Rules of Healthy Firefighter Nutrition
Eat This. Don't Eat That. Eating healthy or figuring out how to eat healthy, can be a very frustrating thing. So today, I wanted to give you some great rules (and a golden rule) to help you simplify "healthy" eating.
First of all, there are a couple of basic rules of healthy eating that every firefighter, EMT, medic, mom, dad, Chief...person, should focus on.
Healthy Eating (or Drinking) Rule #1. Stay Hydrated: Drink Lots of Water.
Whether your body is turning food into fuel or working away at your fat reserves, it needs water to efficiently burn calories. If you are not fully hydrated, your metabolism will slow down and you won’t be burning calories as efficiently as you can. Hydration also plays a role in performance, the better hydrated, the better you perform. And, staying hydrated can reduce your chances of sudden cardiac arrest and stroke! Try to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. You can also click here for more hydration guidelines.
Healthy Eating Rule #2. Try to minimize sugars and grains in your diet. Carbohydrates and grains don't need to be eliminated... they are not inherently "bad" in reasonable quantities. But processed grains and processed sugars in particular should be minimized. So to make things simple, you will be leaner and healthier if you get most of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables instead of grains and processed sugar.
It’s important to note that potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other tubers have fewer problems in terms of digestive system inflammation than grains do. Tubers were a more common part of the ancient human diet as a source of carbohydrates than grains ever were. Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be much better tolerated by very active people that have no problem burning off the extra carbohydrates.
Healthy Eating Rule #3. Minimize high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners in your diet. Most people don't realize just how many calories and metabolism damaging high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, and aspartame they are ingesting. High fructose corn syrup and sucralose is in almost everything; ketchup, salad dressings, cocktail sauce, marinades, diet sodas, etc. Be a label reader, avoid HFCS and minimize sucralose and other sweeteners! And despite deceptive advertisements out there from the corn refining industry that claim HFCS is no worse than sugar and is natural; this is far from the truth.
Healthy Eating Rule #4. Eat what our ancestors ate. Try to stick with simple, one ingredient foods that our bodies are used to digesting. These foods are:
- Wild meat, fish, and seafood (animals that ate the right foods, unlike most of our current factory-farmed meats and farmed fish)
- eggs (various types)
- tubers (potatoes, yams)
And, follow the GOLDEN RULE #5. For 90% of the time you will follow the above rules to a tee. The other 10% of the time, you should cheat... Yep cheat. For example, if you’re eating 4 meals/snacks per day for 7 days of the week – that’s 28 meals a week. Ten percent of 28 meals is about 2 or 3 meals. Therefore, you’re allowed to “break the rules” 2 or 3 meals each week (I would prefer 2).
Don’t binge — schedule!
A caveat: your 10% meals shouldn’t include downing an entire pizza, followed by a full box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Binge eating can rapidly destroy your progress and make you feel like crap, let’s be clear on that. And, a day long binge is not the equivalent of “one cheat meal.” Rather, your 10% meals should include some foods, in reasonable quantities, that might not normally fit into your plan.
Now, you can get away with 80--90%. But, the closer to 90 or even 95% you get, the better the results. If you can follow your plan 90% of the time, you will soon see unwanted fat melt off your body. However, if you find yourself breaking these rules more than 80 to 90% of the time, your chances of failing increase significantly. Just saying…
There are a couple of reasons why "cheating" works.
- Diets don't work. I prefer to talk and write about "how" to find and follow a healthy eating plan for your lifestyle. I actually believe it is actually a good thing for you mentally to indulge every once in a while.
- I don't want to get too scientific here but having some cheat meals from time to time also helps regulate hormones and insures that you are not "under" eating. When you "under" eat, your body goes into a starvation mode and slows metabolism and fat burning. I can get into a very scientific explanation about leptin and cortisol but we will save that for another time.
So, to recap, drink lots of water, limit sugars, eat more veggies, watch out for those artificial ingredients, and eat like our ancestors did. Then... cheat 10%of the time!
I hope that these “Healthy Eating Rules” help to clarify and give you some nutritional direction. There are some other “rules” that could be included but for the most part if you follow the above rules 90% of the time you will see some positive changes in your body composition and health.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Continue to make progress everyday and Get FRF,
Fire Rescue Fitness has workout programs that will help first responders lose weight, gain strength, lose bodyfat and most importantly improve performance on (and off) the fire/rescue scene. To discover the best program for you, take the FRF workout quiz (click the link below).
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