Wildland Firefighter In-Season and Off-Season Variation in Dietary Practices, Body Composition & Fitness: A Longitudinal Analysis
University of Idaho Seed Grant
Wildland Firefighters (WLFFs) are tactical athletes whose unique nutrition and fitness demands are critical for job performance, and ultimately survival. The majority of WLFFs are in the Western United States (CA, WA, OR, ID, MT) which comprises a unique environment where wildfires are prevalent. WLFF’s occupational requirements are arduous and strenuous, which makes their nutritional status a critical component of their job performance1. The rigorous occupational demands of wildland firefighting cause physiological and nutrient fluctuations between in-season (May-October) and off-season. These fluctuations are due to the disparity between physical fitness demands required in-season versus the off-season. Identifying these fluctuations longitudinally is necessary in order to better understand WLFFs nutrition status and performance capabilities. In a job that demands physical fitness requirements, it is critical to achieve adequate levels of nutrition to recover properly between bouts of activity, maintain lean muscle mass, and sustain duration of physical activity. Decreases in lean muscle mass, which may be due to inadequate nutrition, can adversely influence overall health, fitness, and job performance, placing WLFFs at high risk for a variety of job related injuries. The proposed research will aid in the ability to understand WLFFs nutrition status in-season and off-season by examining changes in body composition and performance parameters. It is critically important to identify possible changes in dietary patterns in conjunction with body composition and performance in WLFFs to assess if these components affect job performance, and impact occupational health and safety.