How to stay in shape despite working weird hours
A lot of jobs require some crazy hours:
- Nurses and doctors are often on-call for long stretches or working 12+ hour night shifts, and then have a few days off.
- Night responders get to work just as everybody else is heading home for the day.
- Supermarket employees or construction workers are up and done with work before others have had lunch.
If you happen to work a more typical 9-5 or set your own hours, keep reading: I promise you’ll learn something today too!
Diet is still the most important thing
Now, whether you work weird hours or normal hours, diet is still responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to staying healthy.
This is both a blessing and a curse. It means you don’t need to freak out if you miss a workout after a long night shift, but it also means you gotta take care of yourself while you are working.
If you are working overnight shifts, you’re gonna need to bring in your own food. Want to know how easy it is?
- Purchase a bunch of chicken breast on Sunday Night (or whatever night you actually have off). Cook them on a tray in the oven, ALL of them. Put them in separate containers or bags in your fridge.
- Purchase a bunch of steam fresh bags of frozen veggies. Stick them in the fridge at your workplace.
- Need more calories/carbs in your diet? Buy some sweet potatoes. Microwave one and put it on your plate.
In about 3 minutes and minimal effort, you know have a well-balanced meal.
And be creative!
- Chop up the chicken and put it in a big salad with whatever you prefer (and keep in your fridge).
- Make stir-fry, put some in containers in your fridge, and then heat it up on your break.
- Google “chicken paleo marinade” and mix up how you prepare chicken. Or steak. Or pork. Or salmon.
Bad liquid calories
Whether you’re at a desk or up stocking shelves or making your rounds, you probably deal with a few key things:
- Exhaustion: Let’s be honest, when you work a night shift or early shift, you never get as much sleep as if you were sleeping during the night with normal hours.
- Lack of “time.” If you’re working long days/nights and trying to raise a family/have a social life, food preparation probably doesn’t figure into your schedule. You need convenience, even if you have to pay a bit more for it.
- Hunger: If you forgot to pack your “meal” or “meals,” your only option is to eat what you can find, which is unlikely to be healthy at that time of day.
- Boredom: If you are making rounds or stuck at a desk during the middle of the night, there may be more periods of downtime than if you were working during the day.
So you’re tired, hungry, bored, and struggle with time management. Where do you turn? Caffeine! Now, I have no problem with Caffeine. I wake up every morning and drink a few cups of green tea while sitting at my desk to write. Don’t get caught in bad liquid calorie trap:
- Empty liquid calories are the devil. If you are drinking Fizzy Drinks, energy drinks, or lattes for the caffeine, understand that you are also probably consuming hundreds of calories and 50+ grams of sugar. And sugar is what makes you fat. So read the labels or do the research before you drink six Monster drinks, a case of coke, or a Coffee Latte.
- If you’re going to get caffeine, get it from a healthy source: Black coffee, green tea, or you can try Mcnab’s SuperCharge Caffeine-free energy drink or McNab’s SuperCharge Energy Tabs. Try to wean yourself off the gallons of caffeine and work your way over to black coffee/green tea as time goes on. Hopefully, once you start exercising, you’ll have more energy and need less caffeine to survive your shifts.
Avoid the drinks that don’t give you any nutritional value and are full of sugar. See if you can get your caffeine from better sources. Speaking of better sources of calories…
Stand up at your desk if you can – mix up standing and sitting.
Go for a walk around the office. If you are a nurse or doctor you are probably already doing a considerable amount of walking to make your rounds, so keep it up.
The reason staying active is so important is two-fold:
- Every little bit counts. That push-up, those squats, that extra mile walked…they all add up!
- Your brain keeps thinking “I am active.” Because it has to work more when you move! Remember, diet is 80% of your success or failure. When you exercise and constantly stay active, you are consistently reminding yourself that you are making healthier decisions, and these should carry over to your eating decisions too. Exercising and eating poorly is kind of like paddling a row-boat with one oar – you’re just spinning in circles. Work both together and dominate!
- Exercising can make you smarter and more alert at work. Detailed incredibly well in the book Spark, studies have shown that exercising can increase brain activity and performance.
Take an active role in your health
1) Don’t use the job as an excuse, and instead remind yourself that you are in control. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get healthy.
2) It adds up. Every little change. Every meal you switch up. Every minute of exercise.
3) Plan out your day. Spending 5 minutes identifying what you’ll eat and when you’ll work out makes you WAY more likely to actually follow through with it.