Nov. 10, 2021

Creating An Environment For Optimal Performance- Maureen Stoecklein

If you want to retire as healthy as you were when you first step into your job, listen to this episode with Firefighter/Paramedic and Registered Dietitian Maureen Stoecklein. Maureen will teach us the things to avoid to improve our overall health, how to prepare on-the-go healthy meals and snacks, and how to achieve good eating habits. Her expertise in nutrition with a background in working with athletes (New York Mets) and first responders will speak for itself.


If you want to retire as healthy as you were when you first step into your job, listen to this episode with Firefighter/Paramedic and Registered Dietitian Maureen Stoecklein. Maureen will teach us the things to avoid to improve our overall health, how to prepare on-the-go healthy meals and snacks, and how to achieve good eating habits. Her expertise in nutrition with a background in working with athletes (New York Mets) and first responders will speak for itself.

 

In this episode, we discuss:

  1. The difference between a tactical athlete and a firefighter;
  2. Why do most first responders reach for quick satisfaction thru caffeine or sugar;
  3. How to remain or be consistent in good eating habits;
  4.  How does feeding your body or fueling your body help you sleep;
  5. Vitamins or real food?;
  6. Some food causes inflammation in our bodies;
  7. What are the things that we constantly do that destroys our gut health; and
  8. What are the things could first responders change immediately to improve their health

Follow Maureen on IG:

https://www.instagram.com/maureenstoeckleinrd/

Megan Lautz's Cookbook 

https://dfdwellness.com/firehouse-fresh-recipe-book/

Host Information
Your host Jerry D. Lund can be reached at 801-376-7124 or email at enduringthebdage@gmail.com or voice message use the icon microphone at www.enduringthebadgepodcast.com. Please feel free to give my information to anyone that might be feeling down or anyone you would like to be on the podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.  If you like the podcast please share it and join the online community at www.instagram.com/enduringthebadgepodcast.

Reach out to Maureen now. Don't forget to listen to our other episodes!

 

Transcript

Everyday Heroes Podcast Network  
This podcast is part of the Everyday Heroes Podcast Network, the network for first responders and those who support them.


Intro  
Welcome. The trials of first responders and their families aren't easy. Enduring the Badge Podcast is building a community to help them out. Introducing your host by 30 years of experience as a first responder, Jerry Dean Lund.


Jerry Lund  
Alright, here we go. Welcome to and Enduring the Badge, my very special guest today is Maureen Stoecklein. How are you?

Maureen Stoecklein  
Thank you for I'm really great. Thank you for having me as a guest on your podcast.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, no problem. I'm excited to have you excited to get your insight into some fitness stuff. And some, you know, some fitness stuff that goes right into some mental health stuff. And you have quite a background of cool things you've been involved in. I didn't notice from your little bio that you sent me like, you spent some time with a Mets?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I did, I served three seasons with the New York Mets. In fact, this was my first season not with them. And it was a really obviously a great experience. But it was a good combination. And also was really insightful as to how kind of professional sports have so many amenities will say it helps them to perform. And, you know, I think there's an important role for those same sorts of things, especially with first responders. So, you know, kind of gaining that insight has been really cool to kind of bring that back to the fire service specifically. Because that's kind of the the world that I live in.

Jerry Lund  
Right. Let's tell the audience a little bit about yourself.

Maureen Stoecklein  
So I obviously my name is Maureen, I've been a dietitian, gosh, for almost 25 years, and I've been a firefighter for 22 years. And so I've been obviously a registered dietitian, I worked in a clinical background for a few years. And then I made a career switch, decided to transition to become a firefighter. And the reason behind that was I miss being a part of a team, not to be a dietician or hospital wasn't a team, it certainly was, but I missed the more physical aspects. And so fire service was really attractive to me, because it's a helping profession, but still a physically demanding job, which I enjoy. So I made that transition. And then probably about six or seven years ago, I kind of re submerge myself in nutrition more in a sports realm. I work at a couple of fitness facilities around here as a consulting dietitian, and had the opportunity to work specifically with athletes, which is really where my nutrition interest kind of sips. And so from that I was able to apply and get position with the New York Mets. And so it was a really great experience. Because I made I was able to do both. So I functioned as a full time firefighter and then my days off from the fire station, I was able to travel to New York or to really wherever the Mets were playing. So it was a lot of travel, but it was certainly a really exciting time to to be kind of in that world and see how professional sports function and you know, kind of the role of nutrition especially.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, that would be pretty awesome. And that's probably a super rare opportunity. You probably got one up on every firefighter out there who no one else is doing that. Right.

Maureen Stoecklein  
You know, I really, I've I've kind of searched to try and find other full time firefighters that are also dietitians and I haven't been able to I found other dietitians certainly that work in in the public safety realm, which is really great to see. But yeah, I feel like I have the coolest second job. Fire Department, because a lot, obviously a lot of nurses and, you know, PA, they do constructions, but I really felt like I had the coolest job when I wasn't at the station.

Jerry Lund    
Yeah, I bet. Let's just kind of dive down into some nutrition stuff. And first responders and actually lets, you know, I hear a lot that first responders are like or firefighter specifically are like a tactical athlete. What are your thoughts about that?

Maureen Stoecklein    
So when I think of a tactical athlete, I think of someone who has to be able to perform in you know, austere environments will say but also in a really unplanned environment. So what that means is for professional athlete especially, they know specifically what time their game time is going to be like, for example, with the Mets. If they had a game at seven, they would arrive at one o'clock and they'd have all their resources a physical therapy, a chef dietitian, strength and conditioning coaches, they have that whole human performance team that's there ready to receive them when they walk in the door and get them ready for that seven o'clock event. A tactical athlete whether it's police fire military, does not have that opportunity. So we may walk in the door for our shift at eight o'clock. And it might be our game time meeting, we may have a fire, we may have a really big event. And if we arrive in a really unprepared state, meaning under rested under fueled under hydrated, we really set ourselves up for failure, and also possibly our partners and in the community that we serve. So I feel like for us, those aspects of human performance are important for us to embrace all the time. The other thing is, we may not just have one game, we may have several events during our shift that we have to be able to respond to. So thinking about how we recover from one event to the next, it really just kind of being in a constant state of readiness is something that I know I preach when I go out. And I'm able to be in front of an audience that I can help educate at least on the nutrition perspective. But just it's really hard to kind of manage all that yourself. And obviously, our budget is a little different than then an athlete, especially a professional athlete, so we have to figure out how to manage all of that, on our own and on a much different budget than than athletes still.

