No set routine means you can’t just cookie-cut a generic training and nutrition program. So how do shift workers successfully periodise nutrition amidst the chaos?
We asked paramedic and 10-year triathlete Julie Whitton for her tips on fueling through a variable schedule. With rotating day, afternoon, and overnight shifts, training consistency goes out the window!
Let’s break down Julie’s hard-won advice for balancing nutrition and still performing at your best through shift work madness:
Keep easy-to-eat snacks on hand at all times. Your work can interrupt set meal times, so you need to have grab ‘n go options. Bars, shakes, sandwiches, and fruits make quick, portable fueling possible.
Pack a small cooler bag and stash it in your car. That way healthy snacks are on call to grab between emergency calls or whenever you’re able to sneak a bite.
A coach who understands the importance of rest days and sleep quality is crucial, especially around draining overnight shifts. Don’t let training override your body’s foundational recovery needs.
Make sleep-friendly session swaps like switching an evening tempo run to morning if you're on late shifts that week. Also, ensure proper rest before key races or events. Lack of sleep sabotages performance.
Map your race plans out well in advance with input from work leadership. Block training-focused annual leave camps in the months before goal events.
Build in additional rest days before and after your A-priority triathlons. You need time to travel, properly refuel day-to-day, and fully recover. Don't rush back into demanding work shifts.
Periodise nutrition for your variable workload week to week. Follow expert guidance from a coach or dietitian to fuel and recover properly amidst the shifting schedule.
Gut train when possible for race day, but be ready to adjust sessions last minute as needed. Cultivate flexibility and adaptability around your nutrition routine.
With unpredictable work demands, your nutrition won’t always be textbook perfect. And that’s okay! Focus on doing your best within real-world circumstances.
Be kind and cut yourself some slack when you have to make compromises or less ideal choices. Remember progress happens slowly over time, not overnight.
While shift work undoubtedly complicates training and fueling logistics, with the right mindset you can still perform and excel as a triathlete. Stay patient with yourself, continually reflect on what’s working or not, and keep tweaking your nutrition routine as needed.