We know you’re busy and probably more than a little tired, so we’re building a monthly newsletter — While You Were Sleeping — sign up, we’ll send it right to your inbox and you won’t miss a thing.


Stacks Image 452
Stacks Image 454
Stacks Image 456
Stacks Image 458
Stacks Image 460
Stacks Image 462
Stacks Image 464
Stacks Image 472
Stacks Image 466
Stacks Image 468
Stacks Image 470

The Anatomy of My Caffeine Crash by S.c Johnson

Stacks Image 404
I’ve just come off a brutal set of evenings and nights. To be fully functional, by the last night I was up to 4 cups of "wake up juice" as I call it. Coffee and I are not friends but, by my fourth night, tea just didn't cut it any more. I refuse to ingest an "energy drink" as I don't know enough about them. I'm not sure what's worse, the shifts I just worked or the caffeine crash I am experiencing.
Internet search tip:
When looking for information on caffeine be aware that some sites, incorrectly, use coffee and caffeine interchangeably. For example there are sites that state caffeine helps prevent type 2 diabetes when in actuality the research shows that it may be coffee that holds this health benefit (a cup of decaf has the same benefit).
Caffeine is the most commonly used, legal psychoactive substance worldwide (1). Caffeine is found in nature in the plants of coffee, tea, cocoa, and kola. It is also manufactured and added to some carbonated drinks and drugs. Examples include over the counter cold medications (1).
What Caffeine does in your body
There are some complex, well-documented chemical reactions that occur after ingesting caffeine. If one does not have an affinity for physiology and words like adenosine, dopamine, nor-epinephrine, epinephrine and the effects these neurotransmitters have on the body it can be excellent bedtime reading. Simply put, caffeine prepares our bodies to react to stressful threatening situations - it produces a flight or fight response. It increases our heart rate to allow for more blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body. It allows for clearer more focused thinking. (2)
(Did you know??)
Fish and amphibians don't get that caffeine buzz as they don't respond to some of those neurotransmitters. They also lack sympathetic nerves in their hearts. (2)

The Good…
Several research studies make public the health benefits of caffeine:
It increases alertness and reduces fatigue. This may be especially important in low arousal situations (e.g. working at night). - Caffeine improves performance on vigilance tasks and simple tasks that require sustained response. Again, these effects are often clearest when alertness is reduced, although there is evidence that benefits may still occur when the person is unimpaired. Effects on more complex tasks are difficult to assess and probably involve interactions between the caffeine and other variables, which increase alertness (e.g. personality and time of day). In contrast to the effects of caffeine consumption, withdrawal of caffeine has few effects on performance. There is often an increase in negative mood following withdrawal of caffeine, but such effects may largely reflect the expectancies of the volunteers and the failure to conduct “blind” studies. Regular caffeine usage appears to be beneficial, with higher users having better mental functioning. Most people are very good at controlling their caffeine consumption to maximize the above positive effects. For example, the pattern of consumption over the day shows that caffeine is often consumed to increase alertness. In contrast to effects found from normal caffeine intake, there are reports that have demonstrated negative effects when very large amounts are given or sensitive groups (e.g. patients with anxiety disorders) were studied. (3)

Stacks Image 413
(Did you know??)
When you’re sagging and looking for a caffeine boost, the best thing to do is to have a cup and a nap. It takes 20-30 minutes for your system to soak up the buzz and if you limit your little sleep to that – you’ll get up ready to go.

Stacks Image 416
The Bad...
In contrast to effects found from normal caffeine intake, there are reported negative effects when very large amounts are ingested. In this context caffeine has been shown to increase anxiety and impair sleep. There is also some evidence that fine motor control may be impaired as a function of the increase in anxiety. Overall, the global picture that emerges depends on whether one focuses on effects that are likely to be present when the majority of the population consumes caffeine in moderation or on the effects found in extreme conditions. The evidence clearly shows that levels of caffeine consumed by most people have largely positive effects on behavior. Excessive consumption can lead to problems, especially in sensitive individuals. (4)