Jerry Lund  
Right. A much different schedule, right? Working the various shifts that first responders work throughout the country. You know, for me, it's two days on, and then four days off, some people you know, work quite a bit different schedules and stuff. And so planning your nutrition and sleep with the schedules like that is incredibly difficult.

Maureen Stoecklein 
It really is. And, you know, I teach at the local or the Regional Police Academy here. And you know, what I educate so much in that environment is just like you have a mobile office. So you are living in your car for probably 12, if not many more hours than that. And so how can we create an environment in the vehicle, which is your you know, your office, to where you have those access to the foods that will help serve you best because otherwise you set yourself up, you know, whether you're a police officer, a firefighter, when we're or a regular person on the street, when you are stressed and over hungry, then you grab whatever's available. So you'll stop at a convenience store, you'll stop for fast food, all the processed foods and all the things that kind of set us up in the long term for health issues. So, you know, especially with the police, you know, the schedules are very similar to fire you're up all night, you know, hard to sleep during the day. And then hard to manage your, your feedings I call them. Yeah. I like to I like to encourage everyone to keep their their feedings in arm's reach away. 

Jerry Lund  
Right, right.

Maureen Stoecklein   
And hydration really, 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah which is a, it's hard as, as a first responder sometimes or an officer really, to hydrate because you don't really know the next time you're going to be able to use the restroom. So if you over hydrate, then you're like, oh, man, like you find yourself in a situation when they you don't want to be.

Maureen Stoecklein   
Right and that is another, you know, fortunately, in the township that I work in the other police officers, we obviously love to have them come by our station. That's typically why they're stopping is use the bathroom or they heat their food up, maybe I'm not sure. But yeah, that's definitely a tricky thing to kind of manage and mitigate for police officers, especially if they don't have resources to go to the bathroom and just trying to preach, drink half your body weight in ounces of water.

Jerry Lund  
Right, right. As for first responders, and you know, on the go, we just generally reach to something a quick satisfaction of a caffeine or sugar or, or an other type of treat, maybe not the most nutritional type of treats. Anything. It's just like a human nature thing. Just a quick, quick thing to grab, instead of the thought process of like probably grab those, grab this.

Maureen Stoecklein   
Well, I think that part of the problem is that many of our first responders don't realize, well, I shouldn't say many, there's some that just don't realize how great they can feel, I think we get in the grind. And we get in the grind with our schedule and our routine. And we don't realize how big of an impact being hydrated and making great food choices can have not only on our physical health, but our mental health as well. I think sometimes we chalk that up as "Oh, I don't have time to train and workout. So you know, doing this isn't going to make much of a difference." But you know, the foods that we choose to fuel ourselves with have a direct correlation on not only obviously our physical health, but also our mental health. So part of what I educate on is give your body that opportunity to feel the way we can really feel whether it's two weeks of just really trying to make sure that you're maybe limiting sugar or maybe not having as much processed food so that you can feel how your body can can feel when you are fueling properly. So I think that's a big part of it is just not realizing how great you can feel. I think being prepared is another thing obviously and allowing yourselves not to get over hungry because like I said earlier, you know when we get in that situation then yes, we tend to grab for those foods. I think we are always tired, too. So firefighters, military police officers Oh, EMS responders, whatever, we were always in a grind where we are under slept. And so there's, I feel at least three things that primarily make us feel tired. One is being under slept. And maybe we can't always mitigate that issue. However, under hydration is one thing and then under fueling, so, I think we turn to caffeine a lot, because we're just so used to doing that, and it gives us that little bit of a perk. But in the long term, we all know caffeine has a six hour half life, so then we're just compromising our sleep again, all over again. So it's just like grind that we get in craving caffeine, when we're tired, we also tend to go towards carbohydrates and processed foods. It's like this continuous vicious cycle that we get in. And I think the big thing is just allowing your body some time to kind of get into a routine of making some better choices. It doesn't have to be everything is so over complicated. Now, the, you know, social media is preaching one thing, and we just don't even know where to begin. So just in its most simple form, if we as first responders can focus on hydrating, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating less processed food, just those three things, we are going to feel so much better and be able to perform better on our jobs in probably in our family lives too.

Jerry Lund 
Why is there such a direct correlation between what we eat and how we feel both physically and mentally?

Maureen Stoecklein  
So I feel like so much of that comes down, I think there's more and more research going into our gut health and kind of how we feel our gut is how we feel our brain. So some of our, you know, feel good hormones are kind of harvested in our gut. And so when we are fueling it with fiber, and lots of antioxidant, rich food and lots of phytonutrients, or, you know, polyphenols, all the things that are abundant in really bright, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, all of those things that help fuel our gut, there's a direct correlation between those foods in our brain. So 20%, or to 25% of the food that we eat helps to fuel our brain. So when we make those really great food choices, then naturally, our mood and our hormones are going to help us to feel better too. And I think the other thing is just the overall feeling. So when we include protein, healthy fats and fiber on a regular consistent basis throughout the day, we tend to feel more satiated, and less kind of in that mode of just grabbing whatever might be available. So when we feel full, and when we're not kind of on this constant buffet of carbohydrates, then we tend to feel better to mentally and I think, you know, maybe some of it is placebo that you know you're eating healthier foods, you just naturally feel better. But I think a lot of it just has to do with us feeling satiated, and kind of being consistent throughout the day with our feedings or fueling feedings, meals, whatever you want to call them.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, there's always carbs around at least at our station. There's for some reason everybody that brings anything by or people bring in stuff to work. It's just loaded with carbs.

