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.

This is because each time we eat, blood is diverted away from our brain and into our digestive tract to help support digestion.

In a small, but clinically relevant randomised controlled trial published in the journal Chronobiology International (2019), a comparison was made between having a main meal versus a small snack, or not eating at all and how that influenced alertness during and after night shift.

Throughout the night they underwent various tests to assess behavioural alertness, reaction time, memory, along with completing 40-minutes in a driving simulator.

The results?

Those who ate a small snack, compared to a bigger meal, or nothing at all …

– Spent more time driving within the speed limit and sticking inside the lane,
– Had a faster reaction time and enhanced memory.

So based on this small but clinically relevant study, from an alertness perspective, I’d recommend consuming a small serve of food versus anything large or heavy (or not eating at all), when working throughout the night.

Ideally things like soups, stews, broths or a small serve from a plant-based slow cooker meal are great as they are easy to digest, nutrient-dense and have minimal impact on blood sugar levels.

Audra x

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References:

Gupta, C, Centofanti, S, Dorrian, J, Coates, A, Stepien, J, Kennaway, D, Wittert, G, Heibronn, L, Catcheside, P, Noakes, M, Coro, D, Chandrakumar, D & Banks, S 2019, ‘Alterning meal timing to improve cognitive performance during simulated nightshifts’, Chronobiology International, vol. 36, no. 12, pp. 1691-1713.

Gupta, C, Centofanti, S, Dorrian, J, Coates, A, Stepien, J, Kennaway, D, Wittert, G, Heilbronn, L, Catcheside, P, Noakes, M, Coro, D, Chandrakumar, D & Banks, S 2019, ‘Subjective hunger, gastric upset, and sleepiness in response to altered meal timing during simulated shift work’, Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 1-24.

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.

Are You A Sucker For The Lollie Jar At Work? Try These Orange Jellies Instead.

As tired, weary shift workers it’s not surprising that we’re lured in by the lollie jar at work, as a source of energy for our sleep-deprived brains.

But have you ever taken the time to read the ingredients label of some of these packaged lollies?

Let me share an example to help prove my point:

Exhibit A

Ingredients:  Glucose Syrup ( Wheat  Or Corn), Cane Sugar, Thickener (Dextrin Roasted Starch, Acid Treated Starch Or Starch Acetate)( Wheat ), Gelatine, Food Acids (Citric, Lactic), Invert Syrup, Flavours, Colours (Carminic Acid, Turmeric, Vegetable Carbon, Paprika Oleoresin, Copper Chlorophyllin, Black Carrot).   Contains Wheat. May Contain Milk.

As you can see, there are lots of extra “bonuses” included in that packet, besides the glucose itself.

It’s what makes these 3-ingredient jellies or “lollies” a much healthier alternative.

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Are You Eating To Support Your Mental Health?

Yesterday I was invited to speak at an event titled ‘Love Yourself Masterclass’ for veterinarian and vet nurses here in Brisbane, because quite tragically, these practitioners have the highest suicide rate in the country.

Yes that was not a typo.

These incredible human beings that do an AMAZING job at taking care of our beloved pets are struggling. Struggling to take care of themselves as a result of a highly stressful and emotionally challenging work environment, that is affecting them physically, mentally and emotionally – right to the core.

This gut wrenching suicide statistic is 4 times higher than the average Australian, and twice as high as other medical professions.

So what can be done to support our mental health in the workplace?

Well there are many things, one of which is critically important, is sufficient quality sleep. Something that I spoke about in detail at this event yesterday because it actually trumps nutrition.

But I’ll save that for a separate post, because it deserves it’s very own.

In today’s post I want to talk about the importance of feeding our bodies with the right foods and nutrients, because this simple practice can make a DRAMATIC difference to our mental health.

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Eating at Work to Maximise Your Nutrition

Whenever we’re away from home we often have to rely on the microwave oven to heat our meals at work.

But does “zapping” our food in the microwave actually destroy the nutrient contents?

According to the research, the answer is “yes”.

One study in particular published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2003) found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave lost up to 97% of its antioxidant content.

Other nutrients that can be reduced during the cooking process include B-vitamins, vitamins C, A, D, E and K, along with certain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.

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