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Eat like it matters

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Adam K. Thiel Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Eat like it matters

The food you eat greatly determines your fireground performance

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel discusses why firefighter nutrition plays such a prominent role in firefighter performance.


Like many of us in the fire and emergency services, my personal health and fitness journey has had its fair share of ups and downs

From completing several marathons and an Ironman triathlon, to barely being able to climb a few flights of stairs, I've definitely come to understand (if not always put into practice) the importance of exercise, diet, and nutrition for everyone in our business — from line firefighters and medics to chief officers and everyone in-between.

This series provides some great tips — from a real chef, to boot — and techniques to help improve our eating habits, without sacrificing taste.

Why does it matter? Well, if you're not concerned about the fact that cardiovascular emergencies still account for the majority of firefighter line of duty deaths, or you don't worry about the quality of life you'll have when you stop fighting fires, then consider the proven performance benefits of proper nutrition.

I remember working with a guy who decided to try a high-protein, no-carb diet. After a tour or so watching his mood swings affect everyone on the shift, we responded to a working fire where I saw him struggling to keep up. We talked afterward and he told me he just didn't have any energy; that's not a surprise considering his body was essentially feeding off itself for the past couple weeks. I've also seen folks (including myself) have problems on scene after consuming large quantities of carbohydrates or fats, without balancing the meal and exercising portion control.

I know it's hard, but paying attention to firehouse nutrition, and what you eat at home, will pay dividends both now and in the future.

Eat right and stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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