I can’t count how many times I’ve eaten from the “roach coach” only to regret it hours (or sometimes minutes) afterwards. Eating a chorizo, egg, and potato breakfast burrito smothered in ketchup chased down with a Rockstar was almost a daily occurrence in my younger years. I would show up a little haggard from the previous night, scarf one down and get after it. In my early 20′s I could eat just about whatever I wanted and not have it affect me, back then “healthy” was lettuce on my Big Mac.
When I hit 27 things began to change, eating a breakfast burrito made me feel heavy, like I had concrete for breakfast, even chased with a Rockstar I felt sluggish. This is the point where I made the decision to stop eating from the truck or at least try to avoid it when possible (when your shift turns from a 12 to a 16 or 18 hr day, you’re not left with much choice of what to eat). The bachelor meal plan while quick and easy started to take it’s toll on my body.
A proper diet is key to staying healthy and aides in allowing you to be able to perform your job until you retire. Eating smaller portions more frequently keeps your metabolism constantly working, burning fat and providing your body nutrients & energy. Many think eating less is better, but it actually causes your body to go into ‘safe mode’ storing fat and digesting food more slowly because it doesn’t know when the next meal will come. A proper meal plan should consist of a minimum of four meals a day (5 is ideal to keep your metabolism working), with breakfast being the most important.
A bowl of oatmeal or scrambled eggs makes for a light, but filling breakfast to start your day and should be eaten before you leave the house, not at the job site. Eating at home will allow the food to settle in your stomach during your commute and/or safety meeting. Your second meal (when working a 12 hr day) should come about 3 hours in and be a light snack to hold you over until lunch, a small helping of fruit would be ideal. The sugar in the fruit will give you a quick boost and will be easy to digest. The portion of your third meal (lunch) should depend on if you are eating a 5th, by this I mean if your next meal will be dinner then a larger portion will be required to hold you over until then. If you are eating a 5th meal, then your 4th should come about 3hrs after lunch. Beef jerky makes the perfect afternoon snack by providing your body with a lean protein that sits light in your stomach. Finally, dinner should be enough to make your hunger go away, but not enough to make your feel ‘full.’ It should be eaten at least an hour before bed and no later than 10pm to allow your body time to start digesting the food before you lay down.
Eating healthy on the job is difficult to do especially when you’re out in the field all day, but planning your meals for the week and grocery shopping accordingly make it easier. Eating a greasy burrito or breakfast plate from the taco truck may be easy and taste good, but it can make a long day much longer. Our jobs are already hard, why make them harder by filling your body with unhealthy food? There’s a reason performance cars run on premium, if you put good in, you get good out.
Photo courtesy of: Marshall Astor