Table of Contents
All around the world, there are millions of people whose workdays start just as the sun is going down. Office workers, factory workers, security guards, healthcare workers, and numerous industries work the night shift.
While being on the night shift may have certain benefits, it’s undeniable that it also disrupts eating and sleeping routines. Staying fit and healthy while working the night shift can be challenging but not impossible at all. With proper and consistent exercise and diet plans, you can work the night shift and still stay fit.
Does Working the Night Shift Affect Health?
Working night shifts can affect health in many ways. It disrupts the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. When you’re awake at night and asleep during the day, your internal clock is thrown off balance, making it difficult for you to stay asleep.
The disruption to the circadian rhythm also increases the risk of various health issues such as weight gain, mood problems, stress, sleep deprivation, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and difficulties in controlling blood sugar levels.
If you take the night shift and you’re worried about these health issues, don’t fret for you can take steps to ensure that your health is in its best shape.
How to Stay Fit if You Work the Night Shift
Just because you work the night shift doesn’t mean that you’re signing yourself up to face numerous health issues. All those can be avoided by maintaining a regular diet and exercise routine. Check out these tips to help you stay healthy while you’re burning the midnight oil.
Get Enough Sleep Before Your Shift
You need to ensure that you have at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It may be difficult to do so at the start but setting up a healthy sleep routine can help you get that quality sleep that you need.
A sleep routine means doing the same things at the same time before bed. This way, you are signaling your body that it’s time to turn the lights out and it’s time to sleep.
You can start your sleep routine by washing up, changing into your sleep clothes, putting away your gadgets, writing in a journal, or reading a book in bed. It’s also important that you try to go to sleep at the same time every day.
Additionally, you can use items that may help you fall asleep faster. Get blackout curtains, use earplugs, use a sleep mask, listen to relaxing music — all these little things and more can contribute to the quality of your sleep.
It’s also worth noting that once you wake up, you shouldn’t jump to work right away. Go outside and take a short walk to help your body recognize the sun and the current time.
Have a Proper Meal
We’re all familiar with the missing breakfast bit when working during the day, and truthfully, breakfast isn’t something that one should skip. Even if you work the night shift, you also shouldn’t skip the first meal at the start of your day.
Get in the habit of eating before you start your shift as this allows the body to have enough time to transfer those calories into energy.
If you can’t eat before work, then make sure to eat within 2 to 3 hours of starting your shift. It’s highly recommended to have a meal that contains proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
Skip the Caffeine and Carbonated Drinks
Night shift workers often drink several cups of coffee to keep themselves awake. And if not coffee, some workers turn to carbonated drinks instead to raise their energy levels. Both drinks can be unhealthy and addictive, especially when consumed for a long time.
Instead of downing yourself in coffee or soda, it’s better to hydrate yourself with water. Staying hydrated with water regulates the body temperature, lubricates joints, and flushes waste from the body. It can also bring a positive impact on your concentration, alertness, and memory.
Plan and Prepare Your Meals
Your digestion and metabolism aren’t as efficient during the night time. Moreover, working the night shift can cause a change in your appetite, and may increase your digestive problems, as well as increase the risk of weight gain.
Having a night-shift diet can help you avoid all those issues. Of course, it’s not just enough to plan your meals, you also have to make sure that you are eating the right and healthy food to help your body.
Some of the best things to eat at night are low glycemic index (Low GI) food as they produce a gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains are considered Low GI food.
You should also incorporate more lean proteins into your diet as they keep you full and help you build more muscle mass. Include food such as low-fat dairy, skim milk, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and whole-grain cereals.
Reaching for junk food in the middle of your shift may also seem convenient, but it’s actually something that you should avoid. Instead, eating frequent small healthy snacks throughout your shift will help your stay full and fight those sugar cravings. Always have a pack of nuts, yogurt, fruit cups, baby carrots, and such on hand to snack on.
Preparing your meals ahead too can greatly help you in making sure you stick to eating the right food during your shifts. By making your own meals, you can also proportion them accordingly. Here are some meal options that you can have before and during your night shift:
- Garlic omelet
- Vanilla banana milkshake
- Whole wheat toast
- Peanut butter banana toast
- Turkey wrap
- Chicken and mayo bagel
- Pasta with fresh tomato sauce
- Pasta caprice
- Steamed broccoli with olive oil and parmesan
- Chicken salad
- Stir fry
- Chicken wraps
- Caesar salad
- Curry tuna salad
- Ham and cheese sandwich with steamed green beans
- Turkey sandwich
- Blueberry cups
- Tuna avocado salad
- Fruit salad
- Low-fat yogurt
- Hard-boiled egg
Make Time to Exercise
If you want to say healthy and fit, a proper diet is only one part of it. Even if you work the night shift, you still have to make time to exercise. Saying you have no time to exercise is just an excuse.
Nowadays, there are gyms that are open 24/7, allowing you to work up a sweat anytime you wish. And if you don’t want to or can’t hit the gym, you can still work out at home or in the office. You can work out before your shift, after, and even in between.
You also don’t have to work out for hours. Even a 10-minute, 20-minute, or 30-minute workout will do. Remember, any amount of workout is better than nothing. Here are a couple of workout strategies that you can do when you have a night shift:
Use Desk Exercise Equipment
Being stuck at your desk and working on your tasks doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all. There is portable exercise equipment such as an under-desk elliptical that you can use to work out while working.
Use a sit-stand desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Using this equipment will incorporate more movement throughout your shift, letting you stay active even when you’re busy.
Do Desk Exercises
If any desk exercise equipment isn’t available to you, you can still exercise at your workstation by doing various desk exercises. You’ll only need yourself and sometimes, your desk or your chair.
Do Short Workouts
Short workouts are better than nothing at all. Whether you’re doing a 4-minute exercise or a 30-minute one, every movement is a step towards better health.
Increase Your Step Count
Walking is one of the things that most able-bodied people can do, and it is also the simplest yet one of the most effective exercises around.
Increasing your step count by walking means you exercise your limbs, increase your range of motion, strengthen your joints, reduce chronic pain, improve your blood circulation, lower the risk of weight gain, reduce stress, and a lot more.
You can walk to work, or use the stairs to your office floor. Take short walking breaks too while you’re on shift. Best of all, walking is free and you can do it anywhere, everywhere.
Taking the night shift doesn’t mean you subject yourself to a lot of health risks. By doing the right things such as sleeping adequately, eating properly, and exercising consistently, you can stay fit and healthy even if you’re working while the rest of the world is asleep.