It’s only 4 hours into your shift and already it’s been a long day. You made it to roll call by the skin of your teeth and had to skip breakfast to get to work on time. The moment you checked on you are immediately hit with a call and it’s been wide open since then. At this point you are hungry, dehydrated, things that would normally not frustrate you are and that old cup of coffee you grabbed just isn’t cutting it anymore.
This scenario is all too familiar in today’s busy law enforcement environment; at 4 hours into your shift and with roughly six hours of being awake you should have had at least two small meals and well over 16 ounces of water by this point. So now you get your first chance to grab some food, but your only option is the stop and rob, where your choices are limited to a candy bar and a sugary drink or more coffee.
Let’s replay this scenario another way. It’s the night before your shift and you just finished grilling chicken breasts and steaming some vegetables. You’ve taken the time to pre-portion and prepackage your chicken, vegetables and ½ sweet potato into small containers. This time as you fly out the door with your hair on fire, you grab a meal, a protein bar and your big bottle of water as you pray that you will make it to roll call on time. During roll call you sip on a protein shake that you grabbed from the vending machine. Once you hit the street on your way to the first call, a few handfuls of trail mix that you keep stashed in your gear bag and a bottle of water will keep you primed and energized for the next few hours. Now instead of being frustrated due to dehydration and low blood sugar, you are thinking clearly in your body is primed for action.
The difference in these two scenarios is all about preparation. As a law enforcement professional you can choose to make the same mistakes again and again. You can choose to rely on fatty and sugary meals and drinks to hold you over for hours. You can also choose to plan ahead, make a couple of simple changes and bring wellness with you on the street. We know how demanding and dynamic law enforcement can be in it only makes sense that we prepare our nutrition to fit into this demanding and dynamic environment.
1. Nuts and Trail Mix: roasted or raw nuts, seeds such as Chia, sunflower and even hemp along with dried fruits devoid of sugar and oils make a fantastic and street friendly snack. A few handfuls of a mixture like this provides protein, fiber, healthy fats and a great supply of street friendly energy.
2. Engineered Nutrition: while we prefer you get your nutrition from whole foods and things that are unprocessed this just is not always possible on the street. For those times where you are just getting nailed by call after call we would much rather see you turn to engineered nutrition then to something unhealthy. Meal replacement bar’s, protein shakes and whole food bars can all be good options and are very portable. But buyer beware, avoid the common bars found in most grocery stores, instead seek out natural food and higher end nutrition stores that carry different varieties of bars for you to choose from.
3. Water: we cannot overstate the absolute importance of staying hydrated. Everything from concentration, decision making, fatigue, weight loss, muscle health and back pain are all influenced by your hydration status. A very simple rule of thumb for the street is if you are properly hydrated you will need to find a restroom every 90 minutes.
4. Bring it with you: as we started this column we will also end it. The best way to survive this career, manager your weight and eat healing foods is to simply prepare it at home. A lean protein, a vegetable or two (the greener the better) and a healthy carbohydrate such as a sweet potato, brown rice or quinoa can all be made into a portable and street friendly meal.
The take home message from this column is simple; eat every 3 hours as this revs up your metabolism. Make each meal small with the balance of each item we talked about above. Stay hydrated, avoid processed foods and the final trick is to simply eat less each time you’re at the table.