How To Count Calories On Night Shift (6 Top Tips)


We know counting calories is essential when trying to lose weight, but how should you count calories when you work night shift?

You may be wondering if there are any differences when counting calories as a night shift worker as compared to a day shift or even an evening shift worker, as night shift workers have a far different routine.

When do you start counting and when do you stop? Is there anything you should do differently?

To put it simply, when working night shift, you start counting calories beginning at the time you wake up and ending at the time you go to bed at the end of your shift.

Read on to learn more about this.

How to Count Calories on Night Shift Accurately

To accurately count calories on night shift, the same rules apply for any shift. You will count your calories starting when you wake up in the afternoon and ending when you go to sleep.

The only difference is that you will be doing this while working at night, so while you may think there is a difference, there actually is no real difference here beside your sleep pattern.

Some people may find it difficult to count calories and make healthy food choices when they are working night shift because the body is naturally out of its normal routine.

As someone who has worked in healthcare for years and has worked night shift while trying to stay on top of my weight loss goals, I feel your pain.

Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes

Night shift peeps are a special group of people, and they are absolutely essential, but a night shift worker will have a completely different sleep-wake cycle than a worker of another shift.

There is proof that poor sleep has a direct correlation to obesity, so counting calories as a night shift worker might be a little bit difficult when you are out of your element and feel like a tired zombie.

But for those who have never worked nights, they really don’t know the challenges that come along with it.

It is common for night shift workers to get cravings during a time when everyone else is usually sleeping.

Also, when working night shift, there are also usually periods where there is less going on and it is easy to start snacking.

Many night shift workers also suffer from problems with sleep, because working nights can be such a shock to the body.

Top Tips For Counting Calories As a Night Shift Worker

Working night shift can be hard because there may be a lot of temptation in your way when you have down periods, you may be more tired, and you may find yourself going off the rails a bit.

Here are my top tips that I know will help you stay on track, from my own experience.


1. Get Enough Sleep

It is imperative when working night shift to get adequate an adequate amount of rest before your shift, so you are well rested and have the energy to make good food choices.

Not only is sleep vital to ensure your overall safety at work, but in this study, it is shown that lack of sleep is associated with a large increase in the desire for high-calorie foods.

Not getting enough sleep? You may want to start getting that shut eye.

Do whatever you can to try and get extra sleep when you get home in the morning.

Here is what I did:

  • Go right to bed when you get home.
  • Get blackout curtains.
  • Put your phone on silent.
  • Avoid drinking fluids right before you sleep.
  • Run a fan or A/C for background noise.
  • Put a sign on the door that says Do Not Disturb.
  • Alert your friends and family you need sleep and want to be left alone.

If you are a night shift worker who is struggling with sleep and it is causing you to mess up your calorie counts, try the above tips to help you start getting the sleep you need.

2. Eat a Nutritious Meal Before Your Shift Starts

This will help give you energy and sustain you throughout the night and will also help prevent being ravenously hungry later on.

If you do not have at least a snack before you head into work, you will likely find yourself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle and be so hungry that you eat anything and everything you can find.

Have a meal or a snack before you start your shift. You will be glad you did.

3. Drink Plenty of Water Throughout Your Shift

It is very important to stay hydrated during your shift by drinking water.

Also, by drinking water frequently while at work, you will feel a higher sense of fullness because you are filling your stomach with overall volume.

If you don’t have one, consider buying your own water jug or any container to fill up with water and make it a goal for you to drink all of it over your shift.

A good tip is to finish it about an hour or two before your shift ends so you can get that interrupted sleep we talked about by not having to get up for bathroom trips.

4. Take Your Food Scale Along

Do you feel the need to weigh your foods when calorie counting? It is a great idea and you can continue to do this at work too.

Why not take your food scale along? Most food scales are battery operated and pretty light, such as the one I own.


Although it is not required, if you feel you need to weigh most of your foods when first starting out calorie counting, just take that scale with you to work.

Related Post: How to Weigh Eggs For Calories

5. Bring Healthy Snacks With You to Work

Sometimes the snacks and foods at our jobs can be far from healthy and jam packed with calories.