The Ugly…
Overall, caffeine intoxication requires the consumption of as little as 250mg and can lead to insomnia, muscle twitching, gastrointestinal disturbance, anxiousness, and incoherent speech or thoughts. Excess consumption becomes very dangerous, as symptoms can potentially escalate to cardiac arrest. This risk increases for avid caffeine drinkers, who reach intoxication on a regular basis. The best way to avoid these risks is to limit or eliminate caffeine consumption entirely from your diet.
But as Shift Workers this is not likely going to happen. On average, North American caffeine consumers drink about 280mg daily. It only takes a daily consumption of 100mg to experience physical dependence on the substance. To put these numbers into perspective, a medium coffee from Tim Horton’s contains roughly 140mg of caffeine. Unfortunately, as with any stimulant, there comes a time when coffee is not enough to induce a stimulatory effect.
Be careful when you’re filling up your cup.
(1) McGuinness, Teena, 2011
(2) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-does-caffeine-affect
(3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/02786915/40/9
(4) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691502000960

How to Overcome a Less Than Ideal Schedule

Stacks Image 1223
Our bodies rely on functioning properly through homeostasis (the tendency towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements of the human body), which signals a myriad of numerous hormones that rely on a number of factors in response to the circadian rhythm to regulate sleep patterns.
There are numerous professions that are dependent on shift work as a normal part of their profession such as police, emergency medical services, fire service, military and numerous industrial jobs. If we don’t sleep in sync with seasonal light exposure according to the circadian rhythm, we can alter our biological rhythms that control hormones and neurotransmitters that determine appetite and both mental and physical health. If we don’t sleep in sync with seasonal light exposure according to the circadian rhythm, we can alter our biological rhythms that control hormones and neurotransmitters that determine appetite and both mental and physical health.
I have been working shift work for most of my adult life, having worked as a police officer for eleven years and now as a firefighter and rescue technician. I will be the first person to admit that I am extremely jealous of anyone who works a regular dayshift and gets to sleep every night in his or her own bed. If you’ve never experienced sleep deprivation or a disrupted sleep pattern, consider yourself lucky. Not only do these disruptions interfere with your “regular” life, they can especially play havoc on your “training” life. Have you ever seen the Navy Seal candidates take part in their sleep deprivation training? They can barely add 2 + 2 when they are deprived of sleep!

The current shift pattern that I am working at the fire department consists of 42-hour workweeks that are broken up into three blocks:
• Four 10-hour dayshifts
• Three 14-hour nightshifts
• One “long shift,” which is 86 hours worked in six days

The “long shift” consists of working 10-hour dayshifts on Friday and Saturday, a 24-hour shift on Sunday, and return ten hours after working a 24-hour shift to work three 14-hour nightshifts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. If anyone has any ideas on how to implement some quality powerlifting training into this week it would be greatly appreciated!

I always get comments from people that state, “It must be nice to go to work and get to sleep while your work” so I am going to address this with an analogy that hopefully everyone can understand.
I invite you to come over to my place and I will set up a cot in my basement for you to sleep on. I’ll make sure there’s lots of white noise so you can get a quality sleep (several grown men snoring, burping and farting) so it’s realistic. Every two hours I’m going to blow an air horn in your ear and wake you up. You must get up, get dressed and be in your car ready to go in one minute (but you don’t have to drive, I’ll drive… because I’m such a nice guy).

We’re going to drive really fast with the radio blasting, the interior lights on, and we’re going to an apartment building where you get to put on a 50-pound backpack, grab a 12-pound sledgehammer and run up several flights of stairs. (I won’t make you do anything this time, because it’s a false alarm).
We’re going to drive back home and you get to go back to bed for some “quality sleep” and we can continue this routine for the remainder of the night. Then when you get up in the morning for shift change and your eyes are bloodshot, your thoughts are scrambled and you’re trying to figure out where you are and what’s going on, I’m going to say to you “must be nice going to work and sleep all night!”
I think you get the picture.

