Are you working on a night shift and trying to do intermittent fasting but don’t know how to start or even having skepticism about whether doing intermittent fasting while working the night shift can help you to lose weight?
I know your struggle as I have experience working the night shift at a government hospital in Malaysia.
The government hospital has three shifts – morning (7 am to 2 pm), evening (2 pm to 9 pm), and night (9 pm to 8 am).
Working in shifts, especially the night shift can disrupt your circadian rhythm and increase your risk of getting obesity, heart disease, hormone imbalance, and diabetes.
I know it does sound frustrating to those who are working night shift, no matter in which industry you are currently working.
I am here to bring hope and perhaps help you to understand that intermittent fasting may help to lose weight and minimize the risks of disrupting the circadian rhythm.
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How To Do Intermittent Fasting Schedule For Night Shift?
The challenge while working shifts are either you feel hungry or you don’t have time to eat at all. And if you have time to eat, there is no food available.
End up the most convenient food to get are from the vending machine. Highly processed-food.
And you might be wondering why you are putting on weight and unable to shed that extra pound easily.
The real culprit is hormone imbalance due to the interruption of the circadian rhythm. Which I will explain in a bit.
To answer the question of how to do intermittent fasting while working at night shift. First, you should know your options and choose the one that resonates most with you.
There are a lot of methods doing intermittent fasting but I will discuss only three that has proven to help most of my client and me.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is restricting the time you eat. Instead of focusing on what you eat, you pay attention to when you eat.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about what you put into your body. You should. Because nutrient-dense food can fuel you and give benefits to your body both physically and mentally.
Recommended Methods of Intermittent Fasting For Night Shifts
As I mention, I will discuss three methods that have been proven successfully help to reduce weight:
Crescendo Fasting – If you are a beginner to intermittent fasting, I highly recommend you try to do crescendo fasting.
Instead of diving into long hours of fasting, you could try to do 10 to 12 to 14 hours of fasting before going to 16:8 intermittent fasting.
This will help to avoid shocking your body too much and imbalance your hormone drastically. As every type of body is not made equally, learning to understand your body cue can help you transition into intermittent fasting successfully.
5:2 Intermittent Fasting – This method needs you to fast two nonconsecutive days in a week and eat normally during the remaining five days. During fasting day, you can eat around 500-600 calories.
For example with the 5:2 method, your week might look like this:
Monday: Eat normally
Tuesday: Eat normally
Wednesday: Fast (eat 500-600 calories)
Thursday: Eat normally
Friday: Fast (eat 500-600 calories)
Saturday: Eat normally
Sunday: Eat normally
You can choose to fast during your off day or during your shift. Most of my clients choose to fast during their off days. As having only 500 – 600 calories tends to affect their energy and moods.
16:8 Intermittent Fasting – This is a time-restricted eating method. You have to fast for 16 hours and start eating within 8 hours window period.
For those who work shifts, especially night shift, it is advisable to eat earlier before starting your shift. As we want to try to avoid eating at midnight if possible.
My suggestion if you are on night shift, eat during lunch and dinner before starting your shift skipping snacks and breakfast.
Working night shift, we tend to eat after waking up. For example, when shifts end at 7 am and in between coming back home to sleep, you may start sleeping at 9 am making your first meal around 7 to 8 pm.
If you still feel hungry later at night, try to eat high-protein snacking and not eat after midnight. Regardless of when you choose to eat. Try to adhere to the 16:8 rules and eat a well-balanced nutritious meal.
Still confused? You can try this intermittent fasting calculator to help you know when to start eating and when to fast.
Biggest Challenge While Doing Intermittent Fasting Night Shift
The biggest challenge while doing intermittent fasting during the night shift is going against our circadian rhythm.
What Is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock that is part of the 24-hour natural cycles of physical, mental, and behavioral changes that the body goes through.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus is the one that controls circadian rhythms that are mostly affected by light and darkness.
What happened when there are disruptions of circadian rhythm is your hormone will be imbalanced. Hormones that are affected are melatonin, cortisol, insulin, ghrelin, leptin, vasopressin, and acetylcholine.
This will increase the risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and mental health disorder.
Tips For Shift Workers While Doing Intermittent Fasting
To reduce and minimize the risks and hopefully get your desire to lose weight realized. I will share four tips that are easy to implement:
1. Optimize Your Sleep
If your intention of doing intermittent fasting is to lose weight, I have to emphasize it is imperative to have good quality sleep.
It might sound impossible to do intermittent fasting during the night shift and get a good quality sleep when you come back early in the morning and the sun is coming out.
Don’t feel despair yet, you can have a good quality sleep with these steps:
- Invest in a good curtain, a fine one that can black out the sun rays from coming into your room. Use a sleep mask. Total blackout can help to stimulate melatonin naturally and promotes high-quality deep sleep.
- Stop eating one hour before going to bed as eating closer to your sleep time can impair your quality of sleep.
- Taking over-the-counter melatonin. For a short-term solution, you can try to take a melatonin supplement as the long-term side effect of consuming melatonin is still limited.
I highly recommend you read this book if you still having problems sleeping.20&linkId=bf8410b19864af48a22c2ea0772fa18d&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_il” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>
You can also seek medical counsel by talking to your doctor should your problem persists.
2. What And When To Eat
I am a firm believer of food is medicine. Choosing a well-balanced nutritious may prevent you to get obese and get metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and hypertension.
Eating a portion of good food with complete macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat) will benefit your body both physically and mentally.
Try to avoid processed, highly processed food, sweet desserts, and snack such as chips as it does not provide any benefit to your body and contribute to more inflammation towards your body which in long term will bring more harm to your body.
