The obesity rate for firefighters in the U.S. is between 70% – 80%. More firefighters die from heart disease than from anything else.
There is more cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and just overall poor health here in America than any other place in the world. I am sure most of us know this but what are we doing about it? We are going on more and more medical calls, lets slow down and lets become educated on nutrition before we become the next call.
This can be easily changed and avoidable with general nutrition education. Here at Firefighter Furnace, we want to help you become the best possible firefighter you could be. We got into this profession to help others. With an unacceptable statistic on obesity, it is us who needs help now.
What we will go over:
So lets get started I am going to try my best to make it firefighter proof.
1. WATER IS GOOD
WATER is a firefighters best friend. We use it to extinguish fires and to wash the chief’s truck but we should be drinking more of it. Here’s why:
1. Great for Weight Loss. Water assists digestion by helping to remove waste and allowing nutrients to easily enter the body. It also acts as an appetite suppressant so next time you are feeling the urge to raid the snack fridge, try drinking a full glass of water.
2. Helps Eliminate Toxins. Water allows your kidneys to remove toxins in your blood naturally. We use water to cleanse ourselves, why would you not use it to clean your insides. Imagine if you washed yourself with soda, what would happen?
3. More Energy. Water can give you more energy when combined with essential nutrients. Without water, the nutrients that give you energy cannot be absorbed into the body. Think of nutrients as a lock and water as a key. One will not work without the other.
4. Helps Prevent Dehydration and Overheating. Lets face it, our job requires us to do things that makes us produce a lot of sweat and body heat, its just the nature of the beast. Water will help you stay hydrated and will assist in preventing overheating. How many calls have you been on where you thought, he or she should have had more water?
5. Lubricates Joints. Think of water as oil on a bicycle chain. What happens when it does not get enough oil? The same thing happens with your joints. Rusty chains break – bones break, water can help this from happening.
6. Helps Boost Immune System. Water drinkers are less likely to get sick. Drinking water helps fight off bacteria that may cause you to feel under the weather. Water also helps in the production of lymph. Your body uses lymph to circulate white blood cells to areas of the body that need it the most.
7. Lowers Stress and Anxiety. I understand that we get stressed out with our job but staying hydrated is a great way to regulate that stress. Stress causes DNA damage, meaning that when you are stressed, your cells are at risk, when your cells are at risk, you are more susceptible to disease, anxiety, and heart problems. Reducing your coffee and energy drink intake will help in regulating stress and anxiety. Your chiefs stained coffee cup might make for a good story but it is not healthy.
8. Improves Heart and Brain Health. Researchers say that drinking plenty of water can help with diluting your blood, making it less likely to clot. In most cases, heart attacks and strokes are caused by a blood clot, either in the heart or brain, and it cuts off oxygen to the vital areas. Water will aid in the lubrication of your blood vessels, remember that.
How much water to drink.
Experts suggest that the average person should drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Remember, you are not average, we sweat more, we workout more, we need more water. I would start with the eight eight-ounces a day and go from there, depending on what you did the day before, today, and what you have planned for tomorrow. Judge your water intake by the color of your pee. Clear pee is a true indication of proper hydration, unless you had coffee or an energy drink and you are peeing clear every 10 minutes.
Be smart and listen to your body, no one understands your body better than you.
When to drink water.
In the morning. Drinking water in the morning is a great way to kickstart your day. It will assist in removing toxins and lubricating your joints.
Before each meal or snack. Doing this will help with digestion and will allow more nutrients to be absorbed into the body.
Before and after exercise. Drinking water before your workout will help in preventing muscle cramps and heat exhaustion. Drinking water after a workout will assist in recovery and hydration.
Randomly throughout the day and after a call. You never know when you will be called to action, being prepared is always going to be your safest bet. Making sure to hydrate after is important to make sure you are ready for whatever the day has in store.
Before bed. Experts suggest that drinking a full eight-ounce glass before bed will reduce the chance of stroke. Why take the risk?
Tip #1 Squeeze half a lemon in your WARM water first thing in the morning. The benefits go forever but the main ones is that it acts as a detox that forces a high amount of vitamins into your bloodstream and it balances out your PH levels, which is good!
2. CARBOHYDRATES, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
When most people hear the word “carbs” they automatically think the worst. The truth is, we need them, badly. Your body needs carbs more than any other nutrient. Eating a diet that consist of the proper percentage of carbs will help you with your metabolism, mood, energy, brain activity, and your overall function and well being.
Now with the science stuff: When we eat carbohydrates, our bodies break it down as glucose, the body’s main source of fuel. When we break down carbs, we can break them down into two categories, complex and simple.
Complex, the good carb, includes your whole grains, starchy vegetables, and beans. They give you fiber as well as a significant amount of vitamins and minerals. These complex carbs break down slowly giving you a steady supply of sugar (glucose) to the body, not a spike as I am sure we have all seen on a call.
