By Matthew Loux, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
I recently wrote about the benefits of CrossFit for police officers. In addition to exercise, officers need to have a healthy diet to maintain their overall health.
Officers who sit in patrol cars for long shifts, for example, may be tempted to stop at a convenience store for a soda or fast food. But these unhealthy foods and drinks are full of high calories and low nutrition. In addition, prolonged sitting in a patrol vehicle increases the potential for buildup of more body fat.
Consider Healthy Food Supplements
Healthy food supplements such as protein powder shakes are delicious and provide an easy way for officers to maintain their physical health. Protein powder shakes can supplement regular meals and snacks, and can be conveniently carried in patrol cars. I place my protein shakes in a cooler in the patrol car because I find they taste better when they are chilled.
It is essential for officers to choose the right protein powder. Officers should consider the following factors:
- Value: Calculate the cost per serving of the product, weighed against its quality and any possible drawbacks.
- Quality: Consider the amount of protein in the product and its taste. Protein powders vary when they are mixed with milk or water; some become lumpy and their consistency and taste change. The quality of a protein powder is determined by whether it satisfies several requirements, including amino acids, taste, ease of use, the ability to blend it with a liquid, and digestibility.
- Yield: Determine the percentage of protein that the supplement provides per serving. For example, multiply the grams of protein per serving by 100 and divide that by the serving size in grams. A percentage of 75 percent or higher would be an excellent source of protein, depending on the type of whey protein used in the powder.
Consider Total Calories Consumed during the Day
A healthy diet requires police officers to pay attention to proteins, fats and hidden sugars. The number of snacks and meals eaten each day also need monitoring. The amount of calories you consume depends on your fitness goals—shedding some pounds or maintaining a current weight.
[Related: Tips for LEOs to Improve Their Physical Fitness Levels]
The recommended daily value of calories for an average person is 2,000. However, calorie count can be altered to fit the needs of the individual. An officer who is highly active on the job and works out at least twice a week would require a higher calorie intake than a more sedentary person.
For example, a police officer who works out on average four to six times a week should consume between 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day depending on whether they want to maintain a healthy weight or build muscle.
Some healthy food choices include:
- Fruits – including blueberries and apples
- Avocados – high in fiber and vitamin C
- Bananas – good for potassium
- Eggs and meat – provide many health benefits
The Harvard School of Public Health advises people who want to maintain their weight and not add pounds to focus on high-quality, minimally processed foods like grains, protein, fruits and vegetables. The school examined several diet and weight-loss studies. Its findings, reported in a 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that participants who ate a high-protein diet put back less weight than those who participated in a low-protein diet.
[Related: Beyond the Scene: Focus on Exercise and Hobbies to Lower Stress]
I have tried many diets and they all work in their own ways. For me, eating smaller meals and fewer snacks throughout the day works best. There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet. You have to find what works best for you.
Planning Your Snacks and Meals
By planning your snacks and meals, it is easier to track your calorie intake and balance the foods eaten during your shifts. Preparing a simple protein shake and packing some fruit, nutritional bars, nuts or vegetables makes for healthier eating.
I like to prepare my meals for two to three days. I portion them out so I can just pick one out of the refrigerator and go, which is especially useful during emergency calls. Meal and snack preparation also helps with portion control.
Other advantages of preparing meals in advance include saving money, losing (or maintaining) weight, and avoiding waste.
Officers who control what they eat and follow a consistent workout routine are likely to benefit greatly and see their overall health improve. I wish you the best of luck in your weight goals.
About the Author: Matthew Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud and criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years. To contact him, email IPSauthor@apus.edu.
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