rhythms aide in metabolism. Metabolism slows down at night when your internal clock thinks that you should be sleeping. That isn’t even taking into consideration the horrible cravings for sweets and fats you have to fend off. It can be a challenge when the only food available after 10pm are fast food and vending machine junk.
That being said, I’m sure it’s not a complete surprise to hear me recommend meal prepping and bringing in your own healthy “lunch” –rather your 3am meal break.
I recommend packing 4-5 small snacks to eat throughout the night. With your energy expenditure lower than during the day it is better to eat smaller meals throughout your shift rather than overindulging all at once–which could cause you to get sleepy as well. No one wants to be falling sleep on the job!
Last recommendation I have is to pack a variety of things. I over pack–knowing I will not eat it all, just because my cravings and appetite changes drastically at night. These are things that I just leave in my work bag and carry with me at all times. I have a healthy alternative to whatever I may be craving. Salty- I bring lightly salted rice cakes or popcorn. Sweet- I bring fruit. Occasionally, sugar free hard candies. Chocolate- I have 100 cal. packs of cocoa roasted almonds ready to go!
I have saved myself many trips to the vending machine and excused myself from the temptation of break room goodies a patients’ family brought in with my back up snacks!
Examples of one night of snacks/meals:
- Quest bar
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese with fresh fruit
- 2 light string cheese
- tuna 80 calorie in pouch
- 6oz protein plus vegetable meal prep
- 150g egg whites with salsa
Sure, sometimes it’s not easy eating tuna fish at 2 am, but you have to remember why you are doing it. Are you doing it to perform better in the gym? Are you doing it to compete in a fitness or physique competition? Are you doing it to lose the extra weight you put on after having your baby? Don’t lose sight of your goals. The rest will come easier.