I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following question:
- How Do I Get Fit as a Shift Worker?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, Mike Matthews here and welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today. Now, as you can imagine, I have fielded a lot of communication and a lot of questions over the years. I’ve easily gone through over 200,000 emails, social media comments and messages and blog comments since I got into the fitness racket back in 2012 and.
Some questions pop up more often than others, and some are very topical. Sometimes they are related to things that a lot of people are talking about, and so I thought it would be helpful to take some time on the podcast now and then and answer questions that people are asking me, ones that I think all of you out there may benefit from or may enjoy as well.
So in this episode, I’m gonna answer the following question from Zelensky Matthew. That is his Instagram handle, and he asks, what recommendations would you make to someone that works long night shifts and is looking to get. Into and stay in great shape. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my health and fitness books, including the number one bestselling, weightlifting books for men and women in the world, bigger, leaner, stronger, and thin, thinner, leaner, stronger, as well as the leading flexible dieting cook.
Book The Shredded Chef. Now, these books have sold well over 1 million copies and have helped thousands of people build their best body ever, and you can find them on all major online retailers like Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Cobo, and Google Play, as well as in select Barnes and Noble stores. And I should also mention that you can get any of the audio books 100% free.
When you sign up for an Audible account, and this is a great way to make those pockets of downtime, like commuting, meal prepping, and cleaning more interesting, entertaining, and productive. And so if you want to take Audible up on this offer, and if you want to get one of my audiobooks for free, just go to www.buy Legion, that’s b y legion.com/audible and sign up for your account.
So again, if you appreciate my work and if you wanna see more of it, and if you wanna learn. Time proven and evidence-based strategies for losing fat, building muscle, and getting healthy, and strategies that work for anyone and everyone, regardless of age or circumstances, please do consider picking up one of my best selling books, bigger, lean or Stronger for Men, thinner, lean or Stronger for Women, and the Shredded Chef for my favorite fitness friendly recipes.
Okay, so the key to making fitness work when you’re busy, regardless of whether you are busy at night or during the day, is planning, planning ahead. So the first thing you have to consider is, Your workout split. So how you are going to break up the different muscle groups that you want to train into individual workouts.
Of course, there are many ways to go about this. You can use a full body split, you can use an upper lower split. You can use a body part split, a push, pull legs, a combination of those, a mashup. That doesn’t really conform to any of those templates, and you have to consider a few things when you’re picking your workout split.
And in this case, let’s think with time. Let’s think with how many days you can train. So if you don’t have all that much time to dedicate to your fitness, then I would say, let’s try to figure out two or three workouts per week. Three is, Better than two, I think significantly better. One is significantly worse than two.
Two you can work with, but three is gonna produce better results. So let’s try to get into the gym three days per week. All right, so if we can get into the gym three days per week, then we have a few different splits that make sense. A body part split would not make sense, for example, unless you are brand new and even then it.
Just wouldn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense, period. If you can only train three days per week, then we want to go with a push pull legs or maybe a push legs pull, or a full body or an upper lower. And if you have more time available, and this would apply to shift workers or anyone who’s busy, then let, let’s see if we can get into the gym more.
Can we do four workouts a week? Can we do five? I would say that four is only slightly better than three, but five is significantly better than three and slightly better. Then four. And another tip for working out your workout schedule is be conservative. Don’t think with best case scenarios, think with your average schedule, your average week, your average month, how many days per week do you really think you can get into the gym High.
Probability, let’s say 70 to 80% of the time or higher, you’re gonna be able to stick with it. Let’s start there and then let’s add to it if we can, if you want to. So that means then if you are very certain that you think there’s a very good chance you can get into the gym three days per week. Not so sure.
Maybe it’s a coin flip at four days and if you’re really being honest, it’s gonna be like half of a coin flip, like 25% chance that you can get into the gym five days per week. Let’s start with the three and see how it goes, and then we can add that fourth day if you want to and if you can, let’s not though, try to go for the four or five day scenario and set ourselves up for failure and disappointment right out of the gate.
