Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fitsmart: July 2013

By Brad Lawrence   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

This publication is fortunate to have passionate and knowledgeable readers.

This publication is fortunate to have passionate and knowledgeable readers. For that reason, I try to offer something different and in-depth.

So, over the last few years, I’ve avoided the topic of weight management in my columns. That being said, much of the feedback I get from readers centres around personal weight management.

I know things seem complicated and the plethora of information on this topic can be overwhelming. My goal is to simplify weight management for you, and to help you to understand the key points you need to know to achieve your goals.

At the end of each day, your body has burned a set number of calories. If your caloric intake is higher than the number of calories you burned, you’ve created a caloric surplus. If it’s lower, then you’ve created a caloric deficit. A daily surplus leads to weight gain and a deficit leads to weight loss. If this trend continues over time, you experience a noticeable change – for better or worse.


The change that most of us are interested in happens when we experience a caloric deficit. The concept seems simple: burn more calories than you take in and a caloric deficit will result in weight loss. For example, a pound of body fat is about 3,500 calories. If we can find a way to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories each day, we will lose 3,500 calories, or one pound of weight, each week. It seems simple because it is; the tricky part is figuring out how to maintain that deficit.

Dial in your diet
Your diet is crucial to your success and has to be in check for your plan to succeed. While your nutrition plan is not the be-all and the end-all, it works in synergy with the rest of your efforts. Don’t waste your hard work by throwing it away in the kitchen. While individual diets will be different, here are a few reminders we can all follow.

Multivitamin: Just take one; it’s too important and too easy not to.

Water intake: The average person needs between two and three litres of water a day; that’s quite a bit. Carry a water bottle around to remind you.

High protein, low carb: Base each meal around a quality protein, You don’t have to eat a low-carb diet, but realize that most people drastically over-eat carbs, which easily store fat in our bodies. Increase your fibre intake to keep your body feeling full and satisfied.

Meals: Eat smaller meals more often and make your last meal carb-free/protein-heavy to maximize the release of the body’s growth hormone (GH), which has several regenerative qualities.

Your blood sugar plays a big role in how your body stores fat. To simplify things, the higher your blood sugar goes, the more insulin is released to offset the sugars. Insulin inhibits any fat-burning process, inhibits any GH release and triggers additional fat storage. Essentially, the higher your intake of simple sugars, the more fat your body will store in a caloric surplus. One of the best things you can do for yourself is avoid simple sugars. When choosing your carbohydrates, choose low glycemic foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower, nuts and whole wheat grains. This will ensure the slow release of sugar into your bloodstream, less fluctuation in blood sugar and insulin, and, ultimately, less fat storage in your body.

Your training program may not require a drastic overhaul; often a significant alteration in your diet can bring you results without any major changes at the gym. If you’re happy with your effort in the gym, then staying the course may be enough to lead to success. If you’re unhappy with your current plan, try to implement these simple tweaks. Your goal should be to become more fit than you were yesterday, every day.

Cardiovascular training: Increasing your cardio frequency is a great way to burn fat and to further boost your metabolism. Aim to complete some type of cardio program every other day, or three times a week. If long-distance running isn’t your idea of fun, try finding other methods to complete cardio sessions by making your cardio more enjoyable. For example, take a boxing class, or play squash or hockey. Find something you love to do, and keep variety in your training so that one thing doesn’t become a chore. A variety of different activities will also drastically slow your body’s ability to adapt to any particular task, thus preventing a plateau.

Weight training: To increase your caloric expenditure during workouts, look for more metabolic methods of training. For example, when weight training, try increasing your lift weight, minimizing your rest times, and lifting until failure. This will not only burn far more calories, but also allow for higher GH release. Try to lift weights every other day, or three times a week.

Set realistic goals with periodic check-ins. Keep attainable goals and set them for short- and long-term success.

Document your progress in a nutrition and fitness level journal. A healthy eating plan becomes much tougher to break if you have to write down your bad decisions. With training, documenting bigger lifts or longer runs will be almost as rewarding as the results themselves.

Remember to set goals and create a caloric deficit. Improve yourself through training and nutrition every day, and document your progress. Enjoy working hard and you’ll be ecstatic with your results. Happy training.

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders. E-mail Brad at

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