10 Specific Strategies Weight Loss Tips For Night Shift Workers

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Gopal Ramakrishnan Asst. Prof.

How to Lose Weight While Working Night Shift - [2021 Updated]

Are you someone who burns the midnight oil to make your ends meet? In this hurry-scurry life night work is very common. You might be well aware that your health is being compromised working the night shift. Shift workers are more prone to metabolic disturbances. If you are a nurse, flight attendant, truck driver, air traffic controller, police officer, security guard, or a techie. Or anyone who works night shifts for a living. We know how grueling night shift work is. Our body wants to sleep but our boss wants us to work. Studies reported that sleeping on a different schedule or lack of sleep is a risk factor for gaining weight[1]. 

And it’s even more challenging if you are obese. According to this study, night shift workers were at increased risk of being overweight and obese[2]. whereas, 43.2% of people had belly fat. However, this article will help all those night shift workers with some tips that make a world of difference to their health. In this article you will learn everything that is just here to work for you, from weight loss tips and tricks, diet, exercise, and natural supplements to the current obsession, that is CBD and weight loss. But, first, let us first know the ins and outs of how circadian rhythm and weight gain interlinked.

How Can You Lose Weight While Working the Night Shifts?

  1. Avoid the sight of daylight and put your shades on
  2. Yoga to shed those extra pounds and to sleep tight
  3. Manage your sleep patterns
  4. Circadian rhythm diet for night shift workers
  5. Metabolic boosters for weight loss 
  6. Protein-rich foods for weight loss
  7. Exercise with your co-workers
  8. Hydrate and rehydrate but never dehydrate
  9. Natural appetite suppressants for weight loss
  10. Vitamin D for sleep and weight loss

What is the circadian clock and what is its significance?

Circadian rhythm is nothing but a 24-hour internal body clock that runs in our brain. It is a natural cycle of mental, physical, and behavioral changes that our body undergoes in a 24-hour cycle. It cycles between sleep and alertness at regular periods.

Circadian clocks for the most part are impacted by light and darkness. And it is controlled by a small part of the brain named the suprachiasmatic nucleus. It is a part of the hypothalamus and it receives input directly from our eyes. Moreover, it can affect us in many ways like our sleep, appetite, temperature, hormones, and many bodily functions.

What happens when our circadian rhythms are abnormal?

As we now know that they are linked to major functions. Their abnormality can have adverse effects on our bodies. It links to obesity,[3] insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels, sleep deprivation, increased stress hormone, depression, bipolar disorder. 

The connection between the Body clock and weight gain?

Since sleep is one of the cycles in the body clock. Our sleep affects two hunger hormones such as ghrelin and leptin. Our appetite is stimulated by ghrelin, whereas leptin is known as the satiety hormone. It is released by fat cells and inhibits hunger when we have adequate energy levels. When we are on sleep deprivation due to shifts, it ruins our internal clock. It increases ghrelin levels and decreases leptin, which leads to an increase in hunger and sugar cravings. Short sleep duration[4] is associated with increased body mass index, elevated ghrelin, and decreased leptin. And the cortisol-stress hormone is high too. Now that we know how our hormones work, read further to know about how to lose weight during the night shift.

How to lose weight while working night shifts

Our body most of the part depends on what we eat, secondly on the amount of exercise and last but not least on a good deal of sleep. To shed calories, you need a good metabolism, exercise program, a proper diet, adequate rest, and some hacks. And you will have them all. Yes, we have compiled a list keeping in mind all these factors to help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

Avoid the sight of daylight and put your shades on

When you are on a graveyard shift, it is most likely that the sun is already up. Always wear your sunglasses when you step out of the workspace. Avoid daylight while you head back home during the daytime. Daylight or sun rays can mess with your sleep hormone production, melatonin is the sleep hormone that signals our brain to rest. According to the study[5], by exposing yourself to daylight you can delay the sleep phase and the correction of the body clock. By sleeping adequately after a night shift you will not end. You will be blessed with improved overall health and well-being. It is also wise for shift workers to invest in good blackout curtains. These curtains can aid in the transition out of day and night and enhance your sleep quality.