Now if you are a shift worker, you may not be sure which days you should train and which days you shouldn’t. Should you only train on the days when you can get in the gym in the morning or the afternoon or the evening? Maybe it’s after work and it’s late. Which of those you choose doesn’t really matter so long as you are consistent with it.
Ideally, you’ll work out at more or less the same time every day, and you will have more or less. The same amount of food in you before, or maybe it’s no food if you’re training fasted before you train. And if you use caffeine, usually you will continue to use caffeine usually before you train and your workouts will consistently follow the plan that you are following, which is probably going to consist of doing a lot of the same exercises for one to two months at a time and then making changes.
The more consistency you can put into your programming and your training, the better the results. If, for example, in one workout, one week, you are squatting heavy weights in the morning, and whatever that means for your schedule doesn’t really matter. Let’s just say it’s the morning and then the following week, you are now squatting heavy weights.
You’re trying to do the same thing as you did in the previous workout, just a little bit better, but it is the afternoon or it is the evening, depending on. On your schedule, you may be stronger or weaker in the afternoon or the evening. Most people, and this is people who just follow a normal sleep all night and stay awake all day kind of schedule, most people are stronger later in the day.
For example, research shows that in men in particular, the late afternoon seems to be a a sweet spot for being as strong as possible in your workouts. And anybody who has done early morning workouts and. Late afternoon workouts, particularly any men who have done that, they have experienced that. Right? So in the case of a shift worker though, the key here is just that even if the morning or the afternoon or the evening slot is not optimal for maximizing performance, that’s okay.
That’s not a big deal. But to make the best progress, you just want to make sure that you are training at the same times as. Much as possible. If you have to deviate, that’s okay. Of course, uh, you don’t have to be perfect with anything related to fitness. You just have to be good enough most of the time.
Now, you may be wondering though, what if you could switch one workout from its normal time, which is not optimal to a more. Optimal time should you do that? Not necessarily, because what’ll happen is you probably will be a little bit stronger in that workout. You may get an extra rep or two with your normal working weights, but if you can’t stick to that slot, what’ll happen is when you do that workout again in your normal time slot, you’re not gonna be able to do as well as you did in the previous one.
So you’re gonna see a little bit of. Progress is how it’s gonna feel in the workout at the better time, and then a little bit of regression, which is how it’s going to feel when you go back to your normal time. So again, if you have to change your training times, do it. Doing workouts at different times is infinitely better than not doing any workouts, of course.
But if you can stick to your normal training time or change to a different time, which may even be a little bit better. I would personally just stick to my normal training time. I would try to introduce as few variables, as few changes as possible. So with all of that said, if you are a shift worker, think over your normal week, your normal schedule, and decide how many days you can realistically get in the gym every week and decide the days, the times be very specific, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, at these times or Sunday.
Monday and Thursday at these times, whatever. Just figure it out and then figure out what workout split you should be following. And to help you with that, head over to legion athletics.com, search for Workout split, and you’ll find articles and podcasts on different splits and how to pick the right one for you.
If I were to go into all of that here, This would go from 10 to 15 minutes to an hour plus. So, uh, if you don’t know which split you should be following, or if you are just wondering if you should change your split head over to legion athletics.com. Search for workout split. Alright, the next tip for.
Shift workers, and this is for anybody who has a busy schedule, really is put a little bit of time into meal prepping. Now, the full on meal prep is where you organize your entire week’s worth of food on one day or maybe two days. Many people pick Sunday and they do their lunches, sometimes their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
But it’s usually just lunches with some maybe little snacks to fill in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon gaps. They do it. All on Sunday, and they put ’em all into Tupperware or uh, some sort of container. And then every day they just grab what they need and go. Some people though, they don’t like to do it all in one day and they’ll meal prep two days per week.
They’ll do Sundays and Wednesdays or Sundays and Thursdays, just depending on what type of food they eat and how fresh it needs to be and what their schedule is like. And if you can’t do a full meal prep, Don’t neglect meal prepping altogether because a little bit can go a long way. For example, just doing your lunches for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on Sundays, that alone can really help you control your calories and your macros when you are busy and you need to eat quickly.
