Because not everyone who wants to lose weight works from 9 to 5.
Marianne, an emergency communications dispatcher, sleeps during the day and works at night. She tries to follow the advice she sees on the Eat This, Not That! site, and largely does so (like eating several times throughout her “day” to keep massive appetite attacks at bay). “But no one seems to address the fact that so many people don’t work conventional hours,” she told ETNT. “I would love to see someone address this group of people with suggestions on how they should eat healthy.” Well, we’re here for you, Marianne. Although a healthy diet doesn’t change (your RDAs will still be the same!), there are plenty of other weight loss and healthy living variables for anyone who doesn’t work a “regular” day job.
In fact, if you’re working the night shift, science has shown that shedding weight and keeping it off can be harder on you than others. Why? Well, for starters, a 2014 study found that night shift patterns monkey with the metabolism of employees, causing them to use less energy than they normally would over the course of a day. The unfortunate effect was even more pronounced when these nocturnal employees finally hit the hay as the sun finally came up: The study participants burned between 12 percent and 16 percent fewer calories than when sleeping at nighttime. The upshot of this and similar findings is that workers on the night shift have to be particularly smart about their choices to maintain a healthy weight, as well as to avoid some chronic diseases associated with night work. The tips below should be enough to get you up and running—although it won’t be to go for a run outdoors at lunchtime. And for more amazing ways to blast fat fast, don’t miss these 40 Best Foods to Melt Love Handles!
AFTER YOUR SHIFT ENDS…
1.) THROW ON YOUR SHADES
If the sun is already up by the time your shift is over, put on a pair of sunglasses before stepping out into the daylight or commuting home around sunrise. A blast of daylight will further mess with your body’s production of melatonin, the naturally produced hormone that signals to our bodies that it’s time for bed.
2.) CREATE SOME SLEEP TRIGGERS
By doing the same thing for at least an hour before bedtime, you’re actually programming sleep triggers. Over time, your brain will begin to associate those things with bedtime and fast track you into fat-burning slumber—even while everyone around you is getting up and getting going. These sleep triggers could include listening to relaxing music, writing in a sleep diary (see #4), taking a hot shower (#5), turning down the thermostat (#6), meditating (#7), or chowing down on a big bowl of good carbs before bed. Wait, what?
3.) YES! EAT CARBS BEFORE BED
If you’re hungry after your shift, have a carb-heavy meal. Wait; can that be right? Your body burns carbs for energy, but if you eat them before you go to sleep, your body just stores them as fat, no? Well, the pasta-nomics of weight loss aren’t quite so simple. One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The bedtime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food after they got their eight hours ). Another study in the journal Obesity saw similar results. Bedtime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat—and felt 13.7 percent fuller—than those on the standard diet. Just make sure they’re good carbs, not refined and over-processed crap. Check out these 20 Worst Carb Habits of All Time!
4.) KEEP A SLEEP DIARY
Do you really have an accurate read on how much sleep you are or aren’t getting? It’s always best to work from data, even if you’re the one logging the quality and duration of your sleep and if you’re working nights, recording how you sleep is doubly important. Simply list each complete hour you were asleep in bed, and each partial hour (including naps). Then make a note of the events that may have influenced your sleep. Did you exercise that day? Drink a lot of coffee? After two weeks, read through the whole thing, looking for patterns. The results may surprise you—and help you with your weight loss goals.
5.) TAKE A HOT BATH OR SHOWER
A UCLA study of some of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes noted that temperature drops were an important sleep cue for our paleolithic forebears. Even if you’re going to bed as the sun begins to climb, you can recreate a sunset-like temperature drop by taking a hot bath or shower. The dip might make your pound-shedding shuteye deeper and make you fall asleep faster.
6.) LOWER THE TEMPIN YOUR BOUDOIR
Want another way that a lower temperature can help night workers fend off love handles and the health problems they can precipitate? A striking new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat, aka the fat that keeps you warm by helping you burn the fat stored in your belly. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they lost belly fat.)
7.) RELAX YOUR MIND
“Yoga offers a variety of benefits, from increased flexibility and strength to a calmer mind,” says Mark Balfe-Taylor, director of yoga at TruFusion. Striking some poses before bed can have a powerful influence on sleep quality because of yoga’s focus on breathing and meditation. You can try a few relaxing yoga poses; Balfe-Taylor recommends the Deaf Man’s Pose. “It can calm the nervous system, release the shoulders and neck and, most importantly, allows you to focus inward, block out stress and relax,” he says.
8.) MAKE BEDTIME CRUNCH TIME
According to Combat the Fat author Jeff Anderson, new research suggests that you may be able to spot reduce body fat from your abdomen. Before hitting the sheets, do a quick set of crunches, reverse crunches, and a jackknife set. Then go to sleep safe in the knowledge that your quick workout has given your body a little help in shifting that tire while you’re zonked out.
WHEN YOU WAKE UP…
9.) WAKE UP AND HYDRATE
For nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, one of the best and cheapest ways to give your metabolism a jolt after waking is to drink water (she suggests 20 to 32 ounces) shortly after waking. Why? During sleep, your body’s metabolic function slowed, and unless you woke up in the middle of your daytime slumber to swig some water, it didn’t receive any fluids. Jubilee suggests completely rehydrating before stressing your body with any other food or drink. “My clients who have implemented this report less bloating, more energy and a smaller appetite,” she says. Her motto for getting your inner furnace stoked and ready: “Rehydrate, then caffeinate!” Bonus: We’ve got 24 ways to stop belly bloat fast!
10.) LET THE LIGHT IN
Hopefully, it’s still light out by the time you get in your 7-9 hours of sleep. Go get some of that sunshine while you can. When the hormones that control hunger go haywire, they make us crave junk food. That’s bad, but it can get worse if you don’t get some light into your life when you awake from your slumber. A study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed that sleep-deprived adults who were exposed to dim light after waking had lower concentrations of the fullness hormone leptin while those in blue light (the kind from energy-efficient bulbs) had higher leptin levels. As you’re vertical throw open your blackout curtains, or if it’s already dim outside, turn on those energy efficient lights. By letting some light into your life, you’ll get some life into your weight loss goals.
11.) THEN FIT IN SOME CARDIO
According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, the best strategy for lowering body fat percentage is to work out soon after waking up. “Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat,” he says. “Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite your body’s fat-burning ability.” Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize body fat as an energy source.
12.) PLAN YOUR MEALS
Nurses are no strangers to taking graveyard shifts. On a website for working nurses, Alice Burron writes: “One simple way to combat the disadvantage of working a night shift is to make sure you come to work with nutritious meals and snacks planned out ahead of time. Also make plans ahead of time for immediately after you get off work so that you are not tempted to grab fast food or go out to eat.” Sounds like a job for these 20 Healthy Freezer Meals Recipes!
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