Yoga to shed those extra pounds and to sleep tight

If you think yoga is all about stretching, then you are wrong. Yoga is a mind and body exercise that involves both stretching and strengthening poses along with deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation. The benefits of yoga for mental relaxation have been proven to help, increased strength and flexibility, and calming the mind. Yoga is a form of exercise[6] that burns calories, leaves you with a toned frame as well as big sleep. Overall, yoga can improve health and well-being. Strike some yoga poses before you hit the bed to achieve your weight loss goals. Deaf man’s pose in yoga is one of the best poses that has effects on calming the nervous system. It is an ideal pose for night shift workers. This pose releases the neck, shoulder and lets you focus inward, and block out stress and relax you from within.

Manage your sleep patterns

Our human body is designed to sleep at night. Adults need a good 7 to 9 hours of sleep. If you are a shift worker it’s most likely you owe yourself some sleep. The only way to pay back sleep debt is by sleeping more. So here are few tips to follow to get that good sleep after your shifts.

  • Never delay hitting the sack. The longer you delay this, the more awake you will be.
  • Dedicate a good 7-9 hours of sleep after your shift work.
  • Have some food before you sleep. Hunger and thirst can interrupt your sleep.
  • Although alcohol may put you to sleep, the quality of sleep will leave you unrefreshed the next morning.
  • Avoid smoking before sleep, nicotine is a brain stimulant and makes it harder to fall asleep. Gradually it can make you a night owl.
  •  Stop the activities that keep your mind alert until a few hours before the next shift.
  • Make sure your room is calm, dark, and cozy. Use earplugs, blackout curtains, or sleeping masks to prevent noise and light from putting you to sleep.
  • Keep your friends and family updated about your shift work so that they do not disturb you while you are asleep.  

Circadian rhythm diet for night shift workers

This diet is a form of time-restricted diet plan, similar to intermittent fasting. It involves eating in sync with the internal clock. Eating within a window of 12 daylight hours or less and fast for the rest 12 or more hours each day. Keep your breakfast or lunch the large meal of the day and dinner the lighter the better. Although anyone could benefit from this diet, it is mostly suitable for people looking for losing weight. By aligning food with the internal clock one can maximize their shedding. Our body’s metabolism is aligned with this[7]. So when we eat is equally important as what we eat. It is especially a great choice if you are obese, diabetic or the one working the night shift. Eat as early as possible and keep your plate colorful with lots of vegetables, poultry, whole grains, lentils are beans. But before you jump into going on this diet, speak to your dietician for better assistance.

Meal planning for shift workers 

  • Breakfast: You will find your fellow workers grabbing donuts, muffins by the end of your shift. But don’t do that. A healthy breakfast should consist of proteins, vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats. A sugar-free smoothie is a great choice. You can make it with fruits, nuts, avocado, whey protein, berries, or fermented dairy. 
  • Lunch: Make sure your meal contains a high amount of protein like dairy, fish, and loads of fresh vegetables. In addition to this healthy fats and quality fiber along with fermented foods for a daily dose of probiotics.  
  • Snacks:  shift workers can eat snacks like homemade Yoghurt. Or you can also Grab a mozzarella String cheese which has 6.7 g of protein as per USDA. 
  • Dinner: since you have to work shifts, keep your dinners light, go for baked foods like salmon, whole grain crackers dipped in bean soup, or a salad bowl. 
  • Before bed: Enjoy a glass of warm milk after your shift or before bed, milk contains tryptophan, which makes melatonin. Moreover, this can have a calming effect on us.

Metabolic boosters for weight loss 

If you are obese, you already know your metabolism is slow as a snail. Metabolism is a pace at which our body burns calories. So to boost this you will need to consume certain foods which contain specific nutrients. By boosting the metabolic rate, one can lose weight with a desk job.

 Here are some foods that are proven to boost metabolism and help you with weight loss. 

