Working in Cyber Security, sometimes I have to work night shifts for up to 4 nights in a row. It is quite hard to flip your body clock on its head to adjust for night shifts. It’s even harder to eat clean, cut out caffeine and fit in the exercise! Having worked these sort of shift patterns for a while (both in the police and in cyber security), I now know what works for me.
This doesn’t mean I find it easy, I don’t think it will ever be a seamless transition from days to nights, but I can cope nonetheless. When I am scheduled to work nights, I completely cut out caffeine from my diet. Did you know that caffeine can stay in your body for up to 18 hours, so it’s not good me drinking a cup of coffee at 2am and trying to get to sleep at 7am, it just won’t work – replace with plenty of water!
I also really try to exclude sweets, chocolate and fast food, concentrating on healthier snacks. This is not as hard as you think if you prepare well before the shifts, use tips like batch cooking and freezing, stock up on plenty of healthy snacks, fruit and water. I also religiously wear blue-light blocking glasses throughout the night, these glasses are a game changer in reducing strain on the eyes and tiredness. They heavily reduce blue light from screens, smartphones, TV’s etc., which when working long shifts, means I don’t suffer from headaches like I used to. You can buy them for £9.95 here
So when it comes to exercise, when is the best time to work out on a night shift? I have tried all three variations, so here are my pros and cons of each training time;
Before; As I have only been awake a few hours and I have ate and hydrated well, I prefer this time for training as It gives me a burst of energy before work and wakes me up, ensuring I am ready for the shift! I ensure I eat my first meal as soon as I get to work to, ensuring I am heavy on the carbs, with some protein and veg.
During; I enjoy training during a shift, if I feel my energy dipping around 2-3am, this is the right time to have a banana and head to the gym! On the flipside, there are nights that no matter what I do or what I say, I absolutely do not have the mental power to get in car and drive to the gym, and sugary snacking takes over! (it happens to the best of us!)
After; I absolutely hated training straight after a night shift, I felt weak with very little energy and once I got home and ate, there was absolutely no chance of me sleeping for a good hour or so, this meant I was lethargic once I had woken up for the next shift.
I would highly recommend eating constant smaller meals throughout the night to keep your energy up and to really steer clear of the sugary snacks and fast food! Prep your meals well by batch cooking and freezing, don’t let the night shift be an excuse for poor training and eating habits!