How Can I Workout When I Work a Late Night Shift?


question-icon-newI’ve recently been transferred to the 11pm-7am shift at my work and this is going to throw a wrench into my workout schedule. Is it better for me to hit the gym after work at 7am in the morning or should I wait until I wake up at around 3-4pm in the afternoon to get my workout in?

answer-icon-newThis really comes down to your overall energy levels and how you feel during the day. If you work a strenuous and labor intensive job, like working in a warehouse, then you will probably be dead tired after a full day of work. The last thing you will want to do is bust out a super high intense weight lifting workout at this time. However, there are some people who catch their second wind after work and they are able to keep going hard.

Let’s take a look at both options to see which one fits you the best. The first option is to workout after your shift is over at around 7am in the morning. This means you will work a full shift which could be physically draining if you have a job that requires manual labor, but even if you sit behind a computer all night long, the amount of mental focus it takes to work at this type of job can also drain your energy as well.

Your other option is to train first thing after you wake up in the afternoon at around 3-4pm. This will allow you to get a good amount of much-needed sleep before tackling a hardcore workout. You will be fresh and awake to focus 100% of your energy on your workout with very little added stress that can occur if you’re training after a long day of work. The other key benefit of working out at this time is your post-workout meal. This is one of the times during the day that you really want to take advantage of a window of opportunity to maximize muscle gains.

post-workout-shake-drinkAfter your weight lifting workout, your muscles are starving for nutrients in order rebuild and repair torn down muscle fibers. It’s paramount that you provide the right macronutrients within 15-30 minutes after your workout in order to saturate your muscles with the quickest form of protein and carbs available. Your goal is to spike insulin during this time with high glycemic carbs and quick acting sources of protein. Since eating a whole food meal will take time to digest, your focus should be on a liquid shake for the fastest utilization of nutrients. Choose fast acting carbs like dextrose, waxy maize starch and maltodextrin for the best carbohydrate sources along with a fast acting protein source like whey protein powder. Limit your fat intake during your post-workout feeding since fat slows down digestion. Your goal is to spike insulin which will rush all of those carbs and protein to your starving muscles.

One of the negatives of working out after your shift is over is that your post-workout shake will be consumed right before going to bed which is not the most ideal time to drink it. You want to allow a few hours to pass after drinking your shake in order to let the nutrients get fully utilized. You might also run into some issues with gaining additional body fat since you will be going to bed so soon after spiking your insulin levels. This is something you should be concerned about especially if you tend to hold onto more body fat and have a tougher time leaning out.

I personally like to get my workout finished first thing in the day in order to get it out of the way so I don’t have to worry about it later. I basically roll out of bed, throw on my workout clothes and head off to the gym to train. I have zero extraneous issues to deal with at this time (phone calls, appointments, housework) and I literally have tunnel vision for getting my workout completed. Once I’m done, I feel so much more refreshed and active for the rest of the day. I have tried to get my workout in later at night and it just doesn’t feel right. I spend the entire day dealing with all those mundane issues with work stuff, focusing on projects and trying to fit everything else in during the core hours of the day, just to be left totally spent later in the day. When the day is finally over, all I want to do is curl into a ball on the couch with my favorite cozy blanket and watch an episode of Breaking Bad. The last thing I want to do force myself to get in the car and drag my butt into the gym for a hard workout. The bottom line for you is going to be gauging how you feel during the day and you will quickly learn when the ideal time is for you to harness the most energy to get a great muscle building workout in.

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  1. Avatar

    Currently I am doing an 11pm to 9am shift. I would like to know how I should split up my meals in order to accommodate an effective workout routine. Should I eat a meal at 6pm and then hit the gym or should I first go to the gym after waking up in the evening and have my 1st meal at 9pm, then another at 2am and have my breakfast at 8am? Kindly advise.

