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For Plow Drivers: How to Stay Awake Without Caffeine On the Job

by [user not found] | Nov 21, 2014

A town needs their plow drivers awake and alert after a big snow fall.

All towns depend on their plowing team to keep roads safe and clean when a big snowfall hits but few people have the opportunity to see just how taxing a job like this really is.

This past week we had a chance to learn for ourselves from town workers and plow driverssnow plow in motion for the town of Richmond, Rhode Island. We learned that it’s not so much plowing snow that’s the challenge – it’s the exhaustion and poor eating habits that come with it.

While coffee, caffeine pills and Red Bull are quick and easy fixes for fixing sleepiness on a long shift, excessive amounts of these substances can be actually be more detrimental to one’s health. To help restore alertness, combat fatigue and cure hunger on the job and to break up the pattern of coffee after coffee and ultimately answer the question, "how to stay awake without caffeine on the job", try reaching for one of these eight high-energy snacks instead.

8 Foods for Combating Sleepiness and Hunger on the Job

For plow drivers: how to stay awake without caffeine on the job is a tricky question. Being awake and alert is part of what comes with being a plow driver, but it’s very hard to do. Imagine driving a truck through the night for 10 plus hours at a time with a 2 hour break periodically thought out the shift. Snow blowing all around you, visibility is cut down and the only thing keeping you from crashing into something is the truck’s heater keeping the windshield defrosted. Sound like a situation you’re going to be 100 per cent alert and functioning in? Probably not. 

To solve this problem, drivers often turn to fast fixes for energy. 5 Hour Energy shots, caffeine pills, coffee, Red Bull and energy drinks are the go-to solutions, despite the numerous health drawbacks. Drinking large amounts of coffee can dehydrate you, energy that comes from energy drinks is usually from the high sugar content and consuming too many caffeine pills can lead to the same effects that drinking too much coffee leads to. Dizziness, shortage of breath, increased urge to use the bathroom and increased thirst are just some of the side effects that come with consuming caffeine well past excess.

health effects of caffeine

Good food, as we already covered in another post [link], is the best solution for staying awake through long nights of plowing – without any of the aforementioned health issues. Here’s a short list of some of the most energizing and nutritionally substantial foods for getting plow drivers through the long, cold shifts.

  • Fruit including bananas, apples and blueberries: Fruit, specifically apples, bananas and blueberries, are packed with a whole host of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Fibrous foods are fantastic for those seeking a steady energy boost throughout the day because the fiber helps the body feel full and naturally processes evenly throughout the day.
  • Walnuts, almonds: As a fast, energy packed snack, almonds and walnuts can never fail. Almonds, walnuts and most nuts come packed with a lot of calories in a small serving. Lots of calories means lots of fuel for the body to burn off. In addition to a lot of calories, almonds are packed with fiber, vitamin E, protein and magnesium – all vitamins and minerals that help you feel full without feeling bloated, energized without it feeling like it’s on a timer.
  • Water: Believe it or not, water can wake you up. A leading cause of tiredness is dehydration. The body needs 1.2-2 liters of water a day, or 6-8 glasses, to function properly. Drinking too much coffee or energy drinks can suck the water out of your body and leave you feeling tired and deflated. Staying hydrated on the job is a simple solution to fatigue (even if it means you might have to pull the plow over more than you’d like).
  • Green tea: While it does have caffeine, green tea boosts your energy without the jitters that can come after consuming other more highly caffeinated beverages. The aromatic drink is loaded with an amino acid called L-theanine, and it offers a long list of health benefits. 
  • Steak, red meat: In addition to a plethora of protein, vitamins and minerals, beef and other red meat provides iron to the eater’s bloodstream. Iron shortages in the bloodstream are common causes of fatigue and consuming iron-rich foods like red meat can act as an energy restorer. However, consume too much red meat (and too much iron) and the body can feel heavy and tired all over again, especially in men over 40.
  • Fish, salmon: Fatty fish like tuna and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help to elevate mood, improve mental clarity and overall alertness.
  • Eggs: One egg (hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, etc.) is all you need to feel wide-awake. Whether to start a shift or to keep you going through a shift, eggs whether scrambled, hard boiled or sunny side up, are a food you should be eating. Eggs are rich in protein, essential for energy burning without feeling tired or fatigued after, thaiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamins B12 and B6 – all essential for energy production.
  • Dark chocolate: Caffeine in small doses certainly can keep you alert, awake and functional but too much caffeine can work against you. Dark chocolate – real dark chocolate, not milk or white chocolate – is packed with caffeine and theobromine, a natural heart stimulant.
  • Protein bars: Don’t have access to a grill to cook up some meat? Maybe you forgot to boil an egg and take it with you before your plow run started. Either way, no problem! Reach instead for a protein bar. Enjoy all the benefits of steak and eggs’ nutritional benefits we discussed above all in a bar you can keep in your coat pocket.

The Big Takeaway

Plowing is tough, tough work both physically and mentally. As a driver, you’re expected to navigate a massive truck through a dark, snowy conditions for upwards of 12 hours at a time. It’s not an easy job at all.

However, the answer for how to stay awake without caffeine on the job has a pretty straight forward answer.

As we learned this past week, fatigue and poor diet are two of the biggest problems when plowing snow for a long time. Energy drinks and coffee certainly keep you alert, but the side effects of consuming these things one after another for hours on end can be worse than what you were experiencing before you consumed them.

Staying well fed and energized is a tough problem to solve, but the foods on this list are sure to knock out both of these issues. Each of these foods are easy to carry along with you, fill your stomach and keep your body burning good vitamins and nutrients rather than synthetic ones like you might find in fast or processed foods and drinks. Also with most of these foods, a handful or a single serving has effects that last hours well past consumption and are picked up at just about any super market either before the shift or during the shift.

While the occasional coffee or energy drink is acceptable, make a point to carry along some almonds and a banana the next time you go out on the job. Your body and brain will thank you.