While it is perfectly fine to enjoy these foods every now and then, doing it repeatedly over and over and not accounting for these extra calories could cause you to slip up.

When trying to lose weight by being in a calorie deficit, you must maintain your deficit over time to reach that goal.

If you are constantly consuming foods at work on your breaks with large amounts of calories, it can be easy to start getting into a calorie surplus range and you may not realize it.

If you take your own snacks along, you will be less likely to indulge on the higher calorie ones your coworkers bring in.

6. Avoid The Vending Machines

Oh those pesky vending machines. They can be great when you need a snack, but most of the time the selections of snacks in them aren’t the greatest choices.

Avoid eating snacks from vending machines with high calorie contents. Just by doing this, you can easily shave 300-400 calories off your daily calorie deficit goal that you could be enjoying by eating your actual meal.

Instead, take your own snacks like we discussed above.

The Best Snack Options for Night Shift Workers Who Count Calories

If you are unsure of what snacks to take with you to work at night, you should be considering snacks that are overall low in calories, but also that you enjoy.

Here are some common low calorie snacks you could take along with you to your night shift:

  • Fresh fruit such as bananas or vegetable sticks
  • A small bag of nuts
  • String cheese
  • Popcorn (Smartpop or SkinnyPop)
  • Protein bars or shakes
  • Greek yogurt or Cottage cheese
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Hard boiled eggs

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is best to take along snacks that do not exceed 150-200 calories overall, so that you can enjoy your calories when you eat your major meals.

If you are constantly snacking on high calorie foods throughout your shift, you will be more likely to go over your calorie goals for the day and sabotage your weight loss efforts if this is done on a consistent basis.

Is Counting Calories During Night Shift Different Than Day Shift?

There is absolutely no difference when counting calories on night shift as opposed to day shift. You will still count your calories starting from when you wake up in the afternoon or evening and stop when you go to sleep in the morning.

Of course, this can be difficult to do if you are not used to working nights, but it is important to remember that your body is capable of adjusting to new routines once done for a good while.

While there is no difference in the way you count calories as a night shift worker, there is a difference in when you eat. But does this actually matter?

As a night shift worker, your dinner might be at 3AM as opposed to 5PM, but this makes no difference in the importance of calories and how your body utilizes them.

The calories we consume do not reset after midnight and our body does not store calories differently just because we are awake when everyone else is not.

What matters is how many calories you are consuming over a long period of time.

This means what you consume on a daily basis leads up to a weekly total or even a monthly total.

So, if you are still in a calorie deficit by counting your calories accurately while you are working during the night, you will still be in a calorie deficit by the end of the week, despite what time you were actually consuming those calories.

The time at which you are consuming does not matter, adhering to a calorie deficit is what matters.

Is Counting Calories During Night Shift Different Than Evening Shift?

No, counting calories for a night shift worker is no different than for a person who works second shift.

A person who works night shift and a person who works second shift will still count their calories during their wake hours.

As long as both of these people are in a calorie deficit, they will still lose weight.

You count calories in the same way no matter what shift you work. You cannot eat food when you are sleeping.

A person who works evening shift may have an easier time when counting calories over someone who works nights because:

  • They are still on a normal sleep schedule
  • Evening shift has a habit of being a busy shift with less down periods

Evening shift is usually the busiest shift with less down time, which means a person who works evening shift will have less time to potentially give into cravings and snack on unhealthy food items.

But this does not mean that counting calories is any easier for an evening shift worker.

It just means that there may be less opportunities to snack or eat mindlessly because the shift is busier.

Trust me, night shift is extremely busy as well. Busier than most people realize. However, there are times when you will be sitting with nothing to do during the shift saying “when will this be over?”

Last Words

Counting calories on night shift is really no different than counting them on any other shifts, but counting calories as a night shift worker can be harder.

By following the tips above, you will be well on your way to being successful at calorie counting while working the night shift.

Just remember to be patient, take it one step at a time and always have healthy snacks with you to avoid overeating.

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