Words: Cassandra Stern
Photos: thesomegirl, shih-wei, m-gucci
“Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. “ – Hippocrates
It is 4 a.m., your alarm is blaring, and it is time for another long, hard at work. One of the best ways to get yourself out of bed and ready for the day is to think about how to fuel your body to tackle your tasks on the jobsite. If you have ever felt lethargic and sluggish, or like you can’t seem to get going without several cups of coffee, then ask yourself, “what are you eating for breakfast”? If the answer is nothing, then you are one of 31 million who skip the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast is only one symptom of an overall greater problem. However, when it comes to the construction industry nutrition and eating habits are an often overlooked drag on overall productivity.
Masonry Means Hard Work
For many men and women in the masonry industry, work requires a high level of activity and energy. Lifting brick and block, pouring or mixing mortar, bending, twisting and reaching for eight to ten hours a day, takes a large physical toll on the body. This requires both stamina and strength, day in and day out. If we treat our bodies like we treat our tools and equipment, they need the right fuel, regular maintenance, and the occasional tune-up if something breaks down or doesn’t work properly. Proper nutrition is one of the best ways to ensure your body is capable of performing your jobsite tasks successfully. Like tools, our bodies will last a long time and perform well if we take care of them.
When planning your weekly meals, the number one thing to keep in mind is prepping and planning. Too often we wake up late and settle for a fast-food breakfast or lunch for convenience. With having active jobs in masonry, these foods are not going to provide the nutrition you need to perform your best work. High in fat, sodium, and sugar, and low in vitamins and nutrients, makes it more difficult to control your caloric intake. This means even though you are active at work, you are still going to eventually put on some extra pounds.
The best way to control your diet is to make it yourself. When you shop for yourself, measure your own ingredients, and create your own meals, you can control what you put in your body. This also gives you the freedom to customize your meals to make them unique. When it comes to planning your meals and building your weekly menu, here are three things you should keep in mind when choosing your recipes and crafting your culinary creations.
Eating for Energy
It is important to remember that whenever you eat something, you are providing your body with the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins it needs for everyday fuel. Carbohydrates, proteins, and even healthy fats are all equally important when it comes to a balanced diet. But when it comes specifically to eating for energy, potassium is the most important thing to keep you going through the rigorous workday. Potassium, which is a mineral and an electrolyte, is crucial for healthy body function, and many people do not get enough in their daily diets.
The average adult needs 4700mg of potassium a day to help muscles heal after vigorous work. It also helps organs like the stomach, perform their jobs more efficiently. Potassium-rich foods include avocado, spinach, squash, salmon, and kiwis, which are all delicious and can be added to any meal of the day. If you are considering adding a potassium supplement to your diet, be sure to take on an empty stomach for best absorption.
Food for Thought
Every day we think of feeding our muscles or building strong bones, but our brain is also in need of vitamins and minerals to keep you focused as you perform detailed work. Magnesium is one of the best minerals to give your brain what it needs. A range of troublesome issues including high blood pressure, cramps, spasms, heart arrhythmias, trouble sleeping, and memory problems can be caused by magnesium deficiencies.
The average adult needs 300-400mg of magnesium every day to keep their brains and bodies in top working condition and is considered to be the second most important mineral for bodily function behind potassium. Magnesium-rich foods like cheese, broccoli, kale, and salmon can easily be thrown into a quick lunch or dinner, helping your brain recover from the fatigue of the day.
Magnesium is also important for calcium absorption. In addition to helping build strong bones, your heart, muscles, and nervous system rely on calcium to rebuild when you are feeling worn down from working extremely hard. Calcium and magnesium work together to regulate your heartbeat, improve your muscle tone and recovery, and facilitate proper nerve function.
Studies show that stress in particular can deplete the body of all sorts of vital nutrients and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which is why it is extremely important to eat a balanced diet. To better facilitate calcium function, be sure to get enough vitamin D from both the sun and your food. Eggs and certain seafoods like oysters are rich in vitamin D, which helps the body better absorb calcium. Above all, try to incorporate as many fresh fruits, vegetables, and different sources of protein to ensure your body and mind can keep up with the demands of your day.
Healthy bone density is crucial to helping your body carry the heavy materials used on the jobsite and endure the twisting and repetitive motions required by a career mason. Also, healthy bones support healthy muscles, and iron is one of the best minerals for muscle growth and development. It helps blood carry oxygen and protein to your muscles and organs more efficiently. Without iron, you will feel weak and fatigued, which is not going to be helpful during a long workday. Iron-rich foods like meats, eggs, and shellfish are nutrient-packed options that can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of creative ways.
Additionally, supplementing foods rich in vitamin C can improve your body’s ability to absorb iron. Vitamin C also helps support a healthy immune system, even when colds or the flu are making their way around the jobsite. Fresh fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, blackberries, raspberries, and citrus are all excellent and refreshing options to boost your vitamin C intake.
Take Small Steps
Changing your diet all at once can be overwhelming, exhausting, and usually ends up failing. Instead, take small steps to work healthy and nutrient-rich food into your daily diet. Here are a few suggestions for easy ways to work healthier foods into your favorite meals. Remember to take it one day at a time, and before you know it, you will be feeling better than ever.
- If you usually skip breakfast and feel famished by lunch, a smoothie is a fast and portable breakfast that you can pack a ton of fresh options into. As an added bonus, they are completely customizable. Try out different combinations of milks, yogurts, fruits, and veggies to see what you like best.
- Instead of another fast-food lunch that will leave you starving again before the day is through, try out a packed lunch instead. Include energy-boosting snacks like nuts or trail mix, and skip the sandwich if you find yourself bored. Wraps, bowls, or even salad shakers can all be made at home and easily stored in a cooler until lunchtime and can be made to your specific preferences.
- When you get home exhausted after a long day of work, it is tempting to reach for the phone and order delivery. A pizza or Chinese take out may sound delicious, but definitely lack the nutrition you need to recover and prepare for the next day. Next time, try chopping and roasting some vegetables with your protein of choice, add your favorite spices, and you will be surprised at how delicious a low-effort healthy meal can be.
- As always, be sure to consult with your doctor or physician before making any big lifestyle changes.