Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice:

The perfect pick-me-up at 3am!

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.


Audra x



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.

Shift Work Nutrition:

Are You Running On Empty?

closeup empty Gas Tank Illustration

Thanks to a very disrupted lifestyle which includes eating at erratic times, missing meal breaks or following a diet which is well, perhaps not the healthiest – shift workers often feel as though they’re running on flat batteries.  In fact a Japanese study of second-year medical students who skipped breakfast and ate their meals irregularly, showed a high prevalence of fatigue.

That being said, have you considered how what you are eating, may NOT be providing you with the energy boosting fuel that you require?

By this I’m referring to a diet which is made up of predominantly processed carbohydrates and sugars which are essentially ’empty calories’, and provide you with very little nourishment.

Without sufficient nourishment, we cannot function as well as we should.

It’s kind of like filling up a Ferrari sports car with contaminated fuel.  The engine is going to choke and splutter a lot because it’s not receiving the right fuel in order for it to be able to function.

So I’d like to pose this question to you.

Do you treat your body as if it’s a finely tuned, luxurious Ferrari or a dilapidated piece of junk not worthy of good nutrition?  Because unlike a motor vehicle, you cannot trade it in or upgrade it for something else!

Balanced diets are incredibly important for everyone, but even more so for sleep-deprived, energy depleted shift workers who have to function on little sleep.

This is because studies have shown diets which are high in fat or sugar, can disrupt circadian rhythms.

As if our circadian rhythms are not disrupted enough!

There is also mounting evidence that eating meals during the night-time (when our circadian rhythms are instinctively trying to promote sleep), can lead to a decrease in alertness, enhance weight gain and increase the risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity and/or Type 2 Diabetes.  This is why it’s recommended to avoid eating large meals between midnight and 6am, because the function of our entire digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, slows right down at this time of the night.


The Results Are In!

Shift Work DOES Impair Our Cognitive Function.

Sleepy Brain character

As we get ready to close the door on 2015 and make way for 2016, I’m in a bit of celebration mode right now and it’s not even New Year’s Eve!

If you’re wondering why it’s because my end of semester University results have been published, and I’m happy to report I managed to pass everything.

Phew! A major relief.

This means I’m officially about to head into my final year of my Nutritional Medicine degree and I could not be happier – be it a little bit nervous at the same time.

However I’m even more proud of myself (and I’m sure you will be able to relate to this one), because for years I struggled to remember things – which I put down to a life of continual sleep-deprivation.

After a string of early shifts, I would often struggle to concentrate and make decisions, and even felt a little “forgetful” at times.

Not ideal for someone who, at the time, was only in her 30’s.

However as I was scrolling through a pile of research papers, I stumbled across a study of 1484 shift workers which confirmed a strong association between working 24/7 and impaired cognition, particularly if you’d worked shift work for more than 10 years (*).


Why Do We Sleep?

child waking up with alarm clockHave you ever sat down and really thought about this question – “why do we sleep?”  Considering we live in a society which hardly ever stops and for those of us working 24/7 who run on very little sleep, I think it’s a pretty powerful question.

I know after working shift work for over two decades my cognitive function has definitely been affected, not to mention so many years of feeling constantly exhausted and “wired” as a result of my body running on adrenalin.

So I’ve been doing a bit of research lately and stumbled across this great TED talk by Neuroscientist Professor Russel Foster who goes into detail to help answer this question – “why do we sleep?”

I highly recommend taking the time to watch this really informative 20 minute video (or you can view it as a transcript if you’d prefer to read instead of watching it).  In fact Professor Foster even talks about “us” (shift workers) during parts of the presentation!

Of course if you’re running really tight on time you can always fast forward 8.4 minutes into the video when he goes into detail on some of the effects of constant sleep deprivation – in particular how it affects those of us working 24/7 which is right up our alley.

Hope you enjoy it!  Just click on the link below :-).

“Why Do We Sleep?”