The above picture is what ideally I would recommend my client to eat during their break fast. When choosing your whole grain try to find those low GI (Glycemic Index) as it can help to manage insulin from spiking.
Examples: Brown rice, basmati rice, wholemeal pasta, and wholemeal bread. You can check on the nutrition food label to check the value of the glycemic index.
Choose a good protein such as salmon, tuna, breast chicken, tofu, or tempeh, and the list is limitless. Protein can help you to feel fuller longer, feel satiate, and may help in weight loss.
Getting healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil, flaxseeds, and chia seed and incorporating them into your diet may help to lower the risks of getting heart disease, reduce inflammation, control the hormone insulin, and improve blood cholesterol levels.
As I mentioned, it is important not to eat near midnight or near your sleep time. This is because we want to avoid upsetting our circadian rhythm.
Based on research, upsetting circadian rhythm can disrupt our hormones and cause chaotic metabolic responses leading to an increased risk of getting obesity and metabolic disorder.
And eating near our bedtime can cause gastrointestinal upset such as reflux, and GERD causing disturbance not only to our GI but also causing poor quality sleep that again will upset the circadian rhythm.
3. Getting Enough Water
Getting enough water to drink is necessary to help your body both physically and mentally. Average adults have about 60% of water inside their bodies.
Water is essential to help to regulate the body’s temperature. Lubricate and cushion joints. Protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. And to get rid of waste through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements.
The cardinal rule says that adults should drink at least 8-ounce of glasses of water per day.
Drinking water may help to lose weight. Intermittent fasting for night shifts has difficulty drinking enough water. Having bottled water nearby with a time marker to drink might help you.
Some of my clients also shared their difficulty in drinking plain water. You can try to make infused water such as putting fruits like lemon and mint inside your water bottle to help you drink water.
This is way better than drinking your calories with all those sweet savory drinks like bubble tea or soda can.
4. Managing Your Stress
Stress is inevitable. You will face stress in life. How you manage those stress is important. Being unable to manage stress in a long term can cause distress to your body mentally and physically.
The primary stress hormone that gives a big impact on our body is cortisol. Cortisol can increase glucose in the bloodstream and may cause insulin resistance making us more susceptible to gaining weight and increasing risks of getting metabolic disease.
Doing exercises like yoga, and meditation can help to calm you down and perhaps manage your stress better.
How To Choose Which Intermittent Fasting Suitable For You?
Choosing what is the best intermittent fasting method while working shifts, is all depends on you.
If you just starting out, the best is doing crescendo fasting. You can gradually increase the intensity once you feel your body can withstand fasting.
It is important whatever fasting plan you are choosing, fits your schedule. If it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle, changes are this lifestyle won’t be sustainable for you to continue.
FAQs On Intermittent Fasting For Night Shift
What Is The Best Diet When Working Night Shift?
The best diet when working the night shift is eating a small breakfast before day sleep to avoid waking due to hunger. However, it is advisable to avoid eating large meals 1 to 2 hours before sleeping to avoid upsetting your gastrointestinal system.
What Is The Best Time To Intermittent Fast When Working Night Shift?
The best time to intermittent fast when working the night shift is to break your fast a few hours after you’ve woken up. For example, if you go to bed at 9 am after your shift ends at 7 pm, your first meal would be around 7 or 8 pm.
How To Do Intermittent Fasting As A Shift Worker?
To do intermittent fasting as a shift worker, my suggestion is to eat early 1-2 hours before night shift until you wake up the next day. For example, eat at 7 pm or 8 pm before starting your shift at 9 pm, fast during your shift, go home, sleep, and then wake up and eat lunch.
Does Night Time Count In Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, nighttime and sleeping count in intermittent fasting. You can begin intermittent fasting by progressively working up from overnight fasting. You can start with crescendo fasting, and gradually increase the intensity of your fasting period.
How Do Night Shift Workers Lose Weight?
Here are steps for night shift workers to lose weight:
- Prioritize sleep
- Meal Prep
- Do meal plan ahead
- Eat a well-balanced nutritious meal
- Pack Nutrient-Dense snacks
- Avoid Sugary drinks and snacks
- Try not to skip exercise
- Hydrate yourself with enough water
- Don’t abuse caffeinated drinks.
Should I Eat After Night Shift?
After your night shift ended, you can eat a small meal so you don’t go to bed hungry. However, you need to watch your portion sizes and eat a well-balanced nutritious meal. Eat protein-rich foods as they can help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Does 12 hours Count As Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, 12 hours of fasting do count as intermittent fasting and also known as 12:12. Many people do intermittent fasting for weight loss and get health benefits, including improved digestion, increased energy, and improved sleep.
Does Fasting At Night Help Lose Weight?
Yes, a longer than normal fasting period at night can help you to burn through some of your sugar stores, known as glycogen. This will help your body extra time to burn fat and may help your body get rid of any extra salt in your diet. This will help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
When Should I Workout If I Work Shifts?
Spare your time for about 30-45 minutes before your night shift starts and exercise with a mix of cardio and weight training. This will help to boost your metabolism and keep you more alert, and agile and eventually may help you lose weight.
What Should I Eat To Not Gain Weight On A Night Shift?
You can eat a well-balanced nutritious food, with complete macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat). Try to incorporate more healthy fats and protein into the diet such as avocado, cottage cheese, nuts, eggs, and vegetable-based protein as these will help you feel fuller longer.
Yes, doing intermittent fasting for night shift workers is doable. You just need to choose which method is suitable for you, plan ahead your meal plan, and manage your sleep and stress well.
The most important step before diving into intermittent fasting is always to start slowly and gradually increase your fasting intensity. Learn to read your body cue and don’t be too hard on yourself.
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