Canadian Firefighter Magazine

FitSmart: October 2010

By Brad Lawrence   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

As technology and science have progressed, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the fitness industry is the knowledge of nutrition. It was in 1971 that Sylvester Stallone famously drank a glass of raw eggs as part of his healthy training diet in the original Rocky movie.

As technology and science have progressed, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the fitness industry is the knowledge of nutrition. It was in 1971 that Sylvester Stallone famously drank a glass of raw eggs as part of his healthy training diet in the original Rocky movie. With that example alone, I think it’s safe to say times have changed and modern nutrition philosophy has come a long way.

The largest segment of nutrition planning has always been what to eat. Thousands of studies have been built to reflect the changes in our body composition, based on the type of foods we consume daily. The science of what to eat has quickly progressed to what to eat, and when to eat it. From this point, much of the focus of today’s research has been put into a concept called nutrient timing. Nutrient timing generally refers to the optimal nutritional needs for your body at different stages of the day, due to training. Although these concepts were originally explored for competitive athletes, this information is greatly beneficial to firefighters.

Protein: I’m a big believer in high-protein diets. They promote muscle gain and fat loss at the same time while continuously repairing body tissues. The benefits of a high-protein diet are vast, and studies have shown that there is no negative impact on our bodies. Originally, some nutritionists thought high-protein diets could cause renal failure, although there has never been any evidence of this. High-protein diets seems to negatively affect only people with pre-existing kidney problems.

Carbs: Welcome to the make-or-break section of your nutrient plan. Your attitude toward carbs will showcase your successes or magnify your failures. The biggest issue about your carbohydrate intake is your awareness of what you’re eating. It’s very easy to over-eat carbs. Think of a plate of rice with dinner: the recommended serving on the package is one-third of a cup but it’s easy to eat a full cup or even two. The average diet includes far too many carbohydrates, and this contributes to our society’s obesity problems. Even Canada’s Food Guide is starting to figure it out. It has again lowered the recommended number of grain products, and although it’s still high, it’s a step in the right direction.


Be smart and obtain your carbs through whole grains, vegetables and high-fibre foods. Aside from meals following workouts, your body doesn’t need as many carbs as you think. And don’t sabotage all your hard work by indulging those senseless late-night cravings.

Fats: Choose healthy fats; monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3-6-9s. These fats are found in high-quality foods such as peanut butter, fish, nuts and seeds. Avoid high doses of saturated fats and steer clear of trans fats found in fatty oils.

Drink it – your body requires it. A healthy, active body should get one-half ounce of water per pound of bodyweight, per day, meaning a 180-pound person should have at least 90 ounces, or roughly three litres of water a day. The best way to ensure enough water intake is to carry a bottle and make yourself accountable. Also, avoid sweetened drinks; most of them are loaded with sugar and offer no nutrients.

Vitamins: Everyone should take a multivitamin; even a standard multivitamin tablet makes a world of difference in your body.

You’ve heard it before – more meals, smaller portions. Shoot for six to eight small meals a day to keep your metabolism high. If you’re on the go, pack meals in advance and drink protein shakes. Consume a high-protein diet and include protein with each meal.

Breakfast: Studies prove that it’s the most important meal of the day. You need to eat breakfast to kick-start your metabolism. It’s the wrong time to cheat. Your insulin receptors are most sensitive first thing in the morning. Avoid sugars other than fruit to avoid extra fat storage. Make sure you have a full serving of protein. Breakfast is a great time for a protein shake.

Mid-day meal: Stick with a healthy, balanced meal but cut all unnecessary sugars if you haven’t already. Now is also a great time to switch to veggies from fruits for the day.

Snacks: Again, ensure quality foods and smaller portions. Snacks are a great opportunity to have protein shakes, nuts and seeds, or small meals you’ve prepared at home. Don’t ruin a good healthy day with junk food.

Supper: This should be one of your smallest meals. You should reduce your carbs along with your meal size. Give your body a quality protein and vegetable source; choose more veggies and cut the potatoes.

Final meal: Better to eat late than be hungry going to bed. Going to bed hungry means your body is literally starving, so feed it. If you’re eating clean, you really won’t overeat – trust me. Make this meal mostly protein and take in zero carbs. This is important, and will give your growth hormone a chance to kick in quicker and longer while you sleep.

Pre-workout: Stick to a small, balanced meal. You don’t need to carb load for your training; your body will have the fuel and you just need to push your limits to release it. Carb loading is for extended endurance, not the average exerciser. Allow yourself one to two hours to eat before training; let your body digest before you hit the gym.

Post-workout: Drink a recovery shake as soon as possible. Studies recommend you do so within 45 minutes of training. These drinks are measured with high quality, quick absorbing protein, and carbohydrates to promote muscle synthesis.

Your second meal after your shake is very important. This meal feeds your muscles as soon as the first meal is depleted. This is a bad time to cheat – ingest quality proteins only.

Try to use these simple nutrient timing techniques and give your body a chance to get to where you want it to be.

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

Print this page


Stories continue below


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *