Shift Work Fatigue: How Your Stomach Can Influence Your Energy

As a shift work veteran and student of nutritional medicine I’ve certainly begun to understand the connection between nurturing your body with nutritious food as a way to help a fatigue-riddled body feel somewhat “normal”.

But is getting enough sleep and eating the right foods all that you need to do in order to ward off fatigue?

In a word – no.

You see most of us are blissfully unaware of just how important it is to nurture our digestive system – and by that I mean trying not to overload it with large quantities of food.

Have you ever thought about the size of your stomach? Ever wondered how big it is? Well this bit of trivia that I’m about to share may make you think twice the next time you feel like binging on a big meal.

Your stomach when it is empty is actually the size of a large sausage.

Yep that’s right. One single sausage, and considering the stomach is the most expansive part of the GI tract whereby it can stretch and expand to accommodate large quantity of foods; the more you put into it, the more the body has to divert every available bit of energy source to help with the digestion process.

In simple terms, the more energy that is required to digest a meal the tireder you’re going to feel.

You see your stomach acts like a kind of holding reservoir and mixing chamber until your intestines can digest and absorb the food that you eat. And because you can eat a meal much more quickly than the intestines can digest and absorb this food (plus there’s about a 20 minute delay before your brain receives a message from your stomach telling you that you’re full and have eaten way too much food!) – you’re going to start to feel exhausted.

Kind of like that feeling when you want to slump on the couch after eating a big meal – except that you’re currently still on shift at work!

So besides getting as much sleep as you possibly can and eating nutritious food, remember to be much gentler on your stomach. Avoid stuffing it with large quantities of food because it’s a lot smaller than you think.

In essence, think small lighter meals as a way of tapping into a secret energy source … especially for shift workers.

Shift Work Versus A Game Of Tennis: Which One Is More Exhausting?

Is working shift work harder than playing a game of tennis? Probably, but not if you asked the players currently competing in the Australian Open in Melbourne right now.

With a week of record temperatures (4 days of over 40 degrees), even the world’s best are struggling to overcome fatigue and extreme exhaustion.

Of course “fatigue” is a familiar word for shift workers everywhere with sleep-deprivation being the number one cause.

But what about dehydration? Because if you throw “dehydration” into the “sleep-deprivation” mix, then you’ve certainly got an uphill battle on your hands. Quite simply, if your body loses too much water then your cells, tissues and organs dehydrate making you feel weak, exhausted and even delirious.

Sounds like a typical day at the office when you work 24/7 doesn’t it?!!

Of course the obvious dietary sources to help overcome dehydration (and fatigue) is water itself along with other beverages (coconut water is awesome), but most of us underestimate the beneficial effects of our fruits and vegetables with some containing up to 90% water.

Percentage of Water in Selected Foods:



Source: ‘Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition’ by Rolfes, Pinna and Whitney.

So if you’re needing some extra help with fatigue and exhaustion (besides trying to get as much sleep as possible) …

* Make sure you’re incorporating more of the above fruits and veges into your diet each and every day – juicing is a great way to do this and

* Keep drinking water consistently throughout the day (remembering thirst drives a person to seek water, but it usually lags behind the body’s need – ie; keep drinking well before you begin to feel thirsty).

For those working in extreme heat conditions 24/7 (and most vulnerable to dehydration) – you might find taking the supplement “Megahydrate” particularly beneficial as research has shown this supplement significantly increases hydration at a cellular level and also helps with pain relief from headaches, sore muscles, and inflammation of the joints.

On that note, I’m off to watch a bit of the tennis on the telly (in the air-conditioning) with plenty of water on hand minus the heat!

A Nutritious (Grain-Free) Breakfast In Under 3 Minutes!

As a shift worker prone to fatigue, tiredness and lethargy – I’m all about seeking out recipes that are fast, easy and nutritious to prepare and eat!

So drum roll please …

Introducing the CADA (fresh muesli) breakfast! This nutritious, grain-free shift working breakfast can be made in under 3 minutes.

The CADA stands for:

C – Coconut
A – Almond
D – Dates
A – Apple

I stumbled across this recipe for the first time in my Thermomix cook book (my “secret weapon” kitchen appliance) – and could not believe how fast it was to make. Perfect for shift workers who not only have limited time on their hands, but are often too tired to cook and make the effort to prepare nutritious meals.


40g fresh coconut, flesh only or desiccated coconut
40g almonds
40g pitted dates
1 apple, quartered


Place all ingredients into a high powered food processor (ideally a Thermomix if you have one) and press for a few seconds until ingredients are finely chopped.

I like to top mine with fresh yoghurt and blue-berries for extra punch.

You can also substitute the almonds with any type of nut, and the dates for any type of dried fruit to add a bit of diversity to your breakfast.

Health Benefits

This grain-free muesli is gluten free (gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats) so it’s perfect for anyone who is sensitive to grains – especially those who suffer from Coeliac Disease.

For more information on coeliac disease visit Coeliac Australia.

What To Take To Work: The Lunch Box Dilemma!

I don’t know about you, but I have so many memories of opening the refrigerator door and staring into oblivion wondering what I’m going to cook for dinner – and hoping that I may have enough left overs to pack into the lunch box the next day.

Because let’s face it, wondering what to take into work every day can be a real “lunch box dilemma,” – particularly when you’re suffering from fatigue and exhaustion.

Which is why I’d like to share with you my ‘Stamina Boosting Thai Fish Cakes with Lemon and Parsley Quinoa’ because it passes my 4 “Too Tired To Cook” mandatory checklist:

1. It’s easy to prepare
2. It’s fast to make
3. It’s tasty to eat and most importantly …
4. It’s particularly nourishing for an energy depleted body!

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa was once called “the gold of the Incas” by native South Americans, because they recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. (Now that’s got to be good for tired, exhausted shift workers!) It’s also high in protein, a good source of manganese and magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorous, and B vitamins.


450g snapper
2 tsp fresh coriander
3 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
3 egg whites
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 kaffir lime leave (shredded)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon avocado oil

1/2 cup quinoa
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
small handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped


Finely chop the snapper in a food processor. Add the coriander, fish sauce, chilli sauce, egg whites, garlic, lime leaves, lemon zest and juice and avocado oil. Mix together and shape into 8 patties.

Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan and cook the patties in batches for 3 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, wash the quinoa in plenty of cold water and drain. Put in a saucepan with 250ml of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then mix with the lemon zest, juice and coriander.

Serve the fish cakes on a bed of quinoa and drizzle with sweet chilli sauce.