  • Foods that are rich in iron like red meat, spinach, iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, seafood like shellfish, liver and organ meats, beans, raisins and apricots, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and turkey.
  • Foods that are rich in zinc, such as red meat, shellfish, oats, seeds like hemp, sesame, squash, pumpkin, and flax seeds. Nuts like cashews, pine nuts, almonds, and peanuts. Dairy foods like milk and cheese. Lastly, dark chocolates, Eggs, and whole grains are rich sources of zinc.
  • Foods rich in selenium, such as brazil nuts, eggs, cottage cheese, ham, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, spinach, brown rice, mushrooms, bananas, cashews, oatmeal, milk, and yogurt are a great source of selenium.
  • Capsaicin in Chilli peppers
  • Beverages like tea, coffee, and green tea. 
  • Fiber, protein, and amino acids in legumes and pulses. 
  • Metabolism-boosting spices like ginger, cayenne pepper, grains of paradise, and lastly cacao 

Protein-rich foods for weight loss

Proteins play a crucial role in curbing weight gain. They require a lot of your energy to digest. This is called the thermic effect of food. It is the number of calories required for digestion, absorption, and to process the nutrients from our meals. Researches prove that protein-rich foods boost TEF[8] the most. They do so by increasing the metabolic rate by 15- 30%. If you are a shift worker, pack some of these foods as snacks or make a healthy trail mix.  

Here are some top protein-rich food options to consider for night shift workers.

  • Plant-based protein like lima beans, black beans, corn, legumes, and lentils. 
  • Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, watercress, bok choy, artichokes, and Brussel sprouts. 
  • Animal protein like eggs, milk, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, chicken breast. Fishes like salmon, tuna, halibut. 
  • Fruits like guava, avocado. Jackfruit, blackberries.
  • Whole grains, nuts, and seeds like quinoa, oats, almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds. 

Exercise with your co-workers

One of the major concerns you and your shift worker would have to work the night shift is not getting exercise. Fitness is undoubtedly your priority. Since you and your coworker share a similar work schedule it’s great to exercise together. Schedule a workout plan for a week at the gym or home. 

Here are some tips to follow.

  • Make sure to work out at least 4 days a week. Make sure to have healthy Snacks before exercising. 
  • Exercises like cardio, jump rope, or HIIT for 15 minutes can go a long way.
  • Take stairs on your way to work.
  • Schedule a weekend outdoor activity like cycling, trekking, or swimming with your fellow shift workers.
  • Do a set of crunches to burn belly fat before hitting the bed

Hydrate and rehydrate but never dehydrate

Drinking water for weight loss has been known for ages now and it never gets old. It is one of the most popular weight loss tips followed across the world. Around 30- 59% of us adults increase their water intake as part of achieving weight loss goals. Drinking water at any time of the day is great for you. Drinking before meals can suppress appetite, decreases calorie intake, and aid in weight loss. When you drink water, the number of calories burned increases, called resting energy expenditure. In adults, this has been reported to have increased by 24- 30% under 10 minutes of consuming water. Furthermore, it lasted for at least an hour. It is also known as water-induced thermogenesis.[9] Consuming water as soon as you wake up can boost your metabolism. Make this a part of your weight loss regime during the night shift.

Natural appetite suppressants for weight loss

Some plant extracts have been proven to help with weight loss. They work by influencing the appetite hormones, decreasing appetite, increasing fullness, slowing the emptying of the stomach, and blocking the nutrient absorption. Some popularly sought-out natural supplements[10] are fenugreek seeds, glucomannan, caffeine in coffee, green tea extract. Fenugreek has been widely used in India to reduce blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss. Glucomannan is a dietary fiber extract from the root of elephant ham. Both are dense in fiber and assist in weight loss. 

Other appetite suppressants like caralluma fimbriata, yerba mate, griffonia simplicifolia, garcinia cambogia. While looking for appetite suppressants, it is always a good choice to go for a natural approach. It is one of the easiest weight loss tips for people who work night shifts.

