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Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job. Movies like "Backdraft" and shows like "Chicago Fire" exploit all the glorious hazards of going into and on top of burning structures, saving people from precarious situations, and working in hazardous environments.
However, these shows don't reveal the hidden dangers. Over time, these hazards lead to more on-duty and post-retirement deaths of our men and women than the traumatic events that make these shows so riveting.
As a firefighter of nearly 18 years, I am keenly aware that mitigating these hidden hazards is just as important as training to be ready for "The Big One." I firmly believe that the same excitement, energy, and healthy vigor that we had on day one of the job should be relieved on the day we walk out of that firehouse for the final time, ready to embark on our hard-earned retirement.
Here are the facts. Due to sleep deprivation, poor diet, stress, extreme exertion, and exposure to carcinogens over a 20– to 30-year career, firefighters have a 9% increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% increased risk of dying from cancer than the general population.
Unfortunately, that's not all. A surprising 45% of on-duty deaths are due to cardiovascular events, according to one recent NIH study. We are micro-dosed over our careers with risk factors that can take years off our lives or make what is supposed to be an enjoyable hard-earned retirement one of illness and burden not just for us but our families.
Therefore, I maintain that the time to address and attack these risk factors starts on day one! We must be vigilant in our diet, exercise regime, recovery, and exposure reduction.
The low-hanging fruit for me is diet, exercise, and sleep. We are absolutely in control over the quality of our diet, consistency of our PT, and sleep hygiene (on our days off). To go through a career being blasé about any of these factors is, excuse the pun, just stoking the fire of risk factors that are literally killing us.
This is precisely why I have teamed up with Xendurance, an Arizona-based supplement company founded by an Olympian and whose CEO is also a fellow Arizona firefighter. Their slogan is "Live Healthier Longer," which I couldn't agree more with.
I have been repeating the saying of having a health span instead of just a life span since I heard it, and Xendurance is on the same mission. They are firm believers in a 360-degree ecosystem of health and wellness that encompasses diet, exercise, mental wellness, recovery, and yes, supplementation.
Although I take nearly all of XND's product line, I have identified 5 products that I believe address some of the specific issues those of us in the first responder community encounter daily that contribute to the risk factors mentioned above! I call these products my "BIG 5 FOR FIRE."
Here’s my Big 5, and I’ll also share why each supplement is fantastic!
Extreme Endurance is a 100% no-brainer and should be in every firefighter's bag. Not only does it decrease soreness, increase stamina, and accelerate recovery (all imperative in the profession of firefighting), but it is clinically proven to reduce oxidative stress by 39% in 10 days.
We are bombarded with oxidative stress on this job, leading to many degenerative diseases, sleep deprivation, physical and mental stresses, and many poor nutrition and exercise habits! Get this stuff in your bag now. Yeah, it's that good!
Focus is what I like to call the "Energy Drink Killer." We have a serious energy drink and face-melting pre-workout problems in the fire service. Any given day, you can find cans of energy filled with all sorts of nasty ingredients alongside pre-workout powders that most need a degree in chemistry to figure out what's in the bag.
FOCUS is an all-natural 130 mg of caffeine by green tea coupled with L-Theanine, beetroot powder, and Alpha GPC, a nootropic that helps you get dialed in mentally and physically. What? No 30-ingredient list to cipher? It's a perfectly clean alternative to any "Energy Drink" or "pre." Yeah, that's right, get some and ditch the can!
Listen, we are good cooks in the fire service, but that doesn't necessarily mean we cook well! With rising food prices and busy schedules, we tend to eat what we can when we can and don't always make it as healthy as we should. We certainly don't pay attention to making sure we're getting in the powerful antioxidants and dual type of grass-fed collagen that this product delivers.
Of particular importance, along with the Superfood greens, are the Type I & III Collagen peptides. Type I peptides promote healthy hair, skin, and nails, yes, I know why it is that important, you ask? With all the carcinogens we are exposed to, I'll take all the help I can get to help repair that surface-level damage!
Now the Type III Collagen peptides are just essential for us as they help restore bone health & increase joint mobility. I can attest firsthand to this product helping me recover from a recent rotator cuff surgery, getting me back on the truck (full duty) in less than 6 months. The biggest bonus is that this product tastes amazing, yeah, really… close your eyes, and you'd never know you were drinking something green and good for you!
Coffee, we all love it! And if you're a creamer person, you know what the fire station has to offer!
Right there next to that commercial stainless steel coffee maker is the preservative-filled pump dispenser filled with God knows what that can sit on the counter for weeks without refrigeration! How in the hell can that be good for you in any way, shape, or form?
Short answer, it can't! XND's Creamer + Adaptogens provides a healthy alternative with top-grade organic Ashwagandha and Reshi to help de-stress, along with organic coconut powder and MCT oil & par for the course, this stuff tastes amazing!
As already mentioned, sleep deprivation in firefighters is the real deal! It contributes not only to short-term health issues but stretched out over a career is a top contributor to both neurological and physical illness, which eats into our goal of “living healthier longer.” While there isn't much we can do about sleep on shift, prioritizing sleep on our days off is a must!
Unfortunately, due to several factors, such as family life, carrying over stress from the job, and being forced to wake up at the drop of a hat, that is easier said than done.
Deep Sleep is an all-natural formula that actually works and doesn't keep you groggy the next day. It combines a small dose of Melatonin with Valerian root, Gaba, Tryptophan, and 5-HTP, all ingredients individually proven to help calm, de-stress and promote healthy sleep cycles!
Without a doubt, this product works. I have tracked my sleep with and without, via my Whoop strap, and nearly every time my REM and Deep Sleep cycles deepen, I wake feeling more refreshed!
Well, there it is, my "Big 5 For Fire"! As mentioned, this list is not a comprehensive script of what to take but a hit list of what I feel are some of the low-hanging fruit health and dietary issues in the fire service! These and all supplements in no way are magic pills that displace the importance of solid whole-food nutrition, consistent exercise, and training.
As their name implies, supplements are meant to supplement those foundational necessities, and I believe Xendurance is the best in the business to do just that. This company takes pride in its ingredients, researching dosages, and proving efficacy.
For more information on all Xendurance has to offer and all I do to stay healthy and ready to respond, please follow me @Natervision on IG!