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1 Eating for Health and Performance: The Wildland Firefighter Instructor s Guide This program includes the following: A PowerPoint presentation A brochure An instructor s guide The instructor s guide includes a view of each slide and important points that clarify or amplify the slide s content. Read the slide aloud or allow students time to read the slide, and then read the additional comments. December MTDC

2 Eating for Health and Performance The Wildland Firefighter Carla Cox, Ph.D., R.D. University of Montana and Brian Sharkey, Ph.D. Missoula Technology & Development Center This program consists of three parts: a PowerPoint slide presentation, a brochure, and an instructor s guide for the presentation. Carla Cox is a registered dietician associated with the University of Montana Human Performance Laboratory. Her research interests include nutrition for endurance athletes and wildland firefighters. Brian Sharkey has studied the health and performance of wildland firefighters for over 40 years. He is professor emeritus at the University of Montana and a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine. 1 Read slide aloud or let students read slide. 2 Read slide aloud or let students read slide. 3

3 Energy comes from carbohydrate, fat, and protein. 4 Sedentary individuals expend 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day. Firefighters require twice as many calories or more when they are working on the fireline. Firefighters sometimes burn more than 6,000 during long, arduous days on the line. 5 Eating enough calories is essential if a firefighter wants to stay healthy, perform well, and make good decisions. Don t restrict caloric intake while working on the fireline. 6

4 If a female firefighter burns 3,540 calories but only eats 2,800 calories per day (a 740-calorie deficit), she will lose 3 pounds during a 14-day assignment, With a 1,320-calorie per day deficit, a male would lose 5.3 pounds. This rapid weight loss compromises health and performance. 7 During prolonged continuous work the body burns carbohydrate, fat, and protein to provide energy. Fat is the predominant fuel at lower intensities of effort. At higher intensities, the body relies on carbohydrate stored in muscle and the liver, and carbohydrate in foods and beverages consumed during the work shift. Carbohydrate and protein are important for muscle recovery and repair. 8 When a firefighter eats carbohydrates (such as potatoes, rice, corn, beans, and whole-grain bread and pasta) the food is digested and sent to the blood stream in the form of glucose. Other sugars, such as fructose, are sent to the blood stream and converted to glucose in the liver. 9

5 Fat is an essential nutrient, so fats should not be avoided. Fat provides an excellent source of energy. Excess energy intake (whether in the form of fat or carbohydrate) leads to the accumulation of body fat. 10 When blood glucose levels drop during extended physical activity, carbohydrate from the food we eat is used to maintain blood glucose. If you don t eat enough carbohydrate, the body will make glucose from muscle protein, a poor alternative because muscle protein is needed for the work at hand. 11 Amino acids are building blocks used to construct new protein and to repair muscle. 12

6 In addition to its role as a source of energy for muscles, carbohydrate in the form of blood glucose is the primary fuel for the brain and nervous system. 13 Muscle glycogen Glucose molecules combine to form glycogen, which is stored in muscle. Glycogen, the storage form of glucose, is stored in muscles and the liver. Muscle glycogen provides energy for muscular contractions. Liver glycogen is used to maintain blood glucose levels. 14 Importance of carbohydrates When muscle glycogen and blood glucose are depleted during prolonged hard work, the body makes glucose from protein. If you don t eat enough carbohydrate, the body can make glucose from protein, but doing so is inefficient and increases fluid requirements. It is more efficient to get glucose from food you eat. 15

7 Field studies of wildland firefighters have demonstrated that carbohydrates supplied throughout the workday help to maintain blood glucose, work output, immune function, positive outlook, and the ability to make sound decisions. 16 To maintain an adequate supply of blood glucose the firefighter should eat 7 to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day. (review the example and encourage students to estimate their own daily needs). 17 This is an example of the carbohydrate needed during a day of firefighting. 18

8 Eating carbohydrate throughout the day helps maintain work output. 19 Carbohydrates and work Activity During Periods of the Day Firefighters eating carbohydrate snacks do more work, especially late in a shift. Ruby and others 2004 The amount of recorded activity was consistently higher for the firefighters who were supplied with carbohydrate throughout the day than for those that ate a sack lunch and kept hydrated. The benefit was considerably greater late in the shift (from 4 to 6 p.m.). Time of Day Placebo Liquid + Solid CHO 20 Eat a variety of carbohydrates to provide about 40 grams (1.41 ounces) of carbohydrate (or 160 calories of energy) per hour. One gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories of energy. 21

9 Here is an example of how a firefighter can maintain energy throughout the shift. 22 The protein needs of a firefighter exceed those of the sedentary individual, who need only 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. 23 Review the example and have students calculate their protein needs. 24

10 Protein and amino acid supplements are NOT necessary to obtain adequate protein. This menu illustrates the protein portion of foods that meet the requirements of a 160 pound (72.7 kg) firefighter. Adding a few glasses of milk each day (8 grams of protein per 8 oz glass) provides more quality protein. Consult the brochure to see the protein content in foods. 25 Vegetarians need to select foods that meet their protein needs. 26 Firefighters select food items to be eaten throughout the work shift. 27