Maureen Stoecklein    
Oh, yeah, I completely the fire station, obviously is the exact I think they deliver they make a delivery to the police station and then the fire station and you know, the public have our have, you know, kindness in their hearts, they're trying to do the right thing they want to show to show gratitude and whatever it might be to us, which is amazing. But, you know, unfortunately, it's not always a fruit basket that their bill they're bringing, and so that food will sit on our counter. And every time you walk by it, you grab something, and I always kind of joke because you'll like wedge away at one doughnut. Yeah, thinking that if I just wedge at it, it's not going to add up to anything significant in the meantime to eat, you know, 26 wedges, and now you've had three doughnuts. So yeah, yes, unfortunately, that food, especially those highly processed foods, like those are just straight carbohydrates, straight empty calories. And so when you're tired, and or when you're bored, you'll walk by and you'll continuously snack on them. So I mean, my ship knows when I come in, like I'll shoot most coming in later in the calendar. Because if it's sitting out well eat it. Yeah, at least tuck it away or get it out of sight.

Jerry Lund 
Yeah, I tried to do the same thing. It'll be like doughnuts or left or like, they're like two days old and stuff and like no one really wants to eat them. Because like you said, somebody will just like, come by and take a quarter and a quarter to quarter like these are even crappy. You're eating crappy doughnuts. They're not even good or something.

Maureen Stoecklein   
How do you know that Donut Croutons. Right? 

Jerry Lund  
Right. So I'm kind of the same way like does anybody really want these? And if not, I just we just throw it away and save the NR if I'm like I'm just like everyone else. There's cookies on the counter and I do same thing wedges so I'm like I have to move that stuff that is just not in my sight put it in a corner because it's just too easy because like one time than two times and you know, back from a call and it's just yeah, it's wrong that terrible cycle and I'm sure police officers are same way. You know, they take a couple calls. They get a little break to go the bathroom and like get a drink and then you find yourself in the store and or someplace. And yes, you grab more than you actually wanted.

Maureen Stoecklein    
Yeah, and if you don't have that food, like I said, in your, in your patrol car, or back at the station with you, or wherever you're kind of landing zone is, then yes, you're gonna, you're gonna grab whatever is available. So that's why I think it's so important. Like, it doesn't have to be complicated meals, but just having some snacks, I don't know, I even encourage carrying a packet of whatever your protein powder of choice might be in a blender bottle ball, you don't have to add anything to it. And then when you are having that sort of craving, throw some milk, you can typically get milk at a gas station of some form or just use water, mix that up and drink that and then reevaluate like, Are you still hungry? Because I feel like if you can get those healthy fats, fiber and protein that kind of kind of takes that hunger edge away where you're on that buffet and just grabbing whatever.

Jerry Lund 
So what does like, let's dive into some meals a little bit, what does a healthy meal look like?

Maureen Stoecklein   
So I think as you kind of go through your day, like I think breakfast the same thing, you want to include those those three nutrients that I keep preaching, but to look at a breakfast, that would be something simple along the lines of a smoothie. So if you don't have time to, you know, make an omelet with avocados, and you know, whole grain toast, I know that doesn't work for everyone first thing in the morning, especially if you start your shift early, maybe you have a smoothie that you prepared ahead of time with some frozen triple berries in there. Maybe some spinach, maybe that changes the color, but not the flavor, I promise. And then you know a whey protein or a plant based protein powder of some sort, and then maybe some chia seeds to add some more fiber. You blend that all together, you can make a couple of those at a time and throw them in the fridge and have those ready to go another kind of go to that's easy, might be overnight oats, so you take your oats and you know some whatever your your liquid might be, typically I use milk, I throw a little bit of protein powder in there to kind of boost it a little more chia seeds, maybe some peanut butter, mix that all together, make five or six at a time throw those in the fridge and have those ready to go. Those also work really well in your cooler. 
Maybe as a three o'clock if you're on a normal like seven to seven type shift, or even a you know mid shift kind of snack that works really well because you're getting that that combination of those three things. Something as simple as Kodiak frozen waffles, maybe you have that with some drizzle peanut butter on top and maybe a Greek yogurt along with it a yogurt parfait. So those types of things are quick and easy for breakfast if eggs which are obviously a great source of protein with maybe, you know some veggies, so I'm always trying to integrate in some sort of color, from fruits and vegetables to get those antioxidants, you know, and then when you look at lunch and dinner, it's really I kind of preach the chipotle style food. So have a complex car, make it rice, make it sweet potatoes, make it beans, choose a protein, chicken, you know, steak, whatever type ground turkey ground chicken, that kind of thing. And then of course, some colors. So chop up any type of vegetables that you like peppers, sweet peppers, spinach, onions, whatever it is. And then I feel like first responder responders or tactical athletes are very well versed and not always having hot food. So if you can just mix that food together, it still tastes pretty darn good if it's cold, especially if you mash an avocado up on top. So now you're getting that healthy fats. And then the same thing goes for dinner. So it's building something with a carb, a protein and some color to break it down in its most simple form. And then also just making sure you're hydrating now along with hydrating I feel like comes with maybe having some salt in your diet. So as long as you don't have a high blood pressure, I think we probably get salt through our food. However, not everyone add salt to their food. So maybe making sure you have a hydration product that you know works well for your gut. So sometimes artificial sweeteners don't work well for some. 


And obviously knowing that ahead of time before you have all of your year on and then sucking down to propel zero and artificial sweetener does not agree with your gut. Good idea. But using things like noon tabs that are just tabs you drop into your water or drip drop or liquid IV, some of those powdered products that you can just carry with you in your car, in your patrol car on whatever vehicle you're on. And then just add it to your water so that if you do have something where you're going to be out for an extended period of time and you know that you're you're wearing you sweat, you sweat a lot, you're not able to evaporate the sweat, your body's not able to cool properly. So considering your hydration needs to and then I think I'm talking a lot but I feel like 

Jerry Lund 
You're doing great.

