T Nation

Rotating Shift Eating Plan


#1

I have been working hard on my nutrition after having a 46 inch waist and finally getting down to 36 inches. However I was on a Mon - Fri 8am - 5pm schedule. I was recently moved to a rotating 7am - 7pm and then the next week 7pm - 7am work schedule.

I can pack all my meals and usually it consists of a can of tuna, some veggies or a protein shake. My question is though:

Should I maintain my eating patterns for the day time when on night shift and just miss the meals that I would be eating (during sleep hours) or should I modify my eating schedule with the night shift?


#2

I have worked shifts like that in the past. It was hard to eat meals at first when switching, but going with it was worthwhile. I would consider sleep aid supplements to help with the switch (some of my friends swear by Z-12 or 3mg melatonin - take only for 3-4 days to help reset bodyclock). Perhaps you may want to keep the calories a tad higher the days after switching, decent fat sources like nuts, avocados, and fish oils will help your hormonal system deal with the stress. Also a small meal with carbs from a slow digesting source like oats or sweet potatoes may help with the stress.

You will have to experiment a little to find what is best. One thing I noticed was it was better to eat a little every 2 hours rather than a bigger feeding every 4 for the first few days, but like always results vary. If you take stimulants like caffeine, make sure your last dose is 6-8 hours before you go to sleep, the longer the better. Camomile tea helps with stress modulation and is nice to use to wind down. There are some other herbal teas that also work well depending on the person. Starbucks Calm mix is a good camomile-based blend (has some other herbs too).

Whatever you do, don’t overdo the stimulants. If you have downtime and need to keep awake, a walk or some pushups are a good pick me up. Perhaps you can even bring a dumbbell and do a mini workout a couple times to keep yourself going. Going for a 30 minute walk when you wake and before sleep also works well for many people (this of course depends on the nature of your work).


#3

Thanks for the response, I never really thought much about the stress/sleep management angle of things. I will definitely look into that.

The two hours between meals might work too.

However, I was looking more for the whole aspect of eating after a set time, since most of my fat/weight loss has been controlled by not eating after 7 pm, I find it hard to readjust my eating habits when I am waking up at around 3 on days that I work night shift.

I think I might try sticking to CT’s Pulse feast/fast on days that I work night shift and look into what you Orban posted about the stress/sleep management.


#4

That is likely a decent strategy with the fast.

If you eat a set amount of food divided up, it shouldn’t make too much difference.

I know it is particularly hell for the first day or two. Whatever you can do to ease that transition will make the difference because it really messes with the circadian release of stress hormones which will feed back on the rest of the system. With the splitting meals in half, that was just because I didn’t feel like eating more at once, after a couple days it was alright. Though I was lucky and didn’t have to switch weekly.

A note on melatonin, I never use it more than 3 days in a row to avoid dependence, rather as a reset. Apparently doses on the order of 0.3-1 mg seem to have the same effect as 3mg so likely a lower dose will do.