What To Eat (and Drink) On Early Shift.

Do you work a lot of early shifts?  They’re pretty brutal aren’t they?  Especially when the alarm clock goes off at “stupid o’clock” as one of my clients so beautifully described.

It’s why this week I want to talk about ‘What To Eat (And Drink) On Early Shift.’

Whether you’re starting at 5am, 6am … or even 3am like I used to when I was working at the international airport (they really did hurt I can assure you – lol!!) – those feelings of fatigue really kick in thanks to the disruption to the quantity and quality of your sleep.

In geeky science terms, we refer to this as the homeostatic sleep drive or sleep pressure, and sleep rhythm.

From a quality perspective, early shifts can wake us up right in the middle of a sleep cycle which is a bit like stopping your washing machine in the middle of it’s cycle, and pulling out the washing when it’s still soggy!

From a quantitative perspective, if we haven’t tucked ourselves into bed at a reasonable hour then the fatigue effects of that early shift can be magnified even further.

So when it comes to establishing what to eat and drink on early shifts, I like to approach it from 2 key areas:

From a Hydration and Blood Sugar Perspective.

1. HYDRATION – I don’t like to use the word “should”, but in this case I’m going to because it has such a profound impact on boosting your energy.

So … the very first thing you should do after having your sleep disrupted, is to drink a full glass of filtered water upon rising.  Heck – even two if you can!

This is because, in conjunction with sleep deprivation, dehydration is one of the leading causes of fatigue.

And when you’ve been sleeping all night – you’re going to wake up dehydrated I can assure you!

In addition, if you add a pinch of sea salt to your water such as Tasman Sea Salt, this will boost your intake of trace minerals and help with cellular absorption so that your body actually absorbs the water that you drink. 

2.  STABILISE BLOOD SUGAR – when it comes to food choices, you really want to avoid foods that are going cause your blood sugar to rise dramatically such as boxed cereals, store-bought muffins, toast on its own, donuts, energy drinks etc.

This is because they are high in refined carbohydrates or sugars which get absorbed into your blood stream very quickly, leading to a subsequent energy slump.  Not to mention, a viscious cycle of craving more of the sugary stuff because they get broken down so quickly (and are highly addictive), that you just want to eat more and more!

Not great news for your waistline.

Instead, consuming foods that are high in protein & healthy fats won’t spike your blood sugar because they are absorbed much more slowly, which will lead to more stable energy levels.  

Things like chia seed puddings, overnight oats and Greek yoghurt parfaits topped with berries, nuts and seeds, or Frittata’s and mini quiches if you’re more of a savoury person can be great options.

So whilst the ‘coffee and a muffin’ is often regarded as the breakfast of champions for anyone who works irregular hours, their effects on your blood sugar, hydration and nervous system (which I didn’t even get to) – are not going to work in your favour.

Especially if you’re desperate to find ways to improve your energy through an early shift, which let’s face it – most shift workers are!

Audra x


Gannon, M & Nuttall, F 2004, ‘Effect of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet on blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes’, Diabetes, vol. 53, no. 9, pp. 2375-2382.

Kumar, A, Park, M, Huh, J, Lee, H & Kim, K 2006, ‘Hydration phenomena of sodium and potassium hydroxides by water molecules’, The Journal of Physical Chemistry, vol. 110, no. 45, pp. 12484-493.

Popkin, B, D’Anci, K & Rosenberg, I 2010, ‘Water, hydration and health’, Nutrition Reviews, vol. 68, no. 8, pp. 439-458.

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