Simple, the bad carb, includes flour, refined breads, pastas, and sugary foods. These types of carbs do not offer a significant amount of required nutrients but instead contain more calories to fill you up. They break down quickly and deliver sugar to your body at a rapid pace. Have you ever noticed you had a sugar rush and all of a sudden you crash and feel depressed while saying “why did I eat that?” We will get to self control later. Also, when you body if bombarded with access sugar, what do you think happens to the leftovers? It turns into glycogen which then turns into fat for storage. Constant forcing sugar into our cells is associated with blood sugar related diseases like diabetes.
Refined, the ugly carb, is the process of taking a complex carb and turning it into a simple carb. For example, lets take whole grain breads. When whole grain bread is refined, they strip the fiber and nutrients and increase the calories to get more out of less. Yes, calories and money. Before we go further, let me explain why we need fiber. Fiber slows down digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed into the body. When we eat refined, cheap, and simple carbs, we drastically reduce the nutrients our bodies need to keep going.
List of good carbs: If you can grow it, eat it.
Whole Grain Pasta, and Bread
Steel Cut Oats
Quinoa, Also a Good Source of Protein
Vegetables, Dark Leafy Greens
List of bad carbs: If it comes in plastic, it’s probably not a good idea.
White Flour Breads, Pastas, and Rice
Potatoes, Especially Fried
Cakes, Cookies, Brownies, and Candy Bars
Soda and Sports Drinks,
Sugar Sweetened Cereals
And so on…..
Tip #2 Stick to the outer edges of the grocery store unless you are getting Quinoa
When I eat refined ,sugar loaded oatmeal, I feel as if I am a walking zombie without a brain. Why? Because my blood sugar shoots through the roof. Be smart, pay attention to how your body feels after eating certain foods. You know your body more than anyone else, it will talk to you, it will let you know how it feels, pay attention.
Lets break down what protein actually is, I am not talking about the protein shakes you make after a workout to get jacked, which isn’t bad but we will get to that later. Protein is a component of every cell in your body. You need it to repair tissue and it is an important building block of blood, bones, cartilage, and muscles. Unlike carbs and fats, your body cannot store protein meaning that you need to make sure you are receiving it frequently to keep going.
So your body is full of proteins and the basic building blocks of protein is called amino acids. Think of amino acids as letters of the alphabet. You can arrange them in different ways to create different words, the same goes for protein. So we have 26 letters, amino acids has 20 to make thousands of different proteins. Out of these 20 amino acids, there are 9 that are essential, meaning that we need to get them from an outside source, the rest is created by our own body.
Now that we know this, we need to go over complete and incomplete proteins.
Complete proteins contain the 9 essential amino acids our bodies need to keep going. Complete proteins consists of animal proteins, such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, yogurt, milk, quinoa, and soybeans. When it comes to red meat, there are many different views on whether or not it is bad for you and related to heart disease and cancer. It is up to you, I choose to play it safe and stay away from it as much as possible. (I will discuss this more in the fats section)
Incomplete proteins are missing at least one essential amino acid. Incomplete proteins consist of grains, nuts, beans, seeds, peas, and corn.
Do not get me wrong, incomplete proteins are not bad. You can combine certain incomplete proteins to create a complete protein meal based on plants. For example, you can combine whole grains and legumes to create a complete protein (black beans and whole grain rice, and whole grain bread with natural peanut butter) and the list goes on.
How much protein a day? This is another tricky subject. In my opinion, it all depends on your goals. Studies suggest that the average sedentary should consume .36 grams of protein per 1 pound of body weight. For the athlete or someone trying to pack on muscle, the recommended daily intake is 1 gram protein per 1 pound of body weight.
In reality, the “right” amount of protein depends on many things, including activity level, age, goals, weight, current state of health, blood type, and the list goes on. Blood type? Yes. For example, if a person has type O blood, they digest protein better than other types.
I am not telling you how much protein you should take, I am just giving you the information to find it out for yourself.
Can I consume too much protein? The answer is yes. Many people metabolise proteins differently. A 250lb man will need and burn more protein that a 110lb girl. If 1 gram of protein is 4 calories and you consume 100 grams of protein, your body may only be able to use 50 grams. So what happens to the rest? It turns into fat.
List of great protein sources:
Chicken and Turkey Breast
Fish – Tuna, Salmon, Halibut
Cheese – Non Fat Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese
Lean Beef, Low Fat
Beans – Mature Soy, Lima, Black, Kidney
Milk, Soy Milk
Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, Pistachios, Flax, Sun Flower
Now that you know the basics on protein, it is up to you to find out how much you need. Remember, its not about getting as much protein as possible, its about finding the perfect quantity and quality for your specific goals.
Tip #3 When choosing protein powder, more protein per serving may not be the best option. Look for quality as well as quantity.