Maureen Stoecklein 
They're important. I feel like the other really important thing I get excited I want to like say everything. The other really important thing is snacks. So you don't necessarily have to have meals but having your food bag with some really great snacks, whether it's Greek yogurt, some granola or granola bar that you can just break up and put in there. Maybe tea sticks, maybe trail mix, maybe some cut up veggies with some hummus, maybe an Apple have one of those peanut butter packets that are single serving, having that in there maybe having a protein shake ready to go. Those types of things are really great to have too. so that you have some halfway or even protein bars, something that you can, you know, just quick grab and go stuff so that you're never, like I said, stuck without food. And that's when you end to end up ultimately grabbing for things. Like for example, Jerry, if you look at a doughnut, one doughnut 320 calories. So you eat one doughnut and you are not full, you have another donut, now you're at 640 calories, and you're still not full. But you know, I probably shouldn't have more than two donuts, arses. If you had had some overnight oats that you made, or you had a smoothie that you made with all that great stuff in there. I mean, the calories aren't even going to come close to that 600 calories that you had with the donut. And now you're going to feel satiated, unable to make it to your next meal. So it doesn't have to be complicated. I think we overcomplicate it, but just simple foods.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I totally think we do over complicate it. And then it's like, that's way too much effort for me, I'm just gonna, you know, just keep doing the same thing I'm doing. Those are great ideas. Like, I need to implement a lot of those into what I do. I. So for me, and probably a lot of other people like life is goes through these ups and downs and stuff like that. And how do you remember what how do you remain on those good habits? How do you like stick to that?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I think it's important to just find something that you can be consistent with, because you're right, all the other like, it's so easy. I'm a dietitian. So I know all the things that I'm supposed to do. So sometimes I even hear that at the station. Well, you you know, so you just it's easier for you to stay consistent. But I think I think you have to give your body and your yourself that opportunity to feel so good that you don't want to feel as crummy as you feel when you don't prepare that I think the other really important thing is to get the whole family on board. So whoever your support is, maybe trying to do things together. For example, at our station, we have, you know, a handful of guys, I think they found out that I'm I'm actually set to retire in June of next year. So I think they finally decided like, "Hey, we should really listen to what you say this, this lady might know what she's talking about". So they've been really great at, you know, following some of my recommendations, and I've really tried to get their families involved too. So whether it's their wife, girlfriend, whoever is their support crew, because when you do that together, then whoever it is, it's supporting you, especially as a police officer, if you have a significant other that's able to help you prepare some of these easy things. Even if you have a daughter or son who loves to bake. I mean, let's go after them and have them helped make smoothie bowls and overnight oats and just get everybody involved, because then it's a lot easier to stay on task. Now the other thing obviously, is if you can get your whole shift on yes, that's really helpful too. Because we are competitive by nature in our profession. 
And so that's been another route of a lot of success. For me and working with groups. I think the other thing is also surrounding yourself with like-minded humans. So when you kind of hang in that group of people, then it also helps to make it a little bit more consistent and a little bit easier to kind of do on a consistent basis. But I think the other thing is making sure that you're educated by the right people. So I think sometimes, you know, one person might be intermittent fasting or one person might be following a ketogenic diet, or one person might be who knows there's so many different diets out there. And it may work specifically for that one person, probably in the short term, but it's not going to work for everybody. And we jump on board with these people who have this kind of success, and it's not what fits your lifestyle. So I try and make sure that you know, we keep it consistent, something the whole family can do and not eliminating food groups, because in our job, we need all of those food groups to perform the million different functions that we have to perform.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, I, I wish my crew would all jump on the healthy bandwagon. But they're one doesn't like vegetables, and one doesn't like this one doesn't like that. So it's like,

Maureen Stoecklein  
It's really hard. I think to like, I've had some success with just speaking to groups. So like I said, the police academy, I have very captive audience, like they have to listen to me. So I'm able to really get a lot in. But I've also kind of made my rounds with local police departments and local fire departments. And I think, you know, like I said, it's hard to figure out where to begin. And I think that's really the frustrating part for so many is it's overwhelming. And so if you can just, you know, get somebody in front of you, whether it's a sports dietitian, or whether it's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, or, you know, it's a myself or any, not any dietitian, because I do think there's dietitians that are specific to tactical athletes, because I think, you know, our audience can also be a tough audience. They want people who know their job, and can relate to what they do. And I think that's important, but you know, just getting the right information to everybody. And then it does become contagious. I'm telling you, if I, if we can just get the group together to hear the right information, and then provide resources. So like, for example, with the fire department, we need resources, we need cookbooks, because eating together is a big part of the profession. So I've tried to you know, suggest cookbooks that are written by dietitians that will work in our profession, and work with our type of people in order to just have those resources there, and then they tried one recipe they like it, they want to keep going. So that's been another tool. It's just kind of have the information and the resources available.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, where's your cookbook?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I know I, I should do a cookbook, but I'm leaving that after there's a really great dietitian named Megan Louts she's got a fabulous cookbook. And then another one of my favorite dietitians is Angie Ashy, she's got a great cookbook, too. And I'll provide the links to those so that you can go on those. And those are the two cookbooks that I've actually implemented at our stations. And it's been really great, because, you know, they send pictures of the foods and that they've made for the shift and you know, the the foods that are in there the same ones that we would we I would geared towards any athlete, so should be the same foods. It's just we just need to be able to make sure that it's not complicated, first of all, and that is tasty. Second of all, first of all, probably. So yeah, I'd be happy to provide those two resources because I think they're both great. Great for especially technical athletes.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I think part of our another problem is we fall into like a routine of picking the same nose at the fire station. And I don't know about where you live that out here. It's just like, a lot of smoke meats, like the guys, like spend a lot of time, you know, cooking meats on the smoker and stuff like that.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Mm hmm. I think that shifted a little it used to be pasta like huge. Yeah, but now everyone's afraid of carbohydrates. So they've just switched to meat.

Jerry Lund  
Right. Right. So how, how does feeding your body or fueling your body properly help you sleep?

