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Nutritional suitability | Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind


Do you think you need to lose some weight?

You’re not alone.

Even in the military, where maintaining physical fitness remains a job requirement and a key part of military preparation, thousands of service members struggle with weight.

But fitness is more than just a set of scores measuring your body mass index, running times, or how many push-ups you can do. Optimizing your fitness starts with a combination of good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and exercise as the foundation for increased strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance.

Yet maintaining a healthy body weight correlates to all of these components and is essential for long-term health, fitness, and personal preparedness.

Pro Tip: Avoid Fad Diets

One of the first things registered dietitians and nutritionists are likely to tell you is to avoid “fad diets,” like Keto, intermittent fasting, Paleo, and others.

Many people try these diets as quick fixes, but these diets may not be healthy or effective for long-term weight loss. For some people, these diets can fuel frustration because people try them and then go back to their old eating habits, gaining even more than their original starting weight.

Fad diets can be severely restrictive; they’re not something patients can sustain long-term, said Air Force Lt. Col. Tracy Snyder, nutrition consultant for the Air Force Surgeon General to Air Force Medical Readiness Agencyin Falls Church, Virginia.

Severely restricting a specific food group could be problematic.

“Once their diet returns to baseline, they quickly regain any weight or body fat they lost and potentially enter a negative cycle of weight loss, weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, from one extreme to the other,” Snyder said. . “That’s how you end up with a yo-yo diet.”

Besides being unhealthy, this cycle fuels frustration and makes patients feel like they can’t achieve their goals and that their efforts are wasted.

Eat better

Consuming a balanced, nutrient-dense diet can “help prevent stress fractures and other abnormalities that keep military personnel from being ready for duty,” said Army 1st Lt. Cara Adams, registered dietitian and chief from outpatient nutrition to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Missouri.

Good nutrition goes beyond calories and protein, she stressed. “Our bodies were created to absorb and use nutrients from whole foods.”

She suggested service members “start with the basics” by simply taking an honest look at what they eat and drink every day. “Are you preparing your body and health for success by eating a variety of whole foods?” she asked.

Whole foods are foods that are not heavily processed or refined, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, meat, fish and eggs.

“Unfortunately, our current food environment seems at odds with healthy eating,” she said. “The evolutionary gap between our brain’s desire for high-calorie foods for survival and the ultra-processed foods, sedentary lives and stressful lifestyles of today’s culture creates the perfect storm for constant food cravings, weight gain and poor health.”

Additionally, many fitness-focused service members focus more on shandy supplements rather than their staple diet.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid any “diet” that isn’t truly defilable, Adams advised.

Many want quick fixes to weight loss. “They want to go vegan or vegetarian just to lose weight, but chicken and fish are their favorite foods. I remind patients that they don’t have to completely eliminate one of their favorite foods to achieve their health goals. In fact, I encourage them not to.”

The most important goal is a healthy diet and regular physical activity.