And the only other options would be fast food, even if it is elevated fast food, like. Chipotle or something. Not that you can’t make it work, but it is just harder to control your calories the more that you eat out. And I personally like the time savings too. If you’re like me, when you’re busy, you want to get your things done and you want to get them done with as few breaks as possible.
And so when you have your food prepared, you spend as little time as you can. Eating food and you also don’t have to try to figure out what you are going to eat. Some research suggests that the average person makes up to like 200 food related decisions per day. There is a cognitive cost to that and there is a cognitive benefit.
To not having to make any food decisions, having already made all of your food decisions by deciding beforehand on your meal plan and just sticking to it. And if you are not familiar with meal prepping, if you don’t really know how to do it correctly, head over to legion athletics.com and just search for meal prep and you’ll find an article and a podcast or that I wrote and recorded on it, and that’s all you’ll need.
That will give you everything and then you will know how to meal prep like a master. So the final point I want to address here with this question is sleep. Making sure that you are getting enough sleep and getting enough sleep. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is the ultimate biohack, and in fact, it may be the only real biohack.
It may be the only one weird trick that really makes it. Any difference in terms of your health and your performance and your wellbeing and your body composition. If you don’t get enough sleep, if you don’t get enough good sleep, all of those things are going to suffer regardless of whatever else you do, regardless of how many nutritious foods you eat, how many great workouts you do, how many great lesion supplements you take.
So on and so on. Now, this can be tough for shift workers for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean that your sleep has to suffer. It just means that you may have to do a bit more. You, you may have to pay a bit more attention to certain things that you are doing and not doing to ensure that you get enough good sleep.
And remember too, that with sleep hygiene, you also don’t have. To be perfect just because you don’t sleep well, maybe one or two days per week, maybe not terribly, but you don’t feel very rested. You know that it just wasn’t a great night’s sleep. That’s okay. You just have to be good enough most of the time, and so there are some strategies you can use to improve your sleep.
Quality to fall asleep faster, to reduce Wakings. For example, you can try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day of the week. And if that changes because of your work, then you at least can aim to be consistent week to week. So on these days, you’re going to bed at this time and waking up at this time.
And on these days, it’s different. You can avoid stimulants like coffee and. Nicotine and even alcohol. Alcohol of course, has a sedative effect initially, but then it has a stimulating effect later. So if you avoid stimulants four to six hours before sleep, it helps and you can make your bedroom as dark as possible and you can make it cold.
Something around 68 degrees is best for most people, and there are other simple things you can do to sleep better. And if you wanna learn about. More of them. Just head over to legion athletics.com, search for sleep and check out the article. For example, five evidence-based techniques for Sleeping Better Now.
And what you need to do then is make yourself a sleep routine. A little sleep regimen, just like you have a meal plan for your diet regimen. You have a training plan for your training regimen. Make a sleeping plan, a sleeping. Regimen for addressing your sleep, and that is a, a good tip really for everybody actually, unless you sleep great, then of course you don’t need to do anything other than what you are currently doing.
But if you generally have trouble falling asleep, if you generally have trouble staying asleep, if you generally don’t feel very rested when you wake up in the morning, then it’s worth addressing right away. It’s worth putting together for many people, it’s putting together a proper bedtime routine that helps them relax and get sleep.
That’s important for me. For example, 10 years ago, I slept amazingly well without any real routine, and I could even do things wrong. I could be on the computer working until 1130, get ready for bed, fall asleep within five minutes, blackout, unconscious for seven hours, six and a half hours. Wake up naturally without an alarm.
And feel rested and feel great all day, and work out and work and blah, blah, blah. Now not so much. I’m 36. I have two kids. I’m a much lighter sleeper, and if I were to do that now, I would probably wake up like seven times. I would wake up every hour, and so I have had to create a bedtime routine. I need to take 30 minutes at least.
45 to 60 is generally better. Two. Relax to do something relaxing, and that usually is not tv. I’ve found that TV tends to stimulate me unless it’s something that just puts me to sleep, something very boring. But I gave up on trying to find ways to make TV work. So it will usually be reading or spending some time with my wife.