Maureen Stoecklein  
Oh, um, well, I think sleep is like a whole topic in and of itself. But I think that when we're fueled properly, especially when we're consistent with our eating, and when we have, you know, kind of foods that don't have a ton of sugar and a lot of the processed ingredients in it, we tend to be more restful when we do try and go to sleep. I think also, when we focus on our micronutrients, and getting all of the vitamins and minerals that we need on that can be helpful, too. I think sleep is very dependent on the individual. So sometimes we can get away with eating a meal before we go to bed. And then other people, you know, whether it's reflux that gets in the way, or stomach issues that gets in the way, or just the whole digestion process that gets in the way that can affect your sleep. But I think the main thing when it comes to sleep is just having that consistency with your meal. So whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks, and then not having a night buffet of food from the time you get home until the time you go to bed, because that can obviously interfere with sleep. But I think the biggest thing, especially in the world of first responders is taking into account our caffeine intake. You know, I certainly have clients that I work with, or firefighters that I work with that might say Oh, I can drink a pot of coffee and go to bed. That's not a problem, I fall right asleep. I've trained my body over 25 years of his career to do that. But I still think you're messing up your sleep cycles. So you're not going to get those full, continuous and consistent long sleep cycles that we need in order to wake up after seven or eight hours, and have that rested feeling. But unfortunately, I feel like our sleep is just so messed up for the entire duration of our career, that it probably takes, I don't know, five to 10 years to undo it when we're retired in order to not hear the tone or not be on constant in a constant state of alertness and readiness, not knowing when we're going to have to get up. But definitely when you are hydrating. And when you're consistent with your food. Most people find that their sleep is also more consistent.

Jerry Lund 
So that those who can drink that pot of coffee and then go right to bed. Could it be draped adrenal fatigue or something like that? Maybe just not trained their body to do that?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I mean, maybe they can. And I do think that you know, caffeine because of that six hour half life, you know, if you don't do the math and go backwards, I mean, there's tactical napping, too, which is basically having some caffeine before you go to sleep in order to wake up in 20 or 30 minutes and kind of that's when the caffeine will kick in and you feel rested, without feeling groggy when you do wake up. So I don't know that caffeine necessarily will for everyone interfere with falling asleep. And it certainly will mess up your sleep or, you know, interfere with your sleep cycles. So maybe you don't even realize you're waking up but you're kind of consistently waking up throughout the night.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I think a few years back I did. It's like a blood study of something like that. And then a nutrition study and they're like, Oh, you're really sensitive to caffeine. So the half life for you actually is quite a bit longer. So I have to be careful personally about how much caffeine I have and how late I have it otherwise. Yeah, it's always screwed. I just I can't fall asleep at all.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Yeah, I become that way too. And I've really tried to be mindful of not having any afternoon after 12 o'clock noon, just because I go to bed early as I've gotten older. But, you know, at the fire station, there's always a fight going. And especially as he gets colder out, you know, we just tend to want something warm to drink. And so we'll just drink it all day long. And then you know, that sleep where our body and brain is, or, you know, doing all of its recovering, is unable to get that. So then who knows how we are going to feel the next day, especially psychologically, to be able to handle all the stresses of whatever you might have at that incident that happens, right when you walk in the door. 

Jerry Lund 
Yeah. So instead of taking care of myself by eating all these great foods, I'm gonna try to shortcut this. I'm just gonna take a bunch of vitamins and minerals. Does that work?

Maureen Stoecklein 
Yeah, so yeah, well, so my general recommendation is that you if you I guess, if you don't eat fruits and vegetables, you know, you haven't ditched your 12 year old taste buds. Yeah, I feel like taking a vitamin is, is going to be a good idea. Because yes, you're still going to want to make sure you get those nutrients are using like, I don't know, greens powder might be another route to go. But unfortunately, when you don't eat those fruits and vegetables, you're not going to be getting the fiber, you know, the the satiating part of chewing. So that part, you're still going to be missing out on, which is why, you know, with recipes, maybe hiding them in there is a good idea. Also, smoothies are like a catch all. So I feel like if you could have one smoothie a day, I mean, you can pack probably six or seven different fruits and vegetables into your smoothie. So I feel like that might be a good good route to go to. But supplements can be really tricky because they are not regulated the same way our food is. So you have to be a little bit choosy on which supplements you use, I always recommend a third party tested, you know, supplement and so NSF certified is one example. And there's a couple other third party testing informed choices another but at least making sure that your supplements have that third party testing, because otherwise, you're probably not exactly sure what you're getting when you buy a product. 
And the other thing too is I think supplements are often targeted towards our profession, there's a lot of people that would love to make money off of tactical athletes and use them as a platform to promote their products. So I think proceed with caution. So make sure that it's something that's safe to take, make sure you've done your research or research or reached out to somebody who maybe can do the research for you, whether it's dietitian or a strike coach, or whoever it might be to find out if whatever they're claiming the product does actually works. And then can you get it through your foods, so can you make changes in your food to maybe get it I mean, some of the supplements that I always recommend are protein powders, just because I think with technical athletes, our days just don't allow us to always get enough of that we need things that are simple and on the go. Another thing that I always kind of talk about is vitamin D, because it's you know, there's a direct correlation with our immune system and with soft tissue and bone injuries. So I always at least have the recommendation of getting that check to see if you need to supplement. You know, fish oil can be really beneficial for not only cognitive health, but also with helping to manage inflammation, tactical athletes are always inflamed. So that's another good one. You know, sometimes I take a look at creates into because there's a lot of research with creatine, how it can help, not only with cognitive health, but also with you know, short, short bursts of energy, and also in the long term with our health and with our muscle mass. So that's another one. But you know, other than that, I really try and look individually at the diet, see if there's needs to be a supplement for the most part, we shouldn't have to supplement anything, we should be able to get it all through our food.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, so a lot of these products, it's for say, creatine, they're not all created equal. You can find some that are like super like $3 for like 10,000 servings or, you know, $50 for one serving, like that's extreme, but I mean, so. So the best way to do that is just to check through third party testing.

Maureen Stoecklein  
I definitely think that's, that's a good place to start. And like the NSF they have their own app, so you can just plug in whatever product you're using. And it will tell you if it's if it's third party tested by them specifically. I mean, you know, with athletes, they're they're drug tested for the most part so they have to be very, very particular with the supplements. You know, in our line of work sometimes maybe we will be who knows but yeah, quality is not the same with products. So making sure that you get high quality products is important.