I will argue that sleep is the most important factor to address in order to be able to train optimally and also to keep you healthy, both mentally and physically. Sleep regulates a cascade of hormone and neurotransmitter functions that keeps your body functioning properly. If you don’t believe that sleep isn’t one of the most important factors in your training, try to sleep a few nights a week for only two or three hours and see how you feel, look, and perform. I’d bet your training intensity and performance will suffer dearly, as well as a reduction in your cognitive function and mental clarity. Sleep is only one of the factors that influence your ability to train properly. What about nutrition? What about recovery? What about stress? What about other commitments? Family? One thing is certain: if you don’t get proper sleep, your recovery will not be optimal and your body will be stressed from lack of sleep.

How is it possible to try and train optimally while working these types of shifts?
You can’t!

One of the first things to do is to try your best to sleep as much as you can after you get home from your shift. It is essential to have your room completely “blacked out” so there is no light whatsoever getting in. Unplug or blackout any alarm clock lights, computer lights, cell phone lights, etc.

EVERY cell in your body responds to light. Your body is so sensitive to light that universities have done sleep studies to measure hormone responses to light and had a test subject lie in a completely blacked out room. They shone a small light (about the size of a quarter) on the back of the knee and found that it disrupted normal hormonal patterns. Once again, EVERY cell in your body responds to light. If you wear a sleep mask to keep the light out while you sleep, it doesn’t work if any of your skin is exposed to light!

I have to advise anyone working shift work that it is pretty much impossible to follow any specific training program to a tee while working crazy shifts. In all likelihood you will have to modify any training program to fit to your schedule and you have to be willing to adapt and be flexible.

Flexibility is key to your training!

I had the opportunity to speak with Matt Rhodes at the last elitefts Powerlifting Experience and we spoke about training, recovery and aging. Matt is a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Albany. Matt drilled into my head that training is about “quality not quantity” and when you realize you can have two “quality” training sessions a week versus four “average” training sessions, you’ll recover better and progress much better and get stronger with two. You have to be flexible enough to miss a training session or two and not feel guilty about it or try to catch up on any sessions you’ve missed.

There are weeks in my training when I get three to four great training sessions per week and there are other weeks I might get two. There are also weeks (during the dreaded long shift) that might be simple active recovery training or just some simple mobility or stretching work. If I try to lift heavy when I’m exhausted, I’ll only be disappointed and get frustrated because it didn’t go well. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

You have to be realistic.

Shift work is not an optimal environment to train in, let alone trying to plan your training because your work environment it dynamic. Training will never be perfect. If your body is stressed already because of lack of sleep, do you really think it will be advantageous to push even harder when you’re already in a weakened and less than optimal state? You need to start relying on your instinct about how you feel and make decisions from there. Dave Tate emphasizes how difficult it is for people to train smart. I believe the first step to training smart is realizing you can’t train on a specific schedule when you work shift work and once you accept that, you can adjust and adapt. It’s hard to put your ego on the back burner and do what’s right.

I’m no spring chicken and I don’t claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I have realized I can’t train and recover properly without focusing on proper sleep, nutrition and recovery. If I feel “off”, I have no issue taking a day, or two, or three off to step back, take a look at the big picture and continue to get stronger and reach my powerlifting goals.

Stacks Image 1647
Ken is a full time Firefighter and Rescue Technician with Oshawa Fire and is a Certified Kettlebell Coach and WKC Master Kettlebell Trainer. Ken has competed and won several Kettlebell Sport competitions throughout North America as well as winning the National Championship at the 2012 Firefit Combat Challenge. Ken is an Elite powerlifter and has won his division in two Canadian National Championships and won Gold at the WPC World Powerlifting Championships. His current best lifts in competition are an 848 lb squat (see above pic), a 535 lb bench and a 705 lb deadlift. Ken has set all the Canadian National records in his powerlifting division.

