Shift work on it’s own is tough for a Police Officer and First Responder. In addition to long hours, it is difficult to figure out how to sleep and eat on shift. Add to it all of the unknowns that come up on shift and it is next to impossible to get into a routine or schedule. Especially if your perspective is of someone who works a 9-5, Monday to Friday regular scheduled job.
Between travel time to and from your 10 – 12 hour shifts and trying to get 8 hours sleep there is little time left to prep food. AND that is if you ended shift on time and didn’t have any difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep! Prepping can get even more tasking when you are so exhausted that simple tasks take double or triple the time with your foggy brain.
There’s no perfect solution
Often the easiest option is to buy food when and if you can on shift. And that leaves you to the mercy of what is open at 3am when you finally have a chance to eat.
And then there are the days that you do bring food, but it sits in your duty bag for the whole shift because you can’t get to it as you are tied up on a call or in the middle of a crisis and can’t leave your post.
You have only 2 minutes to eat super quick before heading to your next call or while someone quickly relieves you at your post to run to the washroom and shove food in your mouth and you don’t have enough time for both or to get enough food in to sustain you.
You bring enough food for your shift, but don’t have enough for the overtime you are now on.
We could go on and on with these scenarios, because they happen on each and every shift.
Which is why it is important to ditch everything you have learned about eating that was meant for someone who works a 9-5 Monday to Friday job.
In part 1 of How how to eat on a shift work schedule, let’s look at things from a different lense.
We will factor in the scenarios that you encounter on the job. And tkae into consideration, the lifestyle you lead with shift work and long working hours. Think outside the box.
HOW TO EAT ON SHIFT WORK
The first thing is that one shift is no different than the other when it comes to food.
I am often asked what to eat on night shift. The reason you struggle with this is because you are thinking of your shifts in terms of night and day. And of course we don’t eat at night according to the rules for someone who works 9am to 5pm and goes to bed in the evening.
But you don’t live that life.
You don’t live the 9-5 life.
Think of your shifts more as the time you are awake. When you are awake, your body needs fuel to feed your brain and muscles. Regardless if you working nights or days, your brain still needs to think and your body needs to be active.
When planning meals for shift, they are the same for a day shift as a night shift.
Here is an example. Note that the meals are scheduled as if you were able to eat on a consistent basis, (which we know is not true for most every shift). Day and Night shifts have similar energy requirements required from the food you eat.
430am wake up eat breakfast
8pm snack (good fat, low
carb to help sleep)
6pm snack (good fat, low
carb + quick nap)
730am snack (good fat, low
carb to help sleep)
On night shift, you may opt to switch your first snack and breakfast around on night shift so that your breakfast is actually dinner with your family.
Just because the moon is out and you are living the life of a vampire, does not mean your body requires less energy during your waking hours than it would if you were doing the same thing in the sunlight.
Even if you were sitting at a desk your entire night shift you would require the same amount of energy as someone who sits at a desk all day.
How to plan accordingly
Now that we have shifted your mindset on what your body needs during shift, it’s time to learn how to plan meals for every scenario that you come up against on shift work as a Police Officer and First Responder.
You know what I am talking about. The times when you can’t go back to the station to eat your lunch, being stuck on a call and can’t get to your food, or someone can quickly relieve you for 5 minutes to relieve yourself and eat.
I cover this in my blog, How To Eat On Shift Work Part 2.
You have to live the life of a Police Officer and First Responder or live with one, to truly understand what life of shift work and all of the unknowns that are thrown at you in a day feels like. Sometimes that can feel isolating. But it doesn’t have to be. Join my free 911 Stress Management community full of Officers and First Responders and their families from all over North America where we support and motivate each other. You will also learn more great info on how to get a solid sleep, boost your energy, calm your short fuse and prevent burnout on the job from me.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
About the Author
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi suffers from a genetic stress condition that puts her body in an increased stress response state all the time, similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to look at and handle burnout. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husbands career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and tanked immune system that she knew can result from poorly managed stress, not to mention the toll things take on family life.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi knew that the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and other First Responders. She couldn’t watch others suffering when she knew there was a solution. And 911 Lifestyle was born.