Jerry Lund  
So from your time at the Mets and you were athlete once right, college athletes, I was speaking you're speaking from experience, so not just like going to school but you have a you know, that's what makes it great about you, you actually have experience behind you. So not just a schooling You've actually been an athlete and worked with high end athletes through that process, like, what, what's what takeaways from, like the professional athletes would you use in as a, you know, for firefighters, like our first responders, but there's some takeaways that you got where you're working with the Mets. 

Maureen Stoecklein  
They're, they're definitely there was a lot of them. But I think the main one is that when I originally took the job, or was, you know, chosen for the position with the Mets, I thought, oh, man, these guys are gonna know so much about nutrition that I better brush up on things. And I was a little bit, you know, obviously intimidated, because these are really high end athletes that have all sorts of resources available to them. But, you know, when I got there, I realized like these are, you know, they're young, obviously, I think I could be there for the most part, but they're young, they have favorite foods. I mean, there was just so many parallels to the fire service, everything from the clubhouse life to the fire station life. Fortunately, I was in New York to they have a lot of respect for firefighters. So me being a firefighter immediately got me some respect in there, too, which was really great. But I think using nutrition, to fuel your body, and to perform well is important. And a lot of times I think we turn to nutrition when we are brushing up against injuries. So we may think, "Oh, I'm young, I don't need this, oh, I'm young, I can do this. I'm still flexible, I can still move my body, I don't have any aches and pains". 
And then as we transition through our careers, like oh, my gosh, I wake up every morning, and something new is is sore, something new is hurting, aching, same goes with athletes. So they may think they can get away with all of these different things. But at some point, you want to take your game, or your life to the next level. And that's often when we consult a dietician, or maybe hire a strength and conditioning coach or whatever it might be. So I think embracing these really simple principles before you brush up against all of the stuff where you start taking things a little bit more serious, can prolong that period from even happening. So with the athletes, if they had an injury, then they think, oh, shoot, I should probably think about managing my inflammation, because it's going to help me to create some longevity in my career for baseball players, 10 years. For a police officer, firefighter, we're looking at 25 to 30 years. So how can we make it to our retirement in the best shape possible to enjoy our retirement and really, when I talk about for myself being consistent, that is what has driven me, I want to be able to retire which fortunately, I think I'm almost there, and be able to do all the things that I love because I've taken such good care of my body. And so when everybody else is going home, and I don't know playing video games, or I mean people have a lot of family responsibilities, and all these other things that pile on you. I just always made self care a priority. 
And I think professional athletes do that same thing. It's a little bit selfish. And for them, it's a little bit easier to explain being selfish because of obviously the paychecks that they get. For us, it's a little bit different, we have to juggle all of the stress of life that piles on us on top of being probably one of the main providers for your family. But that self care has to be carved out. Because if you don't take care of yourself. And obviously you can't help any other people, whether it's the people that you serve, or your family at home. So that's a big part of what I preach is just making sure and that's that revolves. I mean, that involves getting your family on board too. So maybe it's you know, I don't know, for me as a dietitian, I'd love to talk with the with wives or husbands or the children that are at home to get everybody on the same page, especially with police officers to support them. Because there's so much that goes into that profession, especially right now. I think they need all the support they can get. And families don't always understand everything that goes on at the station and everything that goes on with the job as much as they want to. I think they genuinely want to help and want to be support. But they just don't know everything that's there. And sometimes I think we protect our families from so much of what happens and what we see. Because we don't want them to worry. But if we can get everybody on the same kind of at least health page to make sure that we're, you know, taking care of each other and to in especially supporting whoever that first responder is to take care of themselves. Because I've seen I mean through the transitions of my career 22 years, I've seen people just completely fall apart because they've just lost sight of themselves and then you can't handle the stress of the job.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, I think so your go back a little bit to inflammation, right? I think so many of us are a little bit dinged up with different injuries and have inflammation all time. Just taking ibuprofen and Tylenol and things like that to maybe mask the symptoms isn't part of what we're eating causing inflammation in our bodies as well?

Maureen Stoecklein 
Absolutely. So there's like, I think about six different aspects. As far as food goes, that contributes to inflammation, that's beyond the stress that's beyond lack of sleep. That's beyond inactivity, that's beyond like, the environmental stuff that we're exposed to, that all contribute to inflammation. Food wise, I mean, the standard American diet is a problem. You know, foods that are highly processed are a problem, especially in the meat and kind of sugar department. So a diet that's low in fiber doesn't have much fruits and vegetables and colorful antioxidants is a problem. When we look at inflammation. I mean, naturally, acute inflammation, when you get a cut is a good thing to have, because it helps things to heal, when you train, and when you work out. We're stressing the muscles. And so we get these, this little bit of exercise induced inflammation. And so that's important too, it makes our muscles more resilient. So that's obviously important. But if we don't manage all of this inflammation that comes from all the other stuff that piles on us, including our crummy diet, it turns to chronic inflammation, which can lead to chronic disease. So yes, it there's a significant role of nutrition in managing that chronic inflammation and that chronic disease. So that's a big part of what I try and educate on is just how can we make simple changes that will help that so yes, eating vegetables is important,  eating fruit, eating fiber, you know, being mindful of which oils we use, and how we cook and prepare our food. I mean, you and I both know, we can drive by a fast food restaurant anytime of the day, and it's double stacked around the place. And that comes down to convenience. So just making sure that and part of that self care, grocery shopping, I don't care if it's at a big box store, like Costco or Sam's Club and stocking up on things so that you have it abundant in your fridge. I mean, it's a lot I know, and it requires a lot of time. But when you look at your long term health, and that chronic inflammation, food can be a significant factor.

Jerry Lund 
And I mean that our ultimate goal is to retire the way we came into the fire service, at least that is mine. It just is and, and but my part of my same goal is to like retired the same way that I came into the fire service and things like that. And it's it's, it's difficult, and it's hard. And it's every day. And but yeah, so those habits do have to set and which is ultimately comes down to you, right? It's just your own personal accountability. And it's 

Maureen Stoecklein  
It is.

Jerry Lund  
And it's not easy to start somewhere. 

Maureen Stoecklein  
It's not easy, it isn't. But it's worth it. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, but it's worth it. That's so true. That is so true. That is so true. I kind wanna go back a little bit to like how we tie, you know, into mental health, you know, the things that we're eating, and I know, it's just right sometimes are, sometimes our mental health is just the sleep, you know, the lack of nutrition, right, because we're just not feeding our bodies well, so our brains not performing as well, and our digestive system and our whole body system, right is not performing as well.