You may contact Ken via his article page at

I’ll Have a Glass of Sleep Please

Stacks Image 777
As a Shift Worker (a tired one), a recent article regarding melatonin caught my attention. What it reported was that Synlait Milk, a New Zealand based dairy farm, is producing melatonin enhanced milk powder. The milk is collected from cows at night. The product itself is named iNdream3 and is currently made for export to the South Korean market and branded there with the name Sleepiz.
A clinical trial (jointly funded by Synlait) conducted by The Otago University’s WellSleep Centre (located in Dunedin, New Zealand), found that iNdream3 reduced the time to onset of sleep, increased deep sleep and reduced daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Additional research on “sleep/melatonin milk” showed me that German cows are also on the job at night being milked between 2 and 4am under the same theory that if milked when they should be asleep, they’ll produce more melatonin in their milk. (Bovine Shift Workers ).
Read More
They’re coddled a bit, fed clover, and turned out into pens with deep sand – a cow beach if you will – maybe the equivalent of a shift bonus in the animal world. The company itself seems quite dedicated to treating their cows right:
Milchkristalle GmbH stands for selecting dairy farms following strict criteria and only authorizing farms for production, which, and from their own site:
• produce grade “S” (Superior) milk,
• uphold statutory hygiene standards for high quality foods,
• allow veterinary authorities to monitor their production of night milk,
• comply with EU animal protection laws,
• can guarantee genuine naturalness of their night milk,
• allow animals to roam outdoors with sunlight and provide the correct lighting conditions,
• enable the animals to choose their eating, drinking or sleeping places at any time of day or night freely, and use high-quality diets of grass and herbs, which contain the amino acid tryptophan and favor fodder containing legumes (such as alfalfa)

Special treatment = special milk according to the Milchkristalle company who then freeze dry the milk and sell it as a product called Nightmilk Crystals, which can be reconstituted in other products and consumed before going to bed.

… But does it work? And if I think it works, does it matter if it does or does not do what it suggests?
Melatonin, which is available without a prescription in the U.S and Canada, is under much stricter restrictions in other parts of the world where it's only available at pharmacies. The hormone is naturally produced by the body and used by the brain to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

"Melatonin won't make you sleepy, but will help you fall asleep if your body clock is out of sync," said David Schulman, a doctor at the Emory University sleep laboratory in Atlanta. Schulman also had concerns about dose size with the German product. The average recommended dose of melatonin is three milligrams, far more than a person would get from the 1,800 picogram dose of the Nightmilk Crystal supplement. "I'd be surprised if this small a dose did anything at all," Schulman said, adding he didn't see the point of coaxing cows to produce the hormone, which is safely and cheaply produced in factories.
Red Kite Farms based in Turville Heath, England, also developed their own version with a melatonin boost; Slumber Bedtime Milk an organic liquid milk product, which they claim helps one to drop off to sleep. Whether this is still for sale in the UK could not be determined.

What is obvious here is that sleep, or lack thereof, comes with no easy across the board fix, but it’s certainly caught the interest of big business world wide, which means it won’t be fixed, but it will certainly be milked for every dollar it can provide.
The Shift Worker’s Guide

Driving Fatigued — A Dangerous Shift Work Reality

driving fatigued Adrian Howell Photography
Imagine this:
You are coming off of your last of 4 insanely busy night shifts. You get in your car and start the long drive out of the city towards home. You replay a bit of your night (this is now your quadruple check that you haven’t forgotten to tell the on-coming shift anything important that they may not be able to figure out themselves). You get on the highway. Traffic’s not too bad at first, as you are going against the morning rush. You look over at the westbound traffic and you feel grateful to not be one of “those people” who have to get up every day and do the monotonous 9-5. You look forward to your 5 days off. As the sun starts to rise, traffic slows (nothing like that glare of the new day’s sun to impede your commute). As you start to slow down you realize your body has just done the equivalent of saying “goodnight” ….