4. Fats, Good for ME, Good for YOU!
Before you start freaking out, I want to go over what fats really are. There are kinds that we desperately need and there are kinds that we need to stay away from so “come with me if you want to live.”
There are two main types of fats that are bad for you. These types of fats that have been linked to high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Before we get started, let me explain the difference between the good and bad cholesterol.
LDL Cholesterol = BAD
HDL Cholesterol = GOOD
Saturated Fats comes primarily from animal sources such as red meat, milks, and cheeses. This type of fat has been linked to raising LDL cholesterol levels and increasing the chance for heart disease. It would be wise for you to make better choices when grocery shopping. For example, chicken and turkey have less saturated fats and still offers the same amount of protein. So limit your red meat intake, buy more chicken and turkey (lean meats), and watch your cholesterol.
Trans Fats is the big bad one. This is the stuff you need to stay away from. This particular type of fat is mostly man made to help food from spoiling. They are formed through a process called hydrogenation. Sound bad? It’s because it is. These fats are linked to raising LDL and lowering HDL cholesterol. Also, they may increase your chances of diabetes and heart disease. Why take the chance? They can be found in processed foods, snacks, and even salad dressings. So next time you think you are doing the healthy thing by eating a salad drenched with dressing, read the label.
I didn’t mean to scare you. We also need the “good” dietary fats for a number of reasons. For example, fats play an important role in giving the body energy and breaking down certain vitamins so our bodies can metabolize them.
The good fats are:
Monounsaturated Fats can be found naturally in many foods and oils. Research suggest that this type of fat has been linked to regulating cholesterol, blood sugar, and helped in decreasing the chances for heart disease. They can be found in avocados, nuts, and do the exact opposite of the bad fats. Research suggest that monounsaturated fats lower the LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated Fats is also another “good” fat. They can mostly be found in plants and oils. They have many of the same benefits as monounsaturated and are linked to reducing the chance of heart disease and type II diabetes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids is the “GREAT” fat. It is closely related to polyunsaturated and offer the same benefits but this particular type of fat is considered to be a lifesaving, heart problem reducing, super fat. It has been proven to decrease the chances of coronary artery disease. It may also be helpful in reducing heart abnormalities, such as irregular heartbeats, and regulates blood pressure.
This type of fat can be found in fish containing high amounts of omega-3’s, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oils, nuts and seeds
So now you know what to look for on nutrition labels – don’t be lazy and cheap. Live long and prosper. Limit red meat, stay away from trans fats, and get your omega-3’s.
Tip #4 If looking for a good omega-3 supplement, see how much omega-3 is actually in it. Many people will say “FISH OIL” and only a small percent carries the omega-3’s. Do not go cheap on your heart health.
5. Self Control
Now that you know the basics on nutrition, we are going to talk about self control. Its easy to learn how to eat healthy but having the willpower is another subject. This may also help you out in many other aspects of your life as well so listen up.
Websters definition of self control – the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or expression in one’s behaviors, especially in a difficult situation.
If one truly desires that they want to be in great shape, that desire needs to outweigh the desire to eat crappy food. Think about that for a second. You mean to tell me that you would rather be fat because the shift decided to order a meat lovers pizza. It is all in your head.
Here is a few ways you can work on your self control:
1. Truly Understand What Food Actually Is. Look at food in a different way. Most people think that food is just the thing you do when you wake up, on the union break, lunch, dinner, and the late night snack. Food is fuel, why would you put anything else in your body other than fuel that is good for you? Because it was convenient? Because it was cheap? The only reason it is cheap, convenient, easily available, is because it’s not food, well not all of it. If you start putting good whole foods into your body, your body will repay you.
2. Have a Cheat Day Every Once in a While. Cheat meals will help with your cravings by giving you something to look forward to. It aids you in controlling the urge to cheat all the time. So schedule your cheat meals once or twice a week and stick to it. Make it an exciting cheat meal, go all out and make it worth it. My cheat meal is finding the worlds best burger. Make it fun.
3. Look at Yourself Differently. If you feel depressed because you are overweight, weak, tired, basically not where you want to be, STOP. If you feel bad for yourself, it leads to depression, in which leads to overeating bad food, and leads to you not losing but possibly gaining weight.
Here is a way to motivate yourself if you feel down on yourself, if you feel too tired to workout, or too lazy to cook.
Close your eyes in front of a mirror
Imagine who you want to be
Imagine what you want to look like
Imagine how you want to feel, energetic, happy…
Imagine people saying “WOW, he or she looks great”
Imagine how much confidence you would have in your sex life
Imagine the best possible YOU
Open your eyes
If you are anywhere other than where you want to be, make it happen. Just do it. Stop being lazy, stop eating crappy food, stop making excuses for not working out and eating healthy. Just make it happen.
It’s all in your hands now. Sign up for our newsletter for more free content and share this with someone you know could benefit from this. It could save their life! Seriously!