Keeping energised through the night shift

It is especially important for people who have to deal with irregular sleep patterns to eat well. Christian Philippsen, managing director for Beneo in Asia-Pacific, explores how food manufacturers can deliver them healthier snack options, which provide sustained energy release without the subsequent crash.

Working the graveyard shift or even pulling an all-nighter is an everyday reality for many employees in industries like entertainment, healthcare, security or transportation. This can be challenging for anyone. It is also hard to feel revitalised or rested enough to head back to work the next day – not to mention doing it again and again in shift work. So it is no wonder some describe the feeling like “a zombie chasing a caffeine drip”.

Although many shift workers say that they are used to working overnight, staying awake and inverting sleep patterns can lead to a number of negative consequences in the long run. In fact, it is common for shift workers to get shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) , which is characterised by insomnia. SWSD sufferers may constantly feel tired even when they have had enough time to rest. They are also more prone to making mistakes and causing accidents

Furthermore, night shift workers tend to turn to convenient food options (e.g. chocolate bars, sugary cupcakes) when they need an energy boost to stay alert and get them through the wee hours of the morning. However, such snacks may not provide enough nutrition or the healthy energy that someone staying up late often would need.

Yes, reaching for a night snack, especially a sweetened one, can help to offer a quick energy boost but it may also be bringing on precisely the kind of lethargic feeling that the night shift workers are trying to avoid. This is because sweet confectionary products, including cakes, chocolates and cookies, tend to contain a high ratio of conventional sugars and thus high glycaemic carbohydrates – the main culprits of the energy spikes and crashes.

Crashing from a sugar high

Many confectionery products are sugar-laden and highly processed. They also often carry a large amount of high glycaemic carbohydrates that are digested very quickly, resulting in a fast and high release of glucose – the body’s main energy supply – into the bloodstream, thus causing an energy “spike”.

For night shift workers, these sugar spikes cause their blood glucose and insulin levels to rise, leading to an initial energy “boost”. However, these glucose stores are quickly depleted, causing a drop in blood glucose levels even below baseline, which translates to an energy ‘crash’, which is the sluggish feeling that people often feel after a meal.

The benefits of all things healthy is impacting the consumer market in ways that could only be imagined a decade ago. Consumers these days are making an effort to eat healthier, either to look or feel better or for health reasons. According to a Nielsen study, 60 per cent  of consumers in Asia-Pacific are choosing to eat less sugar and 54 percent are opting for more fresh or natural food.

Avoiding the sugar crash

Successful food manufacturers in tune with the market are offering consumers healthier options in view of demand trends. They are designing products that are suitable for low glycaemic dietary plans by incorporating functional carbohydrates such as Beneo’s Palatinose (generic name: isomaltulose), which can be used to fully or partially replace sucrose or other high glycaemic carbohydrates, for slower energy release.

Palatinose has a unique physiological profile that helps support healthy nutrition – especially with regards to blood glucose management. Although Palatinose is classified as a sugar, it has a special molecular structure that enables it to be seen as a “good” sugar.  Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is hydrolysed four to five times more slowly by the enzymes in our small intestine as compared to high glycaemic sugars, yet it provides the body with the full amount of energy (4kcal/g). This results in a low glycaemic sugar that is fully digestible – thus making it ideal for providing sustained energy with gentler blood sugar levels that provide long-term benefits for glucose control, body composition and weight management.

Palatinose can be easily incorporated into various types of food and drinks. Derived from natural beet sugar, it has a sugar-like, mildly sweet taste and can be used in the development of a wide range of great tasting and healthy snack products, from cereals and baked goods, to dairy products and sports and energy drinks.

Getting through the graveyard shift

Working the night shift is definitely not an easy task, and it can be one of the most challenging experiences when people have to do it for a long period of time. Nevertheless, we will continue to need shift workers, especially in today’s urbanising society and having cities that never sleep.

Shift workers need to get enough rest in the off hours, and watch what they eat. Food products that allow for slow, sustained energy release – such as those made with Palatinose and low in high glycaemic carbohydrates – are ideal. This way they help avoid the consequences of the extreme blood sugar peaks and dips, and can provide access to sustained energy release mechanisms and improved metabolic balance. Palatinose equips food manufacturers with the opportunity to formulate innovative snacks that not only taste good, but provide consumers with a healthier energy source.

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