11 Shift food Emphasize the large difference in work performed during the last 2 hours of work. Firefighters consumed food throughout the day at approximately 90-min intervals. During the last 2 hours of work, the shift food group performed 41 percent more work than the sack lunch group (Cuddy and others, 2006) Vitamins enhance the speed of chemical reactions in the body. Fire camp meals meet vitamin and mineral needs so long as firefighters consume enough calories from a variety of foods. 30

12 B vitamins are important in energy metabolism

13 When firefighters consume a well-balanced diet with enough calories, they have no need for vitamin supplements (such as vitamin C) or multivitamins. 34 Minerals Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin which transports oxygen to the working muscles. Zinc, copper, and iron help to get every bit of energy from fat to fuel the working muscles during long bouts of work. 35 If you choose to take supplemental minerals (or vitamins) you should not exceed 100% of the recommended daily intake. 36

14 Legumes include peas and beans. 37 The right amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat, along with essential nutrients, constitute a healthy diet. 38 To meet the caloric needs of a wildland firefighter, the menu could be: This diet would meet the energy needs of firefighters, but would lack essential nutrients, and it includes too much saturated fat. 1 / 2 gallon ice cream 1 cup chocolate syrup 1 / 2 cup almonds 1 / 2 cup maraschino cherries This would meet the energy requirements, BUT 39

15 This food plan provides enough calories, but also provides the essential vitamins and minerals needed to maintain the health of the firefighter. 40 This is an example of a healthy breakfast for a 180-pound firefighter. 41 The contents of this sack lunch can be eaten throughout the day to maintain energy levels and performance. 42

16 Sport drinks and energy bars are appropriate for individuals engaged in prolonged, arduous exertion. During the off-season, limit consumption of these foods to match the caloric needs of a less active lifestyle. 43 Fire camp meals provide ample energy and nutrition, so long as you eat a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables. 44 A number of healthy foods can be eaten throughout the day. 45

17 Heat is a byproduct of hard work. The blood from the muscles travels to the surface of the skin for cooling. Sweat glands become active, secreting sweat that evaporates to cool the body. As sweating reduces the amount of fluid in the body, blood volume is reduced and performance deteriorates. Drinking during work helps replace fluids lost in sweat. 46 Read the reasons. 47 Fluid balance (fluid intake compared to sweat loss) varies for each individual. Some sweat more than others. These recommendations are based on the guidelines for fluid intake during exercise recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and those of the US Army. 48

18 To evaluate hydration (fluid replacement) the firefighter should check their urine color, weigh themselves after a shift, and rehydrating until their weight is restored. A rapid drop in body weight indicates dehydration. 49 Sweat includes the electrolytes sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Some people lose more electrolytes in sweat than others. Electrolytes are essential for nerve and muscle function, including heart muscle. Making good food choices will provide the electrolytes needed to replace those lost in sweat. 50 Read the bullets. 51

19 Some beverages contain water, electrolytes, and energy. Research supports including carbohydrate and some protein in the first 2 hours after a hard day of work. 52 Ergogenic supplements Manufacturers claim that ergogenic supplements enhance athletic performance. Creatine Protein powders Amino acids Herbal steroids Anabolic steroids 53 54

20 There have been reports that supplements taken by athletes have included substances that were not listed on the label. Some of these substances are banned in NCAA or Olympic sports. Make sure the label includes a USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) symbol. 55 In general, it is not necessary to take supplements if you are eating a well-balanced diet. If you choose to take a supplement, it should not contain more than 100% of the recommended daily intake

21 Immunity is the body s defense system to help ward off infections such as a cold or the flu. Factors that can suppress immune function and decrease the body s ability to fight infection are shown on this slide. 58 Carbohydrate supplements reduce the formation of stress hormones, which are associated with impaired immune function. 59 Other nutrients have been shown to enhance the body s ability to fight infection. They can be found in a variety of foods. 60

22 Limiting calories can be difficult for incident command team members, especially when eating fire camp meals designed to meet the caloric needs of firefighters. 61 Excess weight can impair performance. 62 Weight management during off season Maintaining a stable weight throughout the year is healthier than trying to lose weight before the fire season. Many firefighters return to a more sedentary lifestyle in the off season. So how should you eat during the off season? Match caloric intake to your level of physical activity. 63

23 Health management during off season Read the bullets. Weigh yourself every 2 weeks to watch for gradual weight gain. Keep well nourished. It s easier to stay healthy than to get well. Begin the fire season with a sound nutritional base. 64 Read the bullets. 65 Read the bullets. 66

24 Review the questions. 67 Review the questions. 68 Review the questions and answers. 69

25 For more information Review the USDA s Food Guide Pyramid and The Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (http://www.mypyramid.gov/) (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/) The USDA s Food Guide Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have additional information on nutritional requirements. But remember that the dietary guidelines are for people who are far less active than wildland firefighters. Contact the American Dietetic Association. (http://www.eatright.org/) 70 Contact the USDA and MTDC Web sites. The addresses are listed in the brochure that accompanies this presentation. 71

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