    • shapefit

      You definitely want to eat a meal before your weight lifting workout, so eat some clean carbs and protein about 45 minutes before training. A great pre-workout meal is 1 cup of oatmeal with 4-6 egg whites (or 1 scoop of whey protein powder). After your workout, make sure to also eat your post-workout shake/meal to provide additional nutrients to your starving muscles. Space your meals out every 2.5 to 3 hours for the best results.

  2. Avatar

    I am working the night shift from 9:30pm to 6:30am in the morning. After my shift ends I used to do some exercises and walk for 30 minutes. I would like to reduce my fat butt and want to know about a diet plan and workouts to reduce it.

    • shapefit

      Hi Lavanya – If you stopped exercising and walking after your shift ends, then start back up and get moving. For your diet, check out our Nutrition 101 article to help you find the best foods to include in your diet plan.

  3. Avatar

    I am going to start night shift work from 8pm-4:30am and am sure I will be drained to workout right after I finish work. Will it be fine if I sleep after I get back from work and head out to the gym post-lunch like around 3pm?

    • shapefit

      Hi Mirwad – Yes, working out around 3pm will be just fine and it’s important to train when you feel good and have the most energy in order to get a great workout.

  4. Avatar

    I work a 10pm-7am shift but I feel fine when I’m done at work so I usually drink a protein shake when I get home then I go to the gym and when I get back home eat a snack along with another protein shake. Is that okay or should I switch my routine?

    • shapefit

      Hi Daniel – If you’re not getting the results you want, try adding a 1/2 cup of oatmeal to your protein shake before your workout and then add a banana or some other fruit with your protein shake post-workout. The type of carbs you eat before and after your workouts are critical to your success so choose them wisely during this crucial time along with eating the best foods throughout the rest of the day.

  5. Avatar
    manjeet prasad on

    I work a shift from 6:30pm to 5:30am. It’s very hard to workout after waking up. Is there a better time for my workouts?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Manjeet – Anytime during the day is a good time to workout, just as long as you get your workout in. If you’re tired after waking up in the afternoon, then you might try getting up a few hours hour earlier, have a meal and see how you feel about working out. If you happen to have a gym at your office building, get a workout in during your break. Or, do it after you get off work in the morning.

  6. Avatar

    My shift is from 8:00pm to 5:00am. Can you please suggest what time I should workout? I’m thinking I might try working out in the morning, but is in the evening before my shift better?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Jawaad – Try both times and see how you feel before, during and after your workout. The best time to workout is when you have the most energy so this will depend on how you feel in the morning versus at night.

  7. Avatar

    My work shift is 11PM to 7AM. I workout before going to work and eat 4 meals a day. I eat my last meal after my shift. Is it okay to eat before going to bed? Will I gain fat with this routine?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Cristian – Your overall calories you consume each day will be the main factor to whether you gain fat or not. Eating before bed is fine, but just don’t go overboard with too many carbs before going to sleep or they might be converted to fat easier. Focus more on protein and non-starchy carbs (veggies) along with healthy fats before bed time.

  8. Avatar

    My work shift is from 7:00 P.M to 5:00 A.M. I just bought a whey protein. Can you please advise when to take it and how much to take? I have recently joined a gym and I workout at 5:30 AM and do cardio for half hour and another 1-1.5 hours of weights. Should I take whey protein before or after the gym? My weight is 80kg and my height is 5’9″.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Shree – You should focus on consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Since you weigh 90kg (198 pounds) you will want to focus on getting 198 grams of protein each day. This total should be broken up between 4-5 meals per day (40-50 grams of protein per meal). It’s important to consume whey protein both before and after your workouts. Eat a small meal 30-60 minutes before your workout. A quick pre-workout snack is 1/2 cup of oatmeal with 1 scoop of whey protein powder. Mix it with water and microwave for 45-60 seconds. Post-workout should consist of more whey protein and some additional carbs. You can do a shake with whey (1-2 scoops), 1 cup of oatmeal and some fruit. Blend it all up and enjoy it within 30-45 minutes after your workout to take advantage of the window of opportunity when your muscles are screaming for nutrients.

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