How Shift Work Can Affect Your Skeletal Muscle Health – And What You Need To Do About It.

The other day I caught up with a friend for a game of tennis, because the weather was absolutely spectacular and way too good to be spent inside!

Plus I’m also a huge fan of tennis ? (or more specifically Roger Federer ?) – and love the freedom of just running around the court to add a bit more movement into my day.

Whilst I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘exercise’ per se, I’m definitely a fan of ‘movement’, as there are so many positive health benefits from incorporating regular movement into our lives. Not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically too.

But did you know that shift work can impair our skeletal muscle health?

It does so via various mechanisms according to research published in the journal ‘Nutrients’ (2017).

✔️ Skeletal muscle fibres contain innate biological clocks that are involved in growth and energy metabolism, but become impaired during circadian disruption. This can lead to atrophy or the breakdown of muscle.

✔️ When our sleep/wake cycles are disrupted, it has a flow on effect to our food choices. This is often seen in a higher intake of refined and processed carbohydrates, and a reduction in foods containing protein which is essential for muscular health.

✔️ Sleep restriction can also impair and disrupt certain hormones such as testosterone, which is required for muscle synthesis, along with the contributing to insulin resistance, which blunts protein synthesis and promotes muscle degradation.

✔️ Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which occurs when the body is under stress from lack of sleep), also leads to the suppression of protein synthesis as it’s a catabolic hormone – meaning it breaks things down.

Not the rosiest of pictures, so what can we do to preserve our muscular health when working 24/7?

1. Regular movement – every single day. The saying “use it or lose it” is oh so true!
2. Regular bouts of resistance training or weight bearing exercises to strengthen muscles ? – this is what I love about yoga!
3. Sufficient protein intake each day as this will help to fuel the body with sufficient amounts of amino acids, that the body can then utilise to maintain muscle health.

Audra x


Aisbett, B, Condo, D, Zacharewicz, E & Lamon, S 2017, ‘The Impact of Shiftwork on Skeletal Muscle Health’, Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 1-16.B


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