As a night shifter, do you often feel like you want to curl up into a ball and have a snooze at 3am? Perhaps you’ve been on a string of early shifts and you can barely string to words together until you’ve had that morning hit of caffeine?!
Well that’s not surprising given sleep deprivation can impair our cognitive function in a number of ways including our reaction times, sleep quality and overall feelings of sleepiness.
In a study published in the Physiology and Behavior Journal (2015), the effects of beetroot juice on 40 healthy subjects, found that the participants performed better on cognitive tests 90 minutes after drinking 450 mL of beetroot juice, as compared to the placebo.
The difference between the beetroot juice and the placebo (which was made of apple and blackcurrant juice), is that beetroots are abundant in dietary nitrates which are broken down by the body into nitric oxide. This influx of nitric oxide opens up oxygen flow to the brain, or more specifically in the case of this study, helped to enhance prefrontal cortex cerebral blood-flow or CBF.
Nitric oxide has shown to improve endothelial function, reduce blood pressure and increase oxygen to the tissues in the brain so it has multiple benefits.
Nitrate can be found in leafy green vegetables, however beetroot is particularly high in nitrates so may prove to be a great alternative for shift workers who often struggle with decreased cognitive function and alertness, and become reliant on consuming copious amounts of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks.
So please find below my “Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice” which is designed to give you a bit of a pick-me-up during those rather unpleasant night shifts and early shifts!
Whilst I’m calling it a “juice” it’s more like a “smoothie” because it retains all of the fibre from the whole foods which can often get lost in juicing.
Considering shift workers are prone to digestive complaints, often due to diets which are low in fibre as a result of eating lots of processed foods and refined carbohydrates – this “juice” will not only help to keep you alert, but it will keep you feeling fuller for longer not to mention assist in bowel regularity which can be a rather embaressing topic for discussion, but an incredibly important one at that.
Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice (serves 2)
- 1 medium size beetroot, peeled
- 1 medium size carrot, peeled
- 1 pear, peeled and cored
- 1 cm of fresh ginger, unpeeled
- 1/2 lime, peeled
- 250 ml of filtered water
- 2 ice cubes
Place all of the ingredients into a high powered blender and blend for a minimum of 2 minutes. Check the consistency and if you’d prefer it to be a bit runnier, add more water and blend for another 30 seconds.
This juice is best drunk immediately however when taking it into work the next day (or for your night shift), pour into a secured jar and store in refrigerator to help prevent oxidation.
Kazemi, R, Haidarimoghadam, R, Motamedzadeh, M, Golmohamadi, R, Soltanian, A & Zoghipaydar, R 2016, ‘Effects of shift work on cognitive performance, sleep quality and sleepiness among petrochemical control room operators’, Journal of Circadian Rhythms, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 1-8.
Wightman E, Haskell-Ramsay C, Thompson K, Blackwell J, Winyard P, Forster J, Jones A, Kennedy D, 2015, ‘Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation’, Physiology and Behavior Journal, vol. 1, no. 149, pp. 149-158.