The world of sugar comes to us in many forms. The meals we eat at the house or the snacks we sneak in at midnight between calls all contain some type of sugar; but what does it do to our body?
Sugar is found in many forms; fructose in fruits, lactose in milk, and corn syrup which is used in the making of many types of candy. Vegetables oddly enough contain sugar, but in much lower amounts.
Sugar is also a carbohydrate. The body needs carbs to function, but refined sugar such as sodas, candy, and baked goods should be limited in your diet. These are not the carbohydrates of choice. This type of added sugar can eventually cause harm to your body by increasing fat and weight making you less efficient in performing your duties as a firefighter.
Sometimes we have that urge for a refined sugar; so drop that Twinkie and pick up a banana or apple. Learn how to control that craving.
Sugar can make us feel good, at least temporarily; by giving us energy. The side effect is that we will be tired as quickly as an hour later. This isn’t good for us when operating on an incident. With sugar overload our body can’t keep up with the job at hand and we get tired faster, ending up in rehab quicker.
Sugar can have the same effect on our brain as would a drug; releasing dopamine into our body, making us feel pleasure. I am sure if you think back you can remember the times you felt good while working hard and then the times you felt like you were dragging. Most likely your diet, and the type of sugar in it, was a major contributor to those feelings.
In the terms of amounts….
So how much sugar should we have as a firefighter? In order for us to maintain a healthy ability to do your job you must adjust our intake of sugar and sugar laden products. Look at these numbers.
There are 4 grams of sugar in one teaspoon.
9 teaspoons of sugar a day is the firefighters IDLH level.
This is where our sugar alarms should sound. When put into perspective an unrefined sugar such as a 12 ounce can of soda contains around 40 grams of sugar. Drink a bottle of water instead.
Remember what we read about in my hydration article? A good food to eat, containing proper sugars, would also be …….??
What we can take away from this, as with most anything, is to think moderation and take care of ourselves. It takes a conscious effort to cut back on the amount of sugar we consume.
Diet as we have seen today, through eating the right kind of sugars, along with proper exercise will keep us at the top of your game. The human body is a machine and must be treated with care and respect.