How To Eat on Night Shift to Reduce Fatigue?

Back in my Uni days of studying to become a nutritionist, I remember overhearing a discussion between a lecturer and student about what would be the ideal meal option for someone who work’s the night shift.

The lecturer’s reply was:

“Just get them to flip their meals around. As in have their big meal around midnight and 1am”.

The thing is, that never really sat right with me.

Given the functionality of our circadian rhythm varies enormously between that of the day versus the night, I instinctively knew that nocturnal food intake, especially in large quantities, was bound to cause havoc on our digestive system. Not ideal, given most shift workers are plagued by gastrointestinal complaints at the best of times!

However, it doesn’t stop at the digestive system.

It can affect our cognition, amongst other things, which if your work involves making complex decisions, operating machinery or performing surgery, can be extremely important.

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Are You Scared of Eating Fat?

If your answer is yes to this question it’s not surprising given, for many years, we were lead to believe that fat and cholesterol causes heart disease.  

However, this diet-heart hypothesis was later discredited as fraudulent science when the real culprit was, and still is, sugar.

For a quick overview of this – watch this short video titled Big Fat Lie’s.

If you want to learn even more about this topic, I recommend reading Coronary Heart Disease: The Dietary Sense and Nonsense by G, Mann who stated in his book “the public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century”.

Anyway, getting back to the facts on fat.

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Does Your Workplace Have A Lollie Jar?

I was speaking at a conference on the weekend, and I asked the attendees the following question:

“Do you have a lollie jar stashed in a drawer at work? There were quite a few nods in the room, and one guy even said they have a Lollie Locker!

Whooska. Well, at least he was honest.

The thing is, they’re pretty much in every shift working workplace on the planet.

Incredibly, (but not surprisingly), they line the drawers of most hospital wards … but don’t get me started about the food in the hospitals. I’m going to save that for an entirely different email!!

Anyway, I digress.

Getting back to the lollie jar. Does your workplace also have those “fundraising choccies” that make several appearances throughout the year??

It’s for a good cause, right?

Well … yes, I’m not going to disagree with that, but at what cost to those who are consuming these sugar-laden treats?

You see, when we’re constantly sleep-deprived our bodies are essentially in a state of ‘fight or flight’ which leads us to crave sugar.

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Are Ingredients Important?

Do you read ingredients labels? Do you even pay attention to them?

When it comes to the food that we eat – are the ingredients even important?

Many years ago when I worked for a multi-level marketing nutrition company (please don’t hold this against me – we live and learn!), one of my mentors said that he never reads ingredients labels. In fact, he used to put those who did into a basket of sorts, calling them “label readers”.

Now I don’t like it when people slander others using labels at the best of times, but as a newbie learning about nutrition, I figured I should just trust what he was saying and deem it to be true.

However, as time marched on, it didn’t sit right. It left me with a bit of a niggling feeling that ignoring the ingredients was not a good approach to take.

That being said, if you’ve ever taken the time to read a nutrition label, you will know it can be like a minefield.  Lots of numbers and hard to pronounce words you may never have even heard of.

Shouldn’t that be an alarm bell in itself?

If we don’t know what’s in something or we can’t even pronounce it – shouldn’t that trigger us to investigate further?

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Gut Loving Energising Smoothie

Do you experience gut discomfort and lack energy?

Yeah I know. It’s a bit of a silly question as most shift workers do.

This is due mostly to something called circadian misalignment, which is just a fancy way to describe eating out of sync to our natural body clock.

That being said, it’s not just about food timing.

When we’re tired we don’t always make the healthiest of food choices because let’s face it. It’s really hard to muster up the strength to whip up a culinary delight when we can barely keep our eyes open from exhaustion!

This ends up being a bit of a Catch-22 because it contributes to an even further lack of energy due to insufficient nutrients needed for energy production on a cellular level. 

This leads to a disruption in the regulation of the nervous system. In other words, makes us feel even more tired, anxious and frazzled!

The good news is, I’ve got a “can’t-be-bothered-to-make-anything-fancy” smoothie recipe that is not only quick to make, but will supply your body with a wonderful assortment of nutrients to give you more zing.

The apple cider vinegar and ginger in this smoothie will also help to settle an anxious tummy.

What’s In It?

100g blueberries (preferably organic)
250ml almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1 orange – juice and zest
2cm piece of fresh ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp coconut oil
a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

How To Make It?

Throw everything into a blender and blitz until smooth.

Drink immediately or pop into a chilled thermos to take into work and enjoy whilst on shift.

Note: you’ll need to give the smoothie a good shake once it’s been in the fridge for a while as the coconut oil will harden slightly.

Audra x

References:
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Antunes, L, Levandovski, R, Dantas, G, Gaumo, W & Hidalgo, M 2010, ‘Obesity and shift work: Chronobiological aspects’, Nutrition Research Review, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 155-168.

Kanarek, R 1997, ‘Psychological effects of snacks and altered meal frequency’, British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 77, pp. S105-S120.

Nor, A, Norsham, J, Nur, T, Sahar, A, Srijit, D & Effendy N 2020, ‘Consequences of circadian disruption in shift workers on chrononutrition and their psychosocial well-being’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 1-17.