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Hot, tired and hungry: The snacking behaviour and food cravings of firefighters during multi-day simulated wildfire suppression
journal contributionposted on 16.06.2020, 00:00 by Charlotte Gupta, Sally Ferguson, B Aisbett, M Dominiak, Stephanie Chappel, Madeline Sprajcer, HHK Fullagar, SS Khalesi Taharoom, Joshua Guy, Grace Vincent
Firefighters are exposed to numerous stressors during wildfire suppression, including working in hot temperatures and sleep restricted conditions. Research has shown that when sleep restricted, individuals choose foods higher in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, and have increased cravings for calorie dense foods. However, there is currently no research on the combined effect of heat and sleep restriction on snacking behaviour. Conducting secondary analyses from a larger study, the current study aimed to investigate the impact of heat and sleep restriction on snacking behaviour and food cravings. Sixty-six firefighters completed three days of simulated physically demanding firefighting work and were randomly allocated to either the control (n = 18, CON; 19 °C, 8 h sleep opportunity), sleep restricted (n = 16, SR; 19 °C, 4-h sleep opportunity), hot (n = 18, HOT; 33 °C, 8 h sleep opportunity), or hot and sleep restricted (n = 14 HOT + SR; 33 °C, 4-h sleep opportunity) condition. During rest periods firefighters were able to self-select sweet, savoury, or healthy snacks from a ration pack and were asked to rate their hunger, fullness, and cravings every two hours (eating block). Mixed model analyses revealed no difference in total energy intake between conditions, however there was a significant interaction between eating block and condition, with those in the CON, HOT, and HOT + SR condition consuming significantly more energy between 1230 and 1430 compared to the SR condition (p = 0.002). Sleep restriction and heat did not impact feelings of hunger and fullness across the day, and did not lead to greater cravings for snacks, with no differences between conditions. These findings suggest that under various simulated firefighting conditions, it is not the amount of food that differs but the timing of food intake, with those that are required to work in hot conditions while sleep restricted more likely to consume food between 1230 and 1430. This has potential implications for the time of day in which a greater amount of food should be available for firefighters.