Working out at the station. Photo by monkeybusinessimages

EMS Health and Fitness — Part 1

It’s no surprise seeing new EMTs, medics, and, yes, even firefighters go from fit to flab pretty darn quick. To be fit you need a balance of rest, exercise, and a good diet —three things that don’t come easy when working in EMS.

Old Man Jenkins may have you up your entire shift where the only fast food around is… well… fast food, and the last thing you want to do is to be is sore from working out during your 48 to 72 hour shift. Just as well, killing time on the couch waiting for a call can easily turn into a Dorito endorsed binge fest. So, if you start huffin’ n puffin’ from just getting out of the rig and sweating all over my stuff, how on earth are you going to pick my naked broken butt off this pavement?

Yeah, I may come back to life, but only to slap you with your own moobs. Likewise, skinny people can be just as out of shape. The last thing I’d want to see is Lurch’s arms snapping in half trying to lift the gurney.

By far, the hardest is the diet. Instead of getting a quick bite at of Heart Attack in a Bag, put your big boy pants on and prepare your meals a day or two before your shift. As a workout enthusiast, trainer, and physique competitor myself, I’ve picked up a few tricks:

  1. Multiple meals
    The traditional “3 meals a day” thing can be incredibly unrealistic for emergency workers. Break down your 3 meals into 5 or 6 for multiple benefits. One, the smaller, more numerable meals are easier and quicker to eat when you may have to drop everything and go. Two, smaller meals are easier to digest. Three, your glucose and insulin levels will be more stable. Spiking insulin levels suddenly will result in your body pushing the glucose into your fat cells and muscle cells, and the later only if you worked out recently. Four, cravings are less intense due to not entering the starvation/fasting stage. However, the amount of protein in your diet may have more to with appetite suppression than the actual number of meals, which brings me to my next point (1).
  2. Calculate and count your “macros”
    Not all foods are the same. Keep track of the nutritional value of everything you eat and it will blow your mind how imbalanced your macronutrients are.  Most people severely lack in protein and over indulge in carbs and fats. With that said, as long as you are within the limits of your macros, go ahead and eat that handful of M&Ms. If you are over your allotted carbs for the day, then hold off. You can still eat your little guilty snacks and not hate life while dieting, but choose your foods wisely! Those numbers add up real quick (2).

As always, consult a nutritionist, physical trainer or physician to assist you with your dietary needs.

Keep an eye out for part 2 where I’ll give you example meals and some more tips!

(Editor’s Note: The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect the views of EMS Wire)

  1. Mohr, Christopher, PhD., RD. “3 Meals vs. 6 Meals Daily – What’s Best for Fat Loss?” Men’s Health. January 09, 2013. Accessed June 29, 2016. http://www.menshealth.com/weight-loss/3-meals-vs-6-meals-daily-whats-best-for-fat-loss.
  2. Del Monte, Vince. “From Here To Macros: 4 Steps To Better Nutrition.” Bodybuilding.com. January 27, 2016. Accessed June 29, 2016. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/from-here-to-macros-4-steps-to-better-nutrition.html.
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Tim Cheves
Born in Tucson, AZ, Tim received a B.S. degree in Physiology (Pre-Med) with a minor in Pre-law at the University of Arizona. Here, he co-founded two UA chapter medical outreach clubs, served as a pre-health ambassador, became an R&D researcher, competed on UA's triathlon team, received the “Physiology Wildcat Award” in 2012, and graduated with honors.

In addition to three separate associates degrees, Tim became a nationally certified EMT in 2008 and continues to use his certification to this day. His work experience spans from physical therapy and nursing tech to the ER, donor organ procurement, and Search and Rescue.
As a self proclaimed grease monkey and gym rat, Tim enters his self re-built cars into shows and competes in bodybuilding competitions for fun.

Tim has been an instructor for EMS University since 2014, works at the UA as a biosafety officer, and now sets his sights on becoming a Physician Assistant.

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