…and your eyes start to get even heavier than they were before you started your drive. You roll down your window (yup, even in minus 30 weather). The crisp air and the few deep breaths you take gives you a little more focus. You realize you need to keep moving – you look for the next off ramp and start a mental map of an alternate route - what might be your best bet for traffic that will keep moving? It doesn’t look too bad ahead. This is the fastest way home. And home, is where your bed is. So you stay the course. A few moments pass and you realize you don’t remember merging onto the connecting highway. You actually don’t remember the last few exits. Autopilot. You crank your radio up and reposition slightly in your seat. You find a song you know and give the saddest attempt to sit up right and sing along, tapping your fingers on the steering wheel.
Stacks Image 1055
There’s that sun again. The brightness of the sun and your squinting to see past it makes your heavy eyelids feel that much heavier. A rumbling under the wheels of the car jolts you. Did they make that shoulder wider? You pull back into your lane and keep going. You reach in your bag and pull out an apple – fondly recalling the conversation with a friend at work who suggested you try this. They too have a lengthy drive home and an apple worked for them. Now, you don’t go into a night shift without your morning driving apple.
The 5 minutes you take to eat your apple takes you to the last stretch of your drive to bed – I mean home. Farm fields as far as you can see. Why is everyone in such a rush? That’s the 3rd car that has passed you on a single lane roadway. You look down and realize you’re driving well below the speed limit. Well, that won’t get us home any faster! As you attempt to depress the gas pedal you realize that your muscles have thrown in the towel as well. You must now focus intently on applying the needed pressure to keep a consistent and appropriate speed going. You perch your elbow on the opened window’s edge and rest your head on your hand – eyelids forced open by your fingertips. This can’t be safe. Does this happen to everyone coming off of nights you wonder? You get a little more energy as you near the finish line and turn down your street. You pull into your garage. Home. Family. Bed. The fear melts away. You sit back for the first time since your drive began. You are startled by someone knocking on your window. You look down at the clock. 2 hours have passed since you pulled in. It’s your significant other wanting to know why you didn’t come in and go to bed instead of sleeping in your car.
Sound familiar? As you read further, you’ll see that this scenario touches on almost all of the signs of driver’s fatigue. Shift work counted as one of the many reasons that people drive fatigued. Very dangerous both for the driver as well as other drivers and pedestrians – but a scary reality to many night shift workers.

The difference between driver’s fatigue and drowsy driving

Fatigued Driving: fatigued driving refers to a “disinclination to continue performing the driving task at hand”. It can occur as a result of the monotony or repetitiveness of either the driving task or the driving environment, or can occur after driving for extended periods without a rest or break.
Drowsy Driving: drowsy driving is a function of the human body’s natural circadian rhythm or “sleep-wake” cycle, meaning that most people feel sleepy twice a day – at night and in the afternoon. Drivers that operate a vehicle at these times are more likely to feel drowsy.
These definitions were taken from the
Traffic Injury Research Foundation. (Traffic Injury Research Foundation). Using these definitions, shift workers can be affected by both fatigued and drowsy driving. Since a shift worker’s circadian rhythm is altered, the times of the day when shift workers feel their sleepiest are not the same as someone who doesn’t work shift work.
How often does this happen?
“Shift worker are more likely than those who work a regular day time schedule to drive to or from work drowsy at least a few days a month (36% vs. 25%). (Transport Canada).
Unfortunately, statistics in North America are inconsistent between states and provinces. There is no way to quantify fatigue the way we can for blood alcohol level. As well, drivers are not willing to admit their fault in an accident when driving fatigued or drowsy. The National Highway TSA, in America, conservatively estimates that driving fatigued causes approximately 100, 000 crashes, 1,550 deaths and 71, 000 injuries a year. Australia, England, Finland and Europe collect more consistent data and among them have determined that between 10%-30% of crashes are due to drowsy driving.
“It is estimated that about 20% of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue.”(CCMTA, 2010)
A 2007 survey found that about 60% of Canadian drivers admitted that they occasionally drove while fatigued and 15% of respondents admitted that they had fallen asleep while driving during the past year (Vanlaar et al., 2008). (
Transport Canada).
Another survey shows:
An alarming 20 percent of Canadians admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once over the last year. Studies also suggest fatigue is a factor in about 15 percent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year. (
Canada Safety Council).
Decreased sleep correlates with increased accidents
The same people who would never drive impaired by a substance; will not think twice about getting into a vehicle while fatigued. Police cannot lay charges for fatigue impairment (
Canada Safety Council). TIRF indicates that charges laid against fatigued drivers include dangerous driving; criminal negligence or impaired driving. The State of New Jersey is the only place in North America that has law for fatigued driving. It is called Maggie’s law and was instituted after a teenager was killed by a driver who had been awake for over 24 hours. A driver causing a fatality in an MVC after not sleeping for 24 hours in the state of New Jersey, can be charged with vehicular homicide.

