Firefighter Nutrition, Health & Wellness, CRACKLY MAGAZINE
By Aaron Zamzow

Take control of your nutrition with these simple steps. Make sure to drink lots of water, eat simple one-ingredient foods, like vegetables, lean meats, and fruits, read food labels and limit those sugars.


Stay Hydrated: Drink Lots of Water.  Whether your body is turning food into fuel or working away at your fat reserves, it needs water to efficiently burn calories. If you are not fully hydrated, your metabolism will slow down, and you will not be burning calories as efficiently as you can. Hydration also plays a role in performance. The better hydrated, the better you perform. And, staying hydrated can reduce your chances of sudden cardiac arrest and stroke. Try to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each shift.  


Eat what our ancestors ate.  Try to stick with simple, one-ingredient foods that our bodies are used to digesting. These foods are fruits, veggies, nuts, tubers (potatoes, yams), seeds, wild meat, fish and seafood.  

The second part of this step is to minimize high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners in your diet.  Most people do not realize just how many calories and metabolism damaging high fructose corn syrup, sucralose and aspartame they are ingesting. High fructose corn syrup and sucralose is in almost everything: ketchup, salad dressings, cocktail sauce, marinades, diet sodas, etc.  Be a label reader and avoid HFCS and minimize sucralose and other sweeteners. And, despite deceptive advertisements out there from the corn refining industry that claim HFCS is no worse than sugar and is natural, this is far from the truth.


Minimize sugars in your diet. It seems to be a common staple at any firehouse, especially around the holidays, donuts on the table, cookies on the counter and ice cream in the fridge. But, because the food is there does not mean you should constantly indulge. It has been well-documented that sugar can have a harmful effect on your health. Research has linked this sweet substance to obesity, heart disease, liver disease, higher rates of cancer, tooth decay and the list goes on. Sugar also has an addictive quality that makes it a hard “habit” to break.

To reduce sugar in your diet, the obvious place to start is by limiting your consumption of regular soda, and juice concoctions found at most firehouses. Secondly, start reading labels (as mentioned above) and choose foods with lower sugar and higher fibre amounts. Be mindful of condiments such as ketchup and barbecue sauce, which can be high in sugar, and opt for lower sugar options such as salsa, mustard or hot sauce. Look at the labels of your common dairy items, such as yogurts and milks, and opt for the lower sugar versions.  

Aaron Zamzow has over 15 years of firefighting experience as an on-call paid firefighter in Golden Valley, Minnesota and is currently a career Firefighter/ EMT and Training Officer in Madison, Wisconsin.  He is the owner of Fire Rescue Fitness, a company that creates workout programs and fitness articles that focus on getting Fire Rescue Athletes “fit for duty.” Aaron holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health and wellness, is a NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, an IAFF/IAFC Peer Fitness Trainer and a Precision Nutrition level 1 coach. He has also, worked in the fitness industry for over 25 years and has experience working with the general population as well as athletes from the NBA, NFL and NHL. He is the author of The Ultimate Fire Rescue Athlete Workout and other fitness programs catered toward Fire Rescue Athletes and has recently been published in Firehouse, Fire Rescue Magazine, Firefighter Nation and in numerous other fire publications (Lexipol, Target Solutions, Size-up Magazine).   He has appeared on numerous podcasts and television programs and presents to Fire Departments all over the country.  He is on a mission to help 100,000 firefighters EMTs and medics get “fit for duty.” 

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