News: Fuel for the fight
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - It’s the second week of a 30-day training exercise, and you are weighing the pros and cons of starvation when faced with yet another bagged vegetable omelet for dinner. You zip your sleeping bag and let the sounds of your aching stomach lull you to a fitful slumber.
A half-hour later you wake to the crackle of simulated machine-gun fire, don your vest and helmet, grab your weapon and run for the tent flap. The training may be back on, but your body is not.
Fueling for the fight takes discipline. Knowing what and when to eat can be the difference between success and failure in the gym, during a training exercise and on the battlefield.
Maj. Suzanne Akuley, senior nutrition consultant at Madigan Army Medical Center, said soldiers have a tendency to change their eating habits while training or supporting a real-world operation. When repeatedly eating the same meals, some soldiers opt to cut back.
“The soldier can lose weight drastically, and he or she will not have the energy stored to sustain him or her throughout their mission,” Akuley said.
She added that, if soldiers do not have time or the appetite for a whole meal, they should eat portions of each type of food provided instead of forgoing the meal entirely.
Foods rich in calories are even more important during operations in cold weather. Akuley said the body can demand between 25 percent and 50 percent more energy during extreme cold weather, which can be compounded by altitude.
To keep energy stores high while on the go, Akuley recommends soldiers keep nutrient-dense snacks handy.
During missions, soldiers should refuel by eating at least every four to five waking hours. Look for treats that are high in carbohydrates, contain moderate levels of protein and minimal fat. And it never hurts to take along some fruit.
Remember, food is not the only fuel your body needs to function.
“Being hydrated in an operational environment is very important. Water tends to be the most forgotten nutrient,” Akuley said.
Soldiers should hydrate early and often to perform at their best during a mission. The Warfighter Nutrition Guide by the Human Performance Research Center states one to two cups of water per hour should suffice while more than four cups in an hour could be too much for your body to absorb.
Also, that sweat soaked uniform is not only drenched in water. Your body also sweats out sodium and potassium. Soldiers usually fill hydration packs with pure water, which the Warfighter Nutrition Guide upholds as a sound practice. But you need to replenish those electrolytes somehow.
Fear not, you have options. Dried fruits provide potassium and adding salt to food can help with the sodium. You can also try sports drinks or gels for total electrolyte replenishment.
Military operations can push soldiers to their physical and emotional limits. Ensure your body is ready to perform when you need it most. Keep your fuel tank full by eating nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water.
For information about how to fuel for the fight, visit www.armymedicine.mil.