Warning signs of fatigue include:

• Blinking or yawning frequently
• Closing eyes for a moment or going out of focus
• Having wandering or disconnected thoughts
• Realizing that you have slowed down unintentionally
• Braking too late
• Not being able to remember driving the last few kilometres
• Drifting over the center line onto the other side of the road
Transportation Canada)

What’s being done?
So, we know fatigued driving is a problem, and working shift work makes it more likely that you may drive fatigued and/or drowsy. So what is being done? In Canada there are signs reminding drivers that “Drowsy Driving Causes Crashes” or “Drowsy Drivers Next Exit 5 Kilometres”. There are devices that measure eyelid closures, head nodding, and lane deviations and attempt to warn the driver – however, these have not been proven effective yet. Sadly, these are the only things that could be found prior to publishing this article.

Driving safely after night shift
So, what do we do? Give up shift-work? Don’t work nights? Advocate for sleeping areas in all shift working jobs?
To manage fatigue, drivers can consider doing the following:

• Sleep well prior to long road trips
• Share the driving with other passengers
• Take regular rest stops every couple of hours and do some exercise
• Eat light meals or fruit throughout the journey and drink water;
• If one feels tired during the trip, a nap of twenty to forty minutes is an effective way of reducing sleepiness (
Transportation Canada).

I particularly find the first suggestion unobtainable by certain professions. Whether it is back to back traumas, that 3rd alarm fire, the unexpected rave gone wrong or the last stretch of your long haul as a truck driver, there are a plethora of situations that ensure you will not get a break or sleep well prior to your drive home; especially if you have to get home to start your other shift as a parent. There is no easy answer. Some people I know will stay back and rest a few moments with their head on a table. Carpooling may help, however, if you are all on the same schedule you may be playing hot potato with who’s going to be the fatigued driver. Public transit is an option – but don’t be surprised if you miss your stop.
We would love to hear and share your tips and suggestions on what you do to safety make it home after night-shifts.

Catherine Johnson (Shift Worker)
The Shift Worker’s Guide

Photo: The Shift Worker’s Head Nod —
Adrian Howell Photography (Shift Worker)