Maureen Stoecklein 
And I think obviously movement is really important for mental health too. So, you know, any movement, and I think we overcomplicate that too, I mean, I'm not, I'm gonna stay in my own lane with food. And but I know there's many strength and conditioning coaches out there that could offer far more insight than myself. But I think it's finding that same pattern of consistency and finding some movement, a 15 minute walk or 20 minute walk, it doesn't have to be all at once. I know I work with a physical therapist, and he and I teach together and I just listened to his talk two days ago, and he said 30 minutes of movement a day. So that doesn't have to be 30 minutes at one time, that can be five minutes at one time, 10 minutes at another, you know, and all of that contributes to to our mental health and being outside and seeing the sun. I mean, a Michigan we only see it for a year. I'm just that but but you know, those are all it's like this whole entire thing, this whole package that we have to kind of embrace and nutrition alone won't do it movement alone won't do it. You know, seeing the sun alone won't do it, although I feel like maybe it would. But it's kind of embracing that whole that whole self care package to get those benefits. But certainly food I think more and more research is going to go towards gut health. So I think everything resides in our gut. 
And I think the most common things that I see too is like irregularity, that's a big problem. And it can affect your mental your mental state. Like if you're not regular, meaning you don't have a bowel movement every day, that alone can make people grouchy, so you know getting in, especially when you have to sit in a patrol car for 12 hours. I mean, that is really something that can contribute to not being healthy mentally. So I think more and more research is going in that direction. And so I think that starts with upping your fiber and trying to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which right now the world is afraid of carbohydrates and so they eliminate those right away. And oftentimes I see that fiber is low because you don't touch a carb and so carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates, yes, we probably need to curtail those a bit. And that's that processed high sugar, empty calorie type food. But when you're looking at, you know, whole grain bread, oatmeal, beans, rice, potatoes, that kind of stuff. Those are all complex carbs that our body needs and our brain needs to fuel our brain.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, what what is one thing that we're doing constantly to destroy our gut health? You think?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I think it's processed food. So it's processed meats, you know, lunch, meats, hamburgers, hot dogs, you know, sausage, all of the processed meats, I think those become a main focus of our diet. And I think that, that we have to go more towards lean meats, you know, food in its most natural form, and then also just not having enough of the whole grains in enough color in our diet.

Jerry Lund  
And would you believe in probiotics and prebiotics?

Maureen Stoecklein  
So I do, and I think that we can get the majority of that the best way to get it is through our food. I think a lot of times are always looking for that easy, I'll take a probiotic, and I'll be good to go. Well, there's like a million different probiotics that are out there. And I also don't know specifically what my gut health looks like to know specifically which probiotics I need. And the same thing, it's gonna be different for everybody. And I think as research continues in that direction, maybe we'll see people actually doing stool samples, and they'll figure out exactly what's missing out of your gut health. And then they'll specifically supplement those things. In the meantime, the more variety that we can get out of our food sources. By not having chicken, broccoli and rice every single day, which meal prepping, that's great. And those are all great foods, but we need to have red peppers, and we need to have chia seeds. And we need to have almonds and walnuts and we need to have black beans and chickpeas and you know, just all of these different things in order to have that variety and, and really create that good gut biome.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, yeah, I I've no, I've just found myself in situations where I've had a bunch of antibiotics and then destroyed my gut health and trying to rebuild it with food and massive amounts of probiotics and prebiotics, and just finding the things that work for you is, it takes time. Like there's just no easy, easy answer. But if there were like, What three things could first responders change immediately and start probably seeing their health improve? Or you I know you've already covered it? What would this eliminate to these three things? 

Maureen Stoecklein  
Okay, so the three things that I think are of ultimate importance are number one, stay hydrated. So water Yes, half your body weight in ounces water, I think the USDA recommends 95 ounces for women, and 125 ounces for men now 20% of that will come from fruits and vegetables. If you eat those, you get a little cut yourself a little slack on drinking water for that. But you know monitoring your pee color staying hydrated number one number two..

Jerry Lund  
I got question for you. 

Maureen Stoecklein  
Yeah, go ahead.

Jerry Lund  
So does simple water or Gatorade or propel or all these other sports drinks or other type of drinks, we're talking simple water, right?

Maureen Stoecklein  
Well, when you talk about hydrating can come from any fluid, but it's very specific to the individual. So some people who sweat a lot or who move their bodies all day long,  who train yes, Gatorade fits in and some of the other you know, kind of higher sugar products still fit in and they're still considered hydrate, even coffees considered hydrating, really. But if you're not moving your body, then you don't need all of that sugar that's in all of those things. So Gatorade is not drinking Gatorade isn't something that we earned by just saying we're a actical athlete, or an athlete. So I usually just recommend water. But certainly you have to see if you're a sweater or not, then you need an electrolyte product. 
The second thing is eating more fruits and vegetables. So technically, you know, five servings five to six servings a day. But the variety that I'm talking about that gut health and getting all of the different things we need is eight to 10. That's a lot eight to 10 different. But like I said, having a salad having a wrap a roll up sandwich with all that stuff in there. Making a smoothie is a good catch all like I said, so just being more mindful of eating more color. If you don't like vegetables, eat more fruit. If you don't like fruit, eat more vegetables, whatever you can come up with. But the key is to eat more of that. 
And then the third thing is limiting your processed food. So less processed food, eating food, and it's most natural state that we can in by process. I'm not talking about frozen vegetables. Yes, they're processed, I'm talking about stuff that has all the other when you look at rice, if the rice is an ingredient list that has 25 things in it, then it should just be rice or maybe rice and salt. So trying to find minimally processed food is really what I'm talking about. And I think if you do those three things, then the quality of your diet is really going to come up and you're going to feel a lot better. And those are not counting any macro plans and that's not you know, stuff that is you know, very complicated, I think Just simple stuff.

