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Nutrition for Night Shift Workers

To everyone, a typical schedule is to eat breakfast at 7 AM, dinner around 12, and supper around 6 PM. Those who do not fit into this typical schedule can sometimes feel at a loss when it comes to coordinating meals.

First of all, you should know that if you work at night, it is normal that your appetite might not be as strong, or on the contrary, that nothing can calm your hunger. Indeed, the two hormones regulating appetite (leptin and ghrelin) are secreted at night during the deep sleep cycles. One is responsible for hunger signals, while the other regulates satiety.

Depending on the situation you’re in, it is important to use strategies in order to provide your body with the energy it needs without overfeeding it.

The key to success is to eat regularly: just like people who work during the day, you should eat every 3 or 4 hours. This means three meals, and if necessary, nutritive snacks in-between (a fruit with a few nuts, yogurt, a granola bar with a fruit, raw vegetables with cheese, etc.).

If you have the tendency to be constantly hungry, maximize your consumption of raw vegetables and vegetable soup, and drink lots of water. With your snacks, drink green tea, herbal tea, or warm water with lemon juice: drinking warm liquid will help you feel satisfied.

If, on the contrary, you have a hard time eating anything, choose foods that you enjoy and that are not hard to digest: hearty meal-soups, casserole dishes, smoothies, or pasta, for example. You could also split your meals, and eat every 3 hours (for example, half a sandwich with a soup at 11 PM, and the other half with a fruit or raw vegetables at 2 AM).

Here are a few examples of meal schedules:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Meal 1 at 11 AM

Meal 1 at 4 PM

Meal 1 at 11 AM

Snack at 4 PM

Snack at 1 PM

Meal 1 at 7 PM

Meal 2 at 4 PM

Meal 2 at 7 PM

Meal 2 at 3 PM

Snack at 11 PM

Snack at 7 PM

Snack at 11 PM

Snack at 6 PM

Meal 2 at 3 AM

Meal 3 at 10 PM

Meal 3 at 3 AM

Snack at 9 PM

Snack at 6 AM

Snack at 1 AM

Snack at 8 AM

Meal 3 at 1 AM

Meal 3 at 9 AM

And you, what are your tips for night workers?

Marilyne Petitclerc

Holder of a degree in nutrition from Université Laval, Marilyne has worked as a nutritionist for Nautilus Plus since 2010. Passionate about healthy eating and sports nutrition, she also gives lectures and hosts cooking workshops. With her clients, Marilyne makes extensive use of the instinct diet approach and the Mediterranean diet model. Furthermore, she has attended classes on live nutrition at the Hippocrates Health Institute. Maryline ran the Quebec City Marathon des Deux Rives - Half Marathon in 2010 and 2012. She also took part in the Staircase Challenge, another event held in Quebec City in June 2012. Marilyne also plays in an Ultimate Frisbee league and trains regularly at the Nautilus Plus branch where she is employed.

Nutrition for Night Shift Workers is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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