Staying on the Yellow Brick Road - 2017 Gas Guzzlers

 “The better I eat, the better I feel, the better my genetics appear.” - Unknown

My 20 year anniversary of the Health and Fitness profession arrives in May.  If there has been one consistent struggle in all those battles, it has been the fist fight with fueling tactics.  I have spent some time reflecting on all the nutrition lectures that I have had the privilege to hear.  The quote above is from the early archives.  I use it to teach and inspire change.

Here is my 2017 roadmap for changing the way you fuel.  My wife constantly reminds me that people need to learn how to eat, not diet.  Let’s set the table.  Seventeen tips!

1. Today my liquid calories included a 20 oz. of the following:  caramel macchiato, regular soda, lemonade, and a Gatorade.  First and foremost, I lied.  For some police officers, this is a daily go to.  The math adds up to 900 calories in one day.  We will not talk about food until we subtract at least one.  Water with a lemon must be the option.

2. Optimizing smoothies should be mandated.  Almond milk (unsweetened), a protein (Greek yogurt or whey protein), spinach, bananas, berries, natural peanut butter, and oats or granola.  I always add some honey as a topper.  Experiment for your taste.  This is the ultimate grab and go.  Most people don’t get these nutrients in a typical week.  Most smoothie chains load it with sugar.  Where I’m from, that defines a milkshake.

3. My students know that I don’t trust them unless they drink coffee and beer.  We shall discuss the suds later.  The safest doses of coffee and tea in the literature are between 300-400mg.  Both contain about 1200 units of antioxidants.  I like my cream and a very small amount of sugar in my java.  I do honey in my tea.  It is a myth that these fine liquids will dehydrate an athlete. 

4. Water is king and queen.  I choose this at lunch and dinner so I can enjoy my food.  Experiment for a few weeks, habit drives change.  Most cannot justify the sugar with meals.  Remember, added sugar should be less than 10% of our diet in a day.  We all are waiting to become diabetic.  Dehydration will affect reaction time, cognitive decisions, and exercise intensities.  If your activity is over 60 minutes, we could justify a watered down sports drink.  Our training centerpiece is the 30-45 minute game, so water is the standard.  In training, drink when thirsty or your intensity will diminish.  A little color in urine tells me you are prepared to play hard.

5. Carbohydrates are the vital fuel for endurance and cognitive agility.  The attack should be vegetables and some fruit.  The secondary source can include bread, rice, and pasta.  Make all your grains whole wheat.  Portion control is key.  Repeatability defines fitness in our unit.  Hill sprints use 95% carbohydrate as the primary fuel.  The vigorous labor matters.

6. 9-10 Fruit and Vegetables is the prescription. They provide tremendous protection from disease and hold the most micronutrients that our bodies deserve.  “Where is the Beef” is a famous quote that needs to be buried.  It is the biggest crack in the foundation for all of our Tactical Athletes.  Half of every plate should be covered with colors. 

7. Salmon, grilled chicken, and grass fed beef is the O’Malley Weapon System.  These are lean proteins that deliver all the re-build after we play.  Most can lose weight if we include protein and lower carbohydrate.  Balancing these two macronutrients will keep blood sugar levels stable. 

8. There is not a green light for more bacon, butter, cheese, and any other processed meat.  It can be a reward for a great week of training but it may turn into a calorie problem.  Up the dose of healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, salmon, and almonds.  These super foods have been shown to decrease inflammation.  Advil is not on the dinner menu, walnuts on your spinach is!

9. Training must include recovery strategies.  Foam rolling, dynamic/static stretching, and water therapy are great options.  The number one option is recovery nutrition.  15-45 minutes is the window of opportunity to fuel post exercise.  Combining carbohydrate and protein will re-build muscle.  Chocolate milk is my high performance go-to.  It is cheap and delivers B-vitamins, calcium, protein, and carbohydrates. 

10.  Earn the snacks.  Think about the hours of 10am and 2pm.  My goal is to add a few logs to the fire at those specific times.  Grapes and string cheese, yogurt, hummus and carrots, and almonds are some examples of perfect snacks.  A small dose of fiber and protein will fill the tank so we avoid the buffet at lunch or dinner. 

11. Before bed, a small amount of lean protein can assist with the overnight depletion of this fine macronutrient.  Multiple studies in the American Journal of Physiology found that a dosage of 10-35 grams was the key.   The other elephant in the room is the sleep hygiene for the Tactical community.  Personally, I shut it down twice a week at 8 o’clock.  My young boys at home have done a nice job of depriving me of sleep.  I have adapted to less over the years but at least I can control it going forward. 

Here is a list to help with the bedroom:

  * Temperature 60-67 degrees  
  * Turn off lamps, TV’s, & phones
  * Establish a routine    
  * Avoid upsetting conversations
  * How old is the mattress?  
  * Naps should be 20-30 minutes
  * Avoid stimulants   
  * Hot bath or shower

12.  Choir Practice!  Nobody likes the taste of beer more than me.  I address the suds week 1 with our students.  They need to know how it affects the muscular system and the recovery process.  Five or more drinks can disrupt the central nervous system for up to three days.  Back to back nights of some fun can back up the nervous system for five days.  It may help some fall asleep but the second half of the night will be poor.  Alcohol also inhibits absorption of important nutrients such as thiamin, B vitamins, folic acid, and zinc.  These micronutrients help metabolize protein/carbohydrates/fats, form new red blood cells, and ultimately drive us to train with intensity.  The famous quote of “Paying the Piper” the next day by sweating it out drives me nuts.  It is mindless, low intensity work that may feel good but ultimately elongates the recovery process.  Just rehydrate and eat! 

13. Most Supplements are snake oil.  The U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) label should be present to ensure quality, purity, and potency.  Otherwise, buyer beware.  I think a multi-vitamin can be an insurance policy for deficiencies.  However, 33% of multi-vitamins and 28% of protein powders on’s website have failed testing.  Do your research to make the best decision.  At the end of the day, I will bank on the grocery store, not the factory to provide for my family.

14. The is a powerful story.  There are 5 places in the world that have the lowest rates of chronic and degenerative disease.  There are some similarities to the Mediterranean diet which has been shown to confer sustainability and longevity.  I want to live to be 100 as long as I’m not a burden to my wife/kids and I have some cognitive awareness.  Think about all those small retirement checks! 

Common ground is how they fuel: 

  * largely plant based 
  * no overeating 
  * locally grown or home prepared
  * BEANS – fava, black, soy, lentils 
  * 3 of 5 places are regular coffee drinkers
  * 4 of 5 places are regular alcohol consumers (moderation!)

15. Act the way you want to become.  I will piggyback off 13 &14.  Be that Farmer or pay them for their hard work.  Start your garden or go pick strawberries with the family.  Find those markets in your area and remember density matters.  It is survival of the fastest.  It needs to be on your plate as soon as it is picked!

16. Eating out should be a reward for those goals that are met.  I’m ecstatic when someone will cook and clean up for me!  But, for the O’Malley family of five, there needs to be a game plan.  Hit the website for specials and menu items of your destination.  Pick one fried food that you crave and add a sweet potato or side salad. 

17. Make fueling tactics a priority – Is the stuff in your pantry or fridge making you better?

About the Author:  E.J. O'Malley is a Health and Fitness Instructor at the FBI Academy, Physical Training Unit.  He earned his B.S. from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and M.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He holds Certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.