Adrian is also on Facebook

A Shift Worker’s Healthy Eating Challenge

Stacks Image 2846
Challenging the challenges of challenging herself, Shift Worker & Blogger Anna Mae of "Uncommon Wealth" has agreed to let us in on her personal experience during her month of July -- 30 Day Eat Healthy and Clean …challenge. Can it be done on shift when the midnight hunger gremlins appear? When the convenience of eating “fast” because you’re too tired to make something good wins out? When the thought of shopping, and reading labels and standing in line to buy anything is overwhelming ‘cause you’re tired enough to just nap in the baking aisle on pillow-like bags of over processed white flour?
She’ll let us know with a halfway and month end report, what special challenges and rewards come to the dedicated to eating healthy, Shift Worker.
Halfway Update
Stacks Image 2858
(Shift Worker's Guide Page Manager note: We love Anna Mae, and as she admits here, she can be a little moody. At this halfway point in her challenge I had a girl style talk (stall to stall for those who don't know what that means), she was in such a good mood I asked her if there was something WRONG with her... could this good eating thing of her's work?)
Are you a shift worker? Whether by circumstance or by choice, and whether you like it or not, you’ve probably heard about the impact that working shifts can have on your health. The usual litany of it'll shorten your life span, increase your waist line, the lack of sleep is bad for your heart, blah blah blah, and the list goes on. Well I'm here today to challenge the assumptions that shift work automatically equals a death sentence.
I do believe that although shift work doesn't lead to a healthy life, we can all achieve health and longevity despite the non-traditional shift schedules we follow. One can lead an unhealthy life even while working a 9-5 schedule, however as shift workers there's the real added stress of lack of sleep. Can you combat all the negative health effects and prove the naysayers wrong? I believed that I could, I found that I can, and I believe that you can do it to.
You know the deal: mostly sedentary job in which there is always amazingly healthy food around like donuts, cupcakes, chips, large meals, and everything in between. That donut and coffee for breakfast and the 2am chips and dip can quickly turn into 5 -10 extra pounds that slowly creep up on you. I started my current position just under 2 years ago and when I first strayed I definitely noticed that I put on a couple extra pounds that I know affectionately refer to as my 'freshmen 15'. I'm all about body acceptance and loving yourself no matter what your size but I was unhappy, lethargic and felt like the junk I was eating. It was time for a change.
In June I decided to try out one of those nutrition fads I'd heard so much about: the green smoothie. I committed to drinking 1 green smoothie a day for 30 days. The smoothie consisted of a serving of healthy green like kale or spinach and lots of yummy fruit to make it palatable. And you know what? I did it. This gave me the confidence and enthusiasm to take on a more lofty health challenge.
For July I embarked on a personal clean eating health challenge in which I cut out sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, coffee, and all processed foods. I know, it's insane right? Especially the coffee part: I get a lot of 'how do you survive on night shifts' questions that I'm now able to answer.
My July diet consists of non-gluten grains, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, vinegar, herbs and spices. Essentially, real food without all the added junk and so far so good: I've actually stuck to eating clean even while working night shifts.
I have some strategies that have helped me get through the shifts:
Planning and preparation are key: I spend the day before I go back on shift meal planning, grocery shopping, making meals and packing healthy snacks. Living a healthy lifestyle takes a concentrated effort at first because our society makes it easier to be unhealthy but it gets easier, trust me.
Fight cravings and take willpower out of the equation: Recent research has shown that willpower is like a muscle that we can strengthen but it can also easily get fatigued, especially at the beginning. So how does one build that muscle? Through acceptance, distraction and replacement. I accept that I have a craving for example, or that I'd love to eat that donut but instead of saying to myself “I can't have that”, I tell myself that I choose not to have it” as an act of self love towards myself in an effort to be healthy. Okay so you tried that and you still really want that donut: it's calling your name. Time then to distract yourself with something that you love to do: talk to a friend, read, write, go for a walk, make art, whatever works for you. And if all else fails I say give in to the craving, BUT in a healthy way. For example I love air-popped popcorn, mixed nuts, and plantain chips for salty snack replacements as well as homemade desserts using cocoa powder and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar for the sweet tooth.
Portions are still a struggle: Even if a food is healthy or better for you than another food it can still contain calories that can add up if you're not careful. My strategy for this one: measure out snacks according to serving size on the package or box and package into snack-size containers or bags.
I'm not going to lie to you and say this is going to be super simple: the struggle is real. But if I can do it then you can do it. I believe in you! You will go through sugar/caffeine withdrawal, you'll feel hungry all the time and some days, at the beginning, you'll hate life, but then you'll break through the metaphorical wall and it'll feel like you're newly alive and you're finally experiencing life to its fullest. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but I've definitely noticed some amazing changes that have accompanied this new diet.
I'm half through the month and in the first week I lost 5 lbs right away and then 3 lbs in the second week: that's 8 lbs total in just under 2 weeks time. It's definitely working: I've finally broken through that number on the scale that I just couldn't make budge before. There have been many other benefits as well. I have more energy than I did even though I'm not drinking coffee. I wake up in the morning when my alarm goes off, I don't get afternoon slump and I'm able to stay up for the night shifts and sleep better during the day. My digestion has normalized as has my mood, I'm happier and my skin has cleared up; I honestly don't think I've felt this great in a long time. A friend I bumped into that I hadn’t seen since I began this food challenge said that I was glowing, a comment that helps me stay the course for the next two weeks and beyond.
It's a tough transition to make and working shifts makes it harder but I really think it's feasible with the right drive, planning and grit. It's even more important as shift workers to pay attention to our health in order to counteract the negative affects such work has on our bodies.
I for one want to live a long and healthy life and hopefully I can achieve that. Check back at the end of the month for a wrap up once I've completed the 30 days and if you want more info such as recipes and more in depth nutrition and exercise advice head to my blog:
(Please consult your medical professional when embarking on any major lifestyle change.)
Bio: My name is Anna Mae, Blogger at Uncommon Wealth and I'm a shift worker. I know it sounds like a dirty word or a secret way of living. Well I'm coming out of the closet: I love shift work and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've been a shift worker on and off for my entire work life and I figured something out: I'm not a 9 to 5 person, I love it, and I've come to terms with