And something I’ve noticed is sex reliably. Helps. If I’ve been a good boy and I get to play in the fun house, as one of the guys who works with me likes to say, then there’s a good chance I am going to sleep well. And I’ve also found that a couple of supplements have helped me. Relax, help me get into that sleepy mode before I go to bed, which is the key.
You want to go to bed, feeling sleepy. You don’t want to go to bed feeling fully awake and then try to get sleepy in bed. And those supplements are, I mix ’em all into a little concoction with some warm water, as little water as I can get away with, because the more I drink before I go to bed, the more I’m going to have to wake up to pee.
But they are L-theanine, lavender, glycine. Magnesium and sometimes valerian root. Not always, but I have found that valerian root makes me feel more relaxed. Some people don’t respond well to it, but I haven’t had any issues. Like some people, for example, get really weird dreams when they take Valerian. I haven’t noticed any negative side effects.
And so anyway, you can learn more evidence-based ways to sleep better [email protected] if that’s an issue. And lastly, I will say to all the shift workers out there, Remember that you do not have to be perfect with any of this. And of course this applies to everybody, but it applies particularly to people who have schedules that tend to disrupt meal plans and disrupt training plans and supplementation plans and sleep plans and so forth.
You do not have to be perfect. You just have to do the most important things. Mostly right most of the time. And sometimes you are not going to be able to do them very well. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to do them at all. And that’s okay. That’s just part of the game. If we wanna stick with that metaphor, let’s say that those are the times when you have to play defense.
When life is on the attack and you’re not able to eat the way that you planned on eating or you wanted to eat and you are not able to train the way that you would like to train, or maybe you can’t train at all. And during those. Times play good defense. Don’t let the offense score more points than they should.
Uh, try to keep them to zero points scored if possible. And then when conditions are favorable, you go on attack. Now you’re on offense, you’re sleeping well, you’re following your meal plan, you’re getting in the gym when you wanted to get in the gym. You’re training hard, you’re making progress. Two other ideas that have been helpful to me whenever I’m experiencing difficulties or hardships of any kind.
Are one that obstacles are a part of any game. If the game had no obstacles, it would be a boring game. So let’s not forget that and get too worked up about having obstacles. We actually need them to have a game. And then the other point is when things are not going well. When the burdens or obstacles are piling up, I try to remind myself that this is an opportunity to exercise a virtue.
This is an opportunity to exercise discipline, for example, and do what I set out to do even if I’m not in the mood to do it, or even if I didn’t sleep very well, for example, still get in the gym, still do a workout. It may not be the best work. Gout, but use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the type of person I am or use it as an opportunity to exercise patience or use it as an opportunity to exercise resourcefulness, having to come up with creative solutions to problems.
What I don’t do, Is focus inordinately on the problems because the more you focus on the obstacles as opposed to trying to create solutions and trying to get around the obstacles and achieve the freedoms or the goals that you want, the more you become. Part of the problem. So I try to always not become part of the problem and remain the solver of the problem.
And sometimes it’s easier said than done. I wouldn’t say I’m a master at that, but I do view obstacles and do view problems as opportunities to improve my ability to get around them and to solve them. I’ll write you beautiful boys and girls. That’s it for this episode of Muscle for Life. Thanks again for joining me today.
I hope you liked it, and I hope you liked tomorrow’s episode, which is going to be me monologuing mouthing off into the void about the best supplements for women, the five best supplements for women, and then there is going to be a says, you on my take on Covid I, as it relates to me. Personally, which I shared a couple of episodes ago and some people disagreed with me and I thought it would be interesting fodder for ASEs you.
So that’s coming, and then I’m going to be answering a question that somebody asked me about increasing urgency and necessity, injecting more urgency and necessity in our lives. All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to me.
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And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for life.com. Just muscle f o r life.com and share your thoughts on how I can do this better. I read everything myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open to it. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.
That is the best way to get ahold of me, [email protected]. And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.