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Home > EMS Products > Fitness and Health
October 01, 2009
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First in Fitness
by Bryan Fass

Good Fuel for Great Response

By Bryan Fass

We all know that the population is steadily getting heavier and so are we. The foods we eat are filled with additives, sugars, fillers, and non-nutrient dense 'things' that have been deemed "generally safe for human consumption" by the FDA. Step back and look at the quality of what we eat on a daily basis. Our packaged foods are filled with ingredients that are not only difficult to pronounce, but difficult to understand — what are they? Preservatives, moisture-retaining sugars, fillers, and gums…the list is endless. In our careers and personal lives, we have all seen the rate of cancer rise exponentially. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why? Where has the emphasis on organic and whole food products come from?

Health is a process; it takes effort and time. A quick meal on the go or something from the store, while convenient, is not always the best option. The push toward organic and whole foods came about from the simple fact that our foods today are not as nutrient-dense as they were 25 years ago. Our grandparents ate food that came from a farm. The crops were rotated yearly and chemicals were not used widely or at all in many cases. The foods we mostly eat today come from huge farms where additives and chemicals are used extensively to increase growth and protect from disease. Crops are not rotated as frequently, thus decreasing the nutrient density of that particular food. We essentially have to eat more of a particular vegetable to get the same nutrition our grandparents did.

So we go about our lives eating foods that are no longer as nutrient-dense as before and our reliance on processed foods continues to rise. When I say processed food, I am referring to anything in a restaurant or any packaged food. If it comes in a box or bag — or you order it and can have it in front of you in under five minutes — it's processed. These foods are very misleading! The portions alone are generally 2-3 servings. Remember that one serving is all you should eat at a meal. These foods are filled with sugars, salt, fillers, and fats. As an example, I will pick on one of my personal 'on-duty foods,' a burrito. These numbers are close but not exact, so please check the store for the full list.

Did you know that a chicken burrito with rice, beans and cheese has:

• 1200 calories

• 57 g of Fat

• 56 g of Protein

Responders, we only need 30g of protein every 3-4 hours. The rest takes its toll on your kidneys and will convert to fat if not burned. Many diets are based on 2000 calories per day. This baby has almost a full day’s calories in ONE serving. Can you say metabolic slow down? 57g of fat is an entire day’s fat in one meal. Instead, get a burrito with chicken, beans, salsa, lettuce, and tomato. Add some grilled veggies to make it really healthy. Stay away from cheese and other sauces, as they will only serve to increase the fat and calorie count. Another trick is to only eat half. Save the rest for 3-4 hours later. Not only will you save money, but you will substantially cut the caloric load as well.

By adding the beans, not only are you able to get some good fiber intake (which is very healthy for your gut and cholesterol levels), but you will also feel full longer. That is the secret, and is why you need to choose whole foods and healthy foods more often. The more nutrient-dense, protein-packed, and fiber-filled the food, the longer it takes for your body to break it down or process. This means no spikes will occur in blood sugar, so fatigue after a meal is less severe. Remember that the spikes in blood sugar from processed 'simple' foods are what contribute to obesity and disease. Add in excessive portion sizes and we have the recipe that hurts.

The take-home message is simple:

1. Portion Control. Eat half of everything and save the rest for 3-4 hours later.

2. Whole Foods. If it's white, do not eat it. Choose foods that are darker in color and more nutrient-dense.

3. Prepare your own meals. Research clearly shows that if you take the time to prepare your own meal, the portions are smaller and the meal is healthier.

4. Just because it looks healthy does not mean it is. Make good choices and ask for the calorie breakdown of the food you are ordering. Restaurants are required to have them by law!

5. Exercise. A good and consistent fitness routine allows you to cut corners and get away with a few 'freebies.' You have to live a little!

About the author

Bryan Fass is a leading expert on public safety injury prevention. As the president and founder of Fit Responder, Bryan’s company works nationally with departments, corporations, and state and local governments to design and run targeted injury prevention and wellness programs. He is frequently contacted for expert opinion and content contribution for all aspects of public safety fitness, ergonomics and wellness. He authored the Fit Responder book used by departments and schools, and writes for numerous web and peer-reviewed journals including the NSCA-TSAC journal, officer.com, JEMS, ems-1.com & best practices in EMS.

Bryan holds a bachelors’ degree in sports medicine with more than 17 years of clinical practice, was a paramedic for more than 8 years, and is certified as an Athletic Trainer (ATC, LAT), Strength Coach (CSCS) and the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Fit Responder developed the nation’s first validated pre-hire Physical Abilities Test for EMS. Bryan is a sought-after speaker on a variety of topics including risk reduction, employee self-care, real world wellness and How to Eat on the street. Fit Responder also offers a mobile app and program for Fire-Rescue fitness. Contact Bryan at bryan.fass@ems1.com.
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