Final Report
Stacks Image 2860
I've done it: I made it through a month of clean eating while being a shift worker. It wasn't always an easy task but it was so worth it — I proved to myself that I could do it, I’ve experienced some amazing benefits, and I can now help others to do it too.
At the end of 30 days of clean eating I’ve:

Succeeded in eliminating some of the worst food contenders in my life
Increased my real food intake
Lost 10 pounds weight
Increased my overall energy
Elevated the quality of my sleep

Here's what I've learned from experiencing clean eating for a month while being a shift worker:

I've been able to successfully navigate shift work without coffee:
I actually gave up coffee and I know what your thinking: "How does one survive shift work without a constant and direct IV supply of caffeine?” The occasional black tea when needed as well as green and herbal tea when a nice warm drink was needed helped.

I have much more energy:
I have more energy then ever before and maybe it has to do with giving up coffee or maybe it has to do with cutting out sugar but either way I have more energy in several areas of my life. I now find it easier to wake up and get going in the mornings, to stay functional throughout the day and night shifts and I waste less time recovering on my days off.

I now need less sleep than before to function properly:
This may seem weird and maybe comes across as a negative but it's actually an amazing thing. I really love my sleep: I'd sleep in as often as possible, nap whenever I could, and I needed a minimum of 10 hours of sleep to function. Now I'm finding that I don't require much more than the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep per night or day. That's a pretty big step for me that has opened up so much more time to do the things I love, especially on those sacred of days off.

I was surprised by what turned out to be the easy and the hard parts:
I, like most people, very much enjoy my bread, cheese, wine ,and chocolate, which were all difficult to avoid in their own way but not the hardest. I thought it would be really hard to avoid all the baked goods, candies, chips, donuts, etc that are always around at work and which I would've indulged in in the past, but I found them easier to avoid. I think a big part of that was the fact that I made sure to always pack a lot of healthy snack options to bring with me to work and I allowed myself the occasional healthy indulgence. The hard part is the initial change over from unhealthy to healthy because we've allowed our lives and environments to be permeated by the unhealthy.

I wasn't always perfect and that's ok:
I had a couple slip-ups during the month in which I indulged in a piece of dark chocolate or I ate a non-gluten free cracker by accident but overall I stuck with the plan. I ate healthy and clean meals and snacks on the regular and I did so while working various shifts and on my days off. I didn't let a momentary slip-up or lapse in judgment derail the entire plan, and that is a key element to staying on track when trying to switch from unhealthy to healthy eating.

It may sometimes seem like the world is against us in our pursuit of health and wellbeing and it may seem like it's much easier to give up and give into an unhealthy lifestyle. It may seem that the unhealthy choices are the easier ones to make but here's the beauty of it: they are both choices and each choice you make is under your control. When you really start to do the work, the research, the planning and the cleaning that it takes to create a healthy lifestyle and environment, your whole life opens up and you realize there is so much healthiness to be discovered and uncovered and it is a feasible way to live. This initial hard work, if you stick with it, will reap untold benefits. Once you've designed your ideal environment that's conducive to health it'll become easier and easier and eventually it'll become an automatic part of your life. No more fighting with yourself or the environment or co-workers or friends or family or anyone, it'll just be the way.
I feel better about my work as a shift worker because the future, and the future of my health is now more bright than bleak.

To find out more about my adventures in healthy living visit my blog
Uncommon Wealth where you will find more specific strategies, recipes for living a healthy life, all while being a shift worker. Here's to success in living an uncommonly wealthy and healthy shift worker's life.

Anna Mae Wilson (Shift Worker)
Stacks Image 2869

This site does not represent, is not an affiliate of, nor is it endorsed by any workplace, association, union, or community. If you post or comment on the Facebook Page you should be mindful of the impact on your employer, or, and more importantly, the impact on you. Comments posted there by others do not represent the opinions of this site.

Banner Photo "Deep Woods Star Tracks" by Maxwell Danger Dixon (Shift Worker)