Canadian Firefighter Magazine

FitSmart: April 2011

By Brad Lawrence   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

I appreciate reading questions and emails from readers; it’s a pleasure to get feedback from you and I encourage more of it. Your questions make this column possible, and my goal with FitSmart is to write about things you want to read.

I appreciate reading questions and emails from readers; it’s a pleasure to get feedback from you and I encourage more of it. Your questions make this column possible, and my goal with FitSmart is to write about things you want to read.

I am often asked about basic nutrition and exercise, so I’ve summarized some very key points to answer some of your questions.

Basic nutrition

  • Take a multivitamin. Everyone should.
  • Drink more water. Divide your body weight in half; this is the number of ounces you should be drinking per day. An average male needs about three litres.
  • Avoid simple, refined sugars. The sugar spikes in our bodies result in a matching insulin spike. Insulin is the hormone that triggers fat storage. In short, the greater fluctuations in your blood sugar, the more opportunity for fat storage.
  • Eat protein with every meal. The body can absorb about 30 to 35 grams of protein per serving. Every meal without protein is a mistake. Your muscle and other tissues feed off of protein and won’t develop fully without adequate amounts.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. A balanced breakfast jump-starts your metabolism. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up.
  • Be carbohydrate conscious. Not everyone needs to eat a low-carb diet, but most people drastically over-eat carbs, resulting in fat storage.
  • Ditch the calorie-jacked drinks. Whether it’s Starbucks or Gatorade, these drinks are full of empty carbs that will add several hundred useless calories to your diet.
  • Feed your body within 30 minutes of a workout. Your muscles will thank you.

Bulking basics

  • Plan and pay attention to progress. Make a plan and consistently evaluate how it’s working. If you can’t see progress, or the progress isn’t in the areas you’d like, then it’s time to re-work the plan. There is a reason your program is, or is not, working. You just have to find it.
  • Volume and load adds bulk. Lift heavy loads and lift them until failure. This will maximize all hormonal release, especially your growth hormone.
  • Consume one to one-and-a-half grams of protein per pound of body weight. A high-protein diet will help to build mass.
  • Follow a clean diet to increase caloric surplus. Don’t let your body become hungry; your body can’t grow if you don’t feed it.
  • When you’re training with hypertrophy (increasing the size of your muscle cells) as your goal, the volume and weight should create a feeling of soreness. Your body should be sore until about 48 hours after you train. During this time, your muscles will repair themselves from the training you put them through. Rest those sore muscles for the full 48-hour period and resist the urge to blast them again.
  • Basics to lose weight
  • Plan and pay attention to progress. Meeting short-term goals helps to keep your focus. Just like our mass building plans, if you aren’t seeing the progress you want, re-evaluate the plan.
  • Metabolic workouts are the most effective way to succeed. Keep your heart rate elevated and push yourself.
  • Change is good. Use a blend of high-intensity and long-duration cardio.
  • Increase your caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume.
  • Don’t expect much from your training if your diet is awful. Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to weight loss.

The more you cook the better you’ll look. I read this somewhere and there’s nothing I need to add.

I’ve never read a health-food recipe that called for high-fructose sugar syrup, trans-fat, chemicals or any other garbage you’re going to find when you eat out of a gas station or fast-food joint. Coincidence…or proof?

This may sound crazy, but if you want to lose weight consider yourself lucky. The procedure for losing weight is easier than the procedure to pack on weight. The procedure for losing weight, however, is nowhere near as fun.

Read the label while you’re in the grocery store. Keep in mind that some companies say low in fat when they mean low in fat but high in sugar and other chemicals you can’t begin to pronounce.

Exercises you should never do

  • Barbell upright row: This puts a strain on your shoulder and will damage your rotator cuff and nerves. Use dumbbells instead.
  • Behind the head barbell shoulder press: This exercise forces the shoulder to move weight at a very extreme range of motion. The shoulder is unstable at these limits and won’t take it forever.
  • Behind the head lat pull-down: This exercise has similar effects on your shoulders as the previous one, plus the fact that your rear shoulder flexibility is probably different in each arm. This makes it impossible to load your scapula, and properly move it throughout the rep without some sort of imbalance or impingement.

Exercises you should do

  • Squat, or some variation of it. A squat is probably the best exercise to do; no matter what your training goal may be.
  • Pull-up (the upper body squat). Lat pull down is a substitute if you’re unable; however, it’s a very distant second-best to the pull-up. Try to work your way into pull-ups.
  • Chest press. Dumbbells are safe and effective.

See a topic you’d like a full article on? Let me know and I’ll do my best to make it appear in print as soon as possible.

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a personal trainer. E-mail Brad at

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