Jerry Lund 
Yeah, when you start doing those three simple things, maybe you're gonna start feeling so much better that you're gonna want to reach out, maybe start doing some of these other things that you've talked about. Just getting that ball rolling to do something.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Definitely, I think the last thing too, is to just not take the the side of feeling deprived. So I think a lot of times we think about all the things we can't eat instead of looking at all the things that we can eat. So, you know, sometimes a lot of people reach out and say, Oh, my gosh, I've got this really restrictive, I can't have any dairy. What am I going to eat? Well, shoot, there's a whole ton of things that you can still eat, let's focus on what you can eat. And next thing, you know, Oh, this isn't so bad. There's tons of things I can eat. So really trying to up the quality of your diet by adding more really great things to your kind of daily intake would be a different perspective than thinking about all the things like oh, now I can't have sausage every day, I can't have, you know, a donut every day or three times a day, whatever it might be. So upping the quality is another different perspective. 

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, I know. Anytime I say I can't have, then all of a sudden, I want to have all the things I can't have.

Maureen Stoecklein  
You feel deprived. 

Jerry Lund 
Yeah, it's such a psychological thing. I was like, I should just never even said that to myself. I just like, because it just flips a switch in me that's makes me do things I don't want to do.

Maureen Stoecklein 
Right? Probably return back to our childhood somehow. 

Jerry Lund 
Yeah, probably for sure. So I, where can people find you and follow you to like, learn more tips about nutrition and what you're doing?

Maureen Stoecklein  
So I have a somewhat limited social media presence, I am on Instagram. And it's just my name, Maureen Stoecklein. So certainly, you can reach out to me that way. Also, I can provide my email address to you that you can maybe link into the show notes or whatever. But I'm certainly available through Instagram and through my email. And I would love to help obviously, any way I can, whether it's a department whether it's an individual, and, you know, just anything I can do on the nutrition spectrum. I also work in a group called Wellness Pro Professionals and Fire Rescue. And we also have a social media presence on Instagram. And this has really been a really cool effort between Megan Louts who's a dietitian that works in Fairfax County with Fairfax County Fire. And she's actually one of their wellness coordinators, which is really cool, because I think more and more departments are starting to hire full time positions in the wellness arena, which is great. So she, and then another firefighter, Annette Zap, she's a strength and conditioning coach. And she also has a fairly large social media presence. So I'll provide both of them. But our group has tried to collect any professional that works specifically with tactical athletes. So this includes physical therapists, athletic trainers, mental skills, coaches, registered dieticians, and strengthen conditioning coaches. And so these are all professionals who work specifically with tactical athletes. So that's another really great resource for first responders that are looking to kind of put together their own human performance team like athletes have done for them, we haven't yet on our own.

Jerry Lund  
That's an awesome group. That's so cool that you're doing that and being a part of that came before. I have one last question before I let you go.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Let's hear it.

Jerry Lund  
All right, what impact do you want to make in the world?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I think I just want to be a nutrition presence, especially for first responders, because I like I said, I feel like so many not just first responders, but you know, everyday folks walk around and have no idea how good they can feel. So if I can leave a footprint of helping people to be the best version of themselves by just making simple changes in their nutrition. I know what a profound impact it's had on me. And yes, I'm a dietitian. So I have a different palette, and I have a different, you know, education maybe than then everybody has as far as food goes. But I think we can break it down really simple and just help people to feel their best, especially with the way that they're feeding themselves.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, now, that's, that's great. And I'm glad you're on social media so people can follow you and, and reach out to you if needed for some tips and stuff. I lied. I have one other question. What are you going to do in retirement?

Maureen Stoecklein  
I know. So definitely working. I'm working. And eventually, I'm going to have a platform called Ignition Point Nutrition. I'm working with a web designer right now. And that'll be a really good landing point for everybody. But my plan is to just primarily focus on nutrition consulting for first responders and for athletes. Because I think there's just so many parallels between, like I said, the way that athletes feel and the way that you know, first responders should be feeling their bodies do. So hopefully I can just continue to leave a footprint with that group.

Jerry Lund  
Yeah, that that's great. Well, that'd be something like departments can reach out out to you and to be that person for them?

Maureen Stoecklein  
Yeah, I do a lot of that locally right now. And I have, you know, had the luxury, especially during COVID of doing some more virtual stuff with some departments that aren't local. And then certainly, I've been able to make some rounds at some different conferences that focus on first responders. But definitely, that's going to be some of the stuff that will be available. And then also just a resource too.  So like you said, recipes, maybe a cookbook, eventually, someday, I don't know my specialty is like baked goods. So I'm not sure, healthy baked goods.

Jerry Lund  
There you go. There's always a place, there's always a place.

Maureen Stoecklein  
You can get recipes there for that. And then also just infographics and free resources that will be available for first responders especially.

Jerry Lund  
Awesome. Well, I really appreciate you having on the podcast today.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Well, thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest. Yeah,

Jerry Lund  
yeah, we'll continue watching you and probably have you back on again, when you get your website up and going and, you know, have have some more things that people can go directly to. 

Maureen Stoecklein  
Awesome. Sounds good. 

Jerry Lund  
All right. Thank you.

Maureen Stoecklein  
Thank you.

Outro  
Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcasts. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts Jerry Dean Lund through the Instagram handles at @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact and up to date information regarding the show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show, solely represent those of our host and the current episode's guest.

Maureen Stoecklein

Firefighter/Paramedic and Registered Dietitian

MAUREEN STOECKLEIN RD
Firefighter/Paramedic and Registered Dietitian

Maureen has served as a registered dietitian for over 25 years and a full-time firefighter/paramedic for 21 years. While serving as a firefighter in Canton Township MI, she is a consulting performance dietitian at Barwis Methods Training Facility, Mercy Elite Sports Performance Center, and served three seasons as Team Dietitian for the New York Mets baseball organization. An accomplished athlete, Maureen understands the importance of solid nutrition for optimum performance. She was selected as one of four women in the United States to represent Brawny Paper towels Strength Has No Gender Campaign and was featured in Crain’s Business Magazine. Maureen’s passion for nutrition and fitness and the many athletes, coaches, mentors and colleagues she has met along the way inspire her to share her love of healthy food and insights to help other succeed!