If you work a night shift, you’re among the many Filipinos who head to start their “workday” while others are heading home. Working at night which is contrary to the natural body clock, leading to a harder normal eating schedule and healthier habits.
You may often be enticed to reach for unhealthy grab-and-go solutions, visiting the drive-through on the way home. This seems very appealing after long, physically, and mentally draining roles at work– we feel like we deserve a treat!
Just say the line, “dasurv ko to!” —there you are, fully convinced to buy any food you like. On an occasional basis, this would be fine. But, what your body really needs is healthy food before, during, and after your shift. Ever wonder what should be eaten to stay alert and healthy during your night shift?
Healthy eating habits to fuel you for the night shift!
Forward planning should be your friend. Take your own food so you don’t fall into late-night instant, heavy, and unhealthy food traps. Minha Rajput-Ray, occupational physician, and medical director of the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health says,
Get into a routine. Eat your main meal in the earlier part of the evening—ideally before you begin the night shift—to provide your body with much needed fuel. This also means that if you don’t get a proper break you can manage with some healthy snacks for the rest of the shift.
Invest in a night shift ‘survival pack’. Keep a cool bag handy with healthy snacks such as snack bars and whole meal crackers. Top up with a yogurt pot and easy to carry fruit like bananas, tangerines, or apples.
Calories at night counts!
It can be tempting to reach for that chocolate bar, a bag of sweets, or a sugary energy drink when you feel you need a boost during your shift. However, these foods will only enhance energy levels for a short while, with a quick sharp peak in blood sugar levels, which can be difficult to bring under control. Foods that release energy slowly will be much more beneficial.
Roopa McCrossan, vice chair of the trainee committee of the Association of Anaesthetists and member of the association’s joint fatigue working group, says,
Cake, crisps, and chocolate? Oh sorry, that’s what we want to eat on night shift—what you should eat couldn’t be more different. The bad news is, calories on nights do count, in fact they may count more than you think.
Avoid eating between midnight and 6 am, if possible, and if you do need to eat during the night, go for low calorie, protein rich snacks—don’t graze your way through the night.
Rupy Aujla, the founder of The Doctor’s Kitchen, further says,
Try to avoid sugary snacks, processed foods, and high carb foods. Preparation is key to make sure you don’t reach for that cake somebody always brings in with the best intentions (please stop eating cake at night!). Before you get your last sleep in before starting your night shifts make sure your food is ready.
Limit your caffeine intake
A lot of times, you constantly look for caffeine to fuel your mind and body to stay alert. Caffeine is a stimulant that can help you stay awake, but it also interferes with sleep. Because it takes about 6 hours for caffeine to leave your system, limit how much caffeine you drink. If you find yourself desperate for a caffeine hit, try to stick with green tea. Sweetened caffeine drinks contribute to total calorie intake and may interfere with the much-needed rest at the end of the shift.
Drinking enough water each day is vital for many reasons: it regulates body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, prevents infections, delivers nutrients to cells, and keeps organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
Dr. Rajput-Ray adds,
As a rule of thumb, sipping from a 1 litre bottle of water (ideally frozen) throughout your shift will assist in your fluid intake and cognitive performance.
Keep going and finish strong!
Don’t forget to eat a healthy breakfast after your shift and before your daytime sleep so you don’t wake up hungry. Try to do daily exercise as your habit. From a simple stretching before and during your shift to a habit of workout after your daytime sleep in the afternoon. It gets your blood pumping and endorphins running. You may find it refreshing to sweat more, than just slouching at your desk during free time.
Be consistent in managing your diet and healthy habit. Your future self will thank you for taking good care of your body. Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, stay healthy! You are still on your way to achieving your goals.
Paoline is driven by passion and enthusiasm for making things happen of what she envisioned. She invites people to see the colors she created on an empty canvas. Through writing or designing, she likes people to see the wonders of stories in a glimmer of first sight