Vitamin D for sleep and weight loss

Did you know being overweight can lower your vitamin D levels? Studies prove the links between vitamin D and greater BMI and body fat[11]. vitamin D supplementation aids in weight loss boosts the immune system and enhances the beneficial effects of a reduced-calorie diet. Night shift workers can benefit by exposing themselves to the sun for 30 minutes, supplements like cod liver oil, or by consuming foods like salmon, sardines, herring fish, fortified foods, canned tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms. RDA of 15 mcg/ 600 IU supplements are available. Studies report that vitamin D potentially reduces the formation of new fat cells and suppresses the storage of them. Thereby, reducing the accumulation of fat.

Vitamin D not only links to reducing weight but also to sleep regulation. It can increase serotonin levels and affects everything from our mood to sleep regulation. Moreover, serotonin suppresses the appetite and increases fullness, and thereby helps you in losing weight. On top of it, higher levels of the D vitamin are associated with increased levels of testosterone, which triggers weight loss. If you are someone who works the night shift, it’s a good option to incorporate to improve overall health.

Conclusion

Lastly, portion control and including nutrient-dense food is important to maintain a calorie deficit and proper health. Avoid refined, sugary, salty foods. Secondly, Humans need at least 7 hours of sleep, for that you need to cut out caffeine 8 hours before you shut eye and go into no screen zone at least 30 minutes before sleep. Stay away from snacks and vending machines in the cafeteria. Make healthy food choices and say yes to more home-cooked meals. Regular eating and sleeping habits lead to a proper circadian pacemaker. Have an exercise strategy. The starting point can be hard but push yourself with one thing at a time. Follow these weight loss tips and see what works for you. And be consistent with all your routine.


+ 11 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Spivey, A. (2010). Lose Sleep, Gain Weight: Another Piece of the Obesity Puzzle. Environmental Health Perspectives, [online] 118(1). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831987/#:~:text=Epidemiologic%20studies%20suggest%20that%20lack,and%20its%20associated%20health%20effects.
  2. Sun, M., Feng, W., Wang, F., Zhang, L., Wu, Z., Li, Z., Zhang, B., He, Y., Xie, S., Li, M.,et al. (2018). Night shift work exposure profile and obesity: Baseline results from a Chinese night shift worker cohort. PLOS ONE, [online] 13(5), p.e0196989. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5953447/
  3. Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S. & Andersen, M.L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science, [online] 8(3), pp.143–152. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688585/
  4. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T. & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Medicine, [online] 1(3), p.e62. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
  5. Karami, Z., Golmohammadi, R., Heidaripahlavian, A., Poorolajal, J. & Heidarimoghadam, R. (2016). Effect of Daylight on Melatonin and Subjective General Health Factors in Elderly People. Iranian journal of public health, [online] 45(5), pp.636–43. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4935707/
  6. Bankar, M., Chaudhari, S. & Chaudhari, K. (2013). Impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep quality and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, [online] 4(1), p.28. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667430/#__ffn_sectitle
  7. Covassin, N., Singh, P. & Somers, V.K. (2016). Keeping Up With the Clock. Hypertension, [online] 68(5), pp.1081–1090. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5063707/
  8. Pesta, D.H. & Samuel, V.T. (2014). A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutrition & Metabolism, [online] 11(1), p.53. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/
  9. Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A.M., Klaus, S., Luft, F.C. & Jordan, J. (2003). Water-Induced Thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, [online] 88(12), pp.6015–6019. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14671205/
  10. Astell, K.J., Mathai, M.L. & Su, X.Q. (2013). Plant extracts with appetite suppressing properties for body weight control: A systematic review of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, [online] 21(4), pp.407–416. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23876572/
  11. Arunabh, S., Pollack, S., Yeh, J. & Aloia, J.F. (2003). Body Fat Content and 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels in Healthy Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, [online] 88(1), pp.157–161. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12519845/

Written by:

Lakshmi Vemuri

Medically reviewed by:

Lakshmi Vemuri holds a bachelor’s degree in Dentistry. She is also a published author of several Food and Wellness books. Lakshmi has a profound interest in alternative medicines, various forms of physical exercise, mental health, diets, and new inventions in medical sciences. Besides being a dentist, Lakshmi is passionate